Whole Child

Since 2000, The Lawton Chiles Foundation has been working to unite entire communities around the goal of providing for children. The Whole Child Project in three pilot counties has laid the foundation for the creation of Whole Child Florida building a stronger foundation for our children across our state by continuing our focus at the community level.

Governor Chiles understood that successful nurturing and development of all children required a dramatically new approach. An approach that:

  • Starts early before conception
  • Provides continuous support to parents
  • Is grounded in the family
  • Is holistic, considering the physical, economic, social, cultural and spiritual environment in which the child lives
  • Creates a no wrong door culture whereby service providers are committed to building collaborative service delivery networks instead of competitive, single strategy agencies and institutions
  • Builds a partnership across all sectors of our society whose activities impinge on the lives of children
  • Provides state and local government funding to ensure fairness, equity and consistent outcomes

Building on Governor Chiles’ legacy, The Lawton Chiles Foundation partnered with Manatee County and Electronic Training Solutions (ETS) to create the vision for the Whole Child Project. The Whole Child Project has had positive results and outcomes in three pilot counties including Manatee, Martin and Leon. Whole Child Florida will take this vision, philosophy and strategic framework across Florida to engage our statewide community around common goals related to children.


The Whole Child Project was established in 2000 as a pilot in Manatee County through a partnership with The Lawton Chiles Foundation and the community. Thousands of volunteer hours were logged working in partnership with Electronic Training Solutions to develop a ground-breaking web based tool to link families directly to services, providing a virtual one-stop shop for resources, while also providing critical data around children and services. This work providing the backbone to the system is now known as the Whole Child Connection. Initial financial support from The Lawton Chiles Foundation has been replaced with funding from Manatee County through the Community Children Services Board. With advisors located throughout the county, including in the county headquarters, Whole Child Manatee focuses on the Whole Child Connection to refer families to providers, and to help build partnerships to strengthen services in the community. Two major focus areas are in infant health and economic self-sufficiency.


Whole Child Leon was launched in 2004 and has been successful in building strong partnerships across the community. Its focus has been on changing community attitudes about children’s well-being and ensuring greater cohesiveness among the work of the service providers whose programs target young children and their families. The Whole Child staff consists of an Executive Director and a Whole Child Advisor who is responsible for management of the Whole Child Connection funded primarily by United Way of the Big Bend, with additional support from annual grants from the City of Tallahassee and Leon County. United Way provides additional staff support. Governance includes a Steering Committee chaired by Loranne Ausley, Leadership Council of business and community leaders, as well as Professional Network of advocates and providers.


Also launched in 2004, the Whole Child project in Martin County was piloted by the Children’s Services Council of Martin County (CSCMC) to improve access and increase utilization of services for children 0-18 years old and their families. It’s focus has been on strengthening the community’s awareness of Whole Child and ensuring families get connected to service they may need. In doing so, the Whole Child Connection of Martin County formed its own 501(c)3 organization and separated from its parent group, the CSCMC. The organization has continued to grow while serving Martin County children and their families.

Jefferson, Madison, Taylor

The Whole Child project in the three-county area was launched in early 2008. The project has been championed by the Healthy Start Coalition, which serves the three counties, and is staffed by a part-time employee whose role is to coordinate the meetings of the committee and follow-up on initial tasks. Whole Child JMT launched the Whole Child Connection in early 2009.


Gadsden’s Whole Child project is championed by the local Early Head Start office and is working towards a soft launch of the Whole Child Connection.


Brevard County has recently decided to become a Whole Child community under the leadership of Bob Seemer and a broad based community group. Brevard plans to develop the Whole Child Connection addressing the full age spectrum (0-18), and has identified key stakeholders to serve as Action Team leaders.


Volusia and Flagler Counties have decided to become a Whole Child community under the umbrella of the One Voice for Volusia organization and their initiative called Thrive by Five. Volusia’s network of providers has already been working together to align service delivery models through technology.