Tallahassee Democrat

Big Bend Community Based Care embraces new DCF campaign

Mike Watkins firmly believes it takes a village to raise a child.

Big Bend Community Based Care — which Watkins leads as its CEO - is the first CBC in Florida to embrace Everybody's a Teacher, a new campaign launched by the Department of Children and Families.

The statewide initiative is designed to create awareness that adults should be involved in the educational process of a child, especially a child in foster care.

"The children who come into our care have experienced trauma, they've been taken out of their homes and taken out of their schools. They are leaving their friends and communities," Watkins said.

Everybody's a Teacher will aim to reduce the amount of disruption a child experiences when moving into foster care by keeping them in the same school district zone.

The initiative also aims to inform school administrators of children in foster care so they can be provided with academic support or other services the children might need.

"Our school districts are very excited about this new initiative and we're excited to work more closely with our communities," Mary Helen Barnes, community liaison for BBCBC, said.

Everybody's a Teacher will also focus on early learning.

"Half of our children are under 5, so we are working with the Early Learning Coalitions in Panama City and Tallahassee to really focus on what we can do to engage parents and get children the proper skills to be ready for pre-K," Watkins said.

Watkins and Barnes hope Everybody's a Teacher will help children in foster care meet their educational, social and emotional needs.

"Everybody's a Teacher is primarily to increase awareness for people who come in contact with the child from the case worker, to the guardian, to the judge and heighten their awareness to pay attention to their individual educational needs," Barnes said.