Ann Scott has a new title: Chief Child Advocate
First Lady Ann Scott, mother of two and wife of the state's chief executive, has a new title: Chief Child Advocate.
The mantel was quietly bestowed on her Wednesday by the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, according to the News Service of Florida. The 20-member board was first created in 2007 under Gov. Charlie Crist who named former state Rep. Jim Kallinger as his Chief Child Advocate, a state-paid role, and assigned Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp to be the Children's Cabinet chair. (No word on whether Ann Scott will draw a salary but, since her husband makes $1, it's unlikely.)
“Over the past three years, the Cabinet has made tremendous strides in aligning policies, maximizing scarce resources and coordinating services across departments to work in the best interest of all Florida children,” Ann Scott said in a statement. “As Chief Child Advocate, I look forward to seeing the accomplishments and results of this Cabinet ensuring that children in Florida grow up safe, educated, and prepared to meet their full potential.”
Kallinger led Florida’s ground-breaking “Explore Adoption” campaign, which found homes for 12,000 children but the Children and Youth Cabinet also had its critics. The organization was seen as having little effect on the deepest problem plaguing children in Florida -- from the high numbers of uninsured children, high dropout rates and diminished funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.
“The Cabinet has done a lot of groundwork and strategic thinking,” Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins told the News Service. “I think this Cabinet is going to be more about action…more about breaking down the barriers between agencies.”
Wilkins also said the panel would "bring a very business perspective” to better compete for state funding. Wilkins defended putting Ann Scott in the role, saying many state have children’s panels led by their first ladies.
“This is a perfect fit for her passion as well as her agenda,” he said. “The governor’s been really involved.”
But Roy Miller, president of the Children’s Campaign, an advocacy and watchdog group, told the News Service that Ann Scott’s role will be similar to former Florida First Ladies Adele Graham, Rhea Chiles and Mary Jane Martinez who also took on special children's causes during their husband's tenure.
“We understand the importance of pillow talk to helping children, and we’re looking forward to working with her,” he said. But he also was disappointed the governor didn't replace Kallinger.
“Due to the vast needs of Florida’s children, we think it would have been stronger to have a full-time child advocate along with a First Lady,” he said.
Cabinet member David Lawrence Jr., the former Miami Herald publisher and chairman of the Children’s Movement of Florida, has been among the panel’s critics in the past, but was upbeat Wednesday. He said he was “delighted to hear about the First Lady's new role. She will be in a key position to make a difference in children's lives and futures. I hope she will be at every meeting of the Children's Cabinet.”
-- The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.