Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Summit for Youth looks for ways to help in tough economy

Bill D’Aiuto, circuit administrator for the state Department of Children and Families, speaks Monday about child abuse issues in Hernando County at the Summit for Youth at the Hernando County Realtors Association in Brooksville.


Bill D’Aiuto, circuit administrator for the state Department of Children and Families, speaks Monday about child abuse issues in Hernando County at the Summit for Youth at the Hernando County Realtors Association in Brooksville.

BROOKSVILLE — When economic storm clouds cluster, it's best to gather together.

That was a common refrain Tuesday at Hernando County's Summit for Youth, a first-ever gathering of the people and agencies charged with improving the lives of children and teens.

Youth are particularly vulnerable when jobs are scarce and adults are distracted, said Tracy Echols, chairwoman of the event and a director of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce.

"They look at the future and they give up," she said. "They need someone like you to believe in them until they can believe in themselves."

It's a particularly hard time to be a kid in Hernando County.

Over the last year, the number of families seeking temporary cash assistance has increased by 25 percent, while the number receiving food stamps has increased by more than 57 percent, said Bill D'Aiuto, circuit administrator for the state Department of Children and Families.

Employers are demanding ever-higher levels of preparation to compete in a new, knowledge-based economy, said county economic development director Mike McHugh. And students with high school degrees can expect to earn $7,000 a year more than those who drop out.

"The days of making money with brute and brawn are over," McHugh said.

Economic stresses may contribute to rising levels of domestic violence in Hernando County, which leads Florida in domestic and sexual violence rates, said Debbie Andrews, executive director of the Dawn Center shelter.

And stressed families often need help to make sure their children get the support and early education they need, she said.

"Nine out of 10 children who enter our services are developmentally delayed," Andrews added. "We've seen 3-year-old children who haven't learned to crawl yet."

It's not enough to simply enforce the laws when they're broken, said Sheriff Richard Nugent. Incarceration costs a "small fortune" and doesn't solve the underlying problem that gets juveniles arrested.

He praised the gathering as a needed effort to address the social problems that cause young people to drop out of school and get in trouble.

"If they don't stay in school, we've lost them," Nugent said. "We need your help."

School superintendent Wayne Alexander recalled his own upbringing in a working-class Connecticut family. There were no books in the house that might interest a young boy, and a factory job was waiting for his 16th birthday, he said.

Preventing students like young Wayne from dropping out of school requires adults willing to step forward to help, he said.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's not about reading and writing and arithmetic," Alexander added. "You have to hook them."

The gathering wasn't all doom and gloom. Representatives from a range of organizations spoke of promising local initiatives on teen pregnancy, early childhood education, domestic violence, dropout prevention and drug abuse.

And participants vowed to continue working together to prevent kids from slipping through the cracks.

Even children from harmonious families are affected when they share a classroom with a victim of domestic violence, said Morgan Moeller of the Dawn Center. Their test scores are lower and they have higher average discipline rates.

"We all have a sphere of influence where we can make a difference every day," she said.

Tom Marshall can be reached at or (352) 848-1431.

Summit for Youth looks for ways to help in tough economy 09/30/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 5:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Sunny skies, warm temperatures to rule across Tampa Bay this week


    After periods of heavy rain in some parts of Tampa Bay over the weekend, the region can expect sunny skies, and warm condition to prevail through the workweek.

    [10Weather WTSP]
  2. PolitiFact Florida: How would Florida fare in Graham-Cassidy health care bill?


    Following a sharp rebuke by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., hit the airwaves to defend his bill that would undo much of the Affordable Care Act.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
  3. Whatever happened to the Zika epidemic?


    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer …

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting Zika. Cases of the virus are down dramatically in Florida.
  4. Pinellas licensing board needs cash. Will the county give it any?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.

    Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long isn't keen on the idea of the county loaning money to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board afloat. The county has no say over the independent agency, which could run out of funding in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Is the Bundt cake back? How retro baked goods are becoming trendy again


    Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your …

    Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tampa offers a variety of options, from tiny “bundtinis” and 10-inch cakes that serve 18 to 20 people. Core flavors include lemon, marble, red velvet and chocolate-chocolate chip, with featured flavors like confetti.