Lastinger study aids $8M effort to help at-risk children in south Fla.

NAPLES, FL — A recent study by the University of Florida’s Lastinger Center for Learning was key in helping a south Florida community divide nearly $8 million in charitable grants among local social service agencies to meet the needs of more than 50,000 underprivileged and at-risk children.

The Naples (Fla.) Children and Education Foundation had commissioned the UF study to evaluate the current conditions and needs of children in Collier County and to document the impact of the group’s previous investments on the children’s lives. The UF researchers evaluated local aid programs such as medical and dental services, early childhood education and after-school programs, and program evaluation.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton, the study director and head of the UF Lastinger Center, said the UF research team interviewed NCEF, community and school leaders, reviewed social service agency reports and Internet sites, and analyzed date from multiple county, state and federal agencies.

NCEF officials said the UF study showed progress had occurred in serving children’s medical and dental needs, but also revealed huge spikes in children’s hunger and homelessness due to the economy, and indicated mental health and out-of-school needs remain critical.

“The study shows that NCEF has gotten off to a very good start, but there is a lot more to be done,” said NCEF trustee and grant chairwoman Anne Welsh McNulty.

During a ceremony in April, 22 charities received checks from the foundation totaling $5.8 million to help fund programs and services and expand offerings to children. Grants ranged from $25,000 to St. Matt’s Camps for Kids program to $1 million for the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County. NCEF also awarded more than $2 million for multi-year initiatives aimed at fighting hunger, addressing behavioral health issues and increasing early-learning opportunities for the community’s youngest children.

“We’re honored that the Naples Children & Education Foundation commissioned us to conduct a study of child well-being in Collier County and issue recommendations for improvements,” Pemberton said. “The foundation has a stellar track record in creating innovative solutions to transform child well-being.”


SOURCE: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center, UF College of Education, dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4103
: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;
llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137