The Children’s Movement of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan movement of Floridians insisting on a strong start for all Florida children. We advocate for high-quality early learning opportunities, access to children’s health care, and parent support programs in Florida.

To see a list of our founders, click here.


Then-Florida-Gov. Lawton Chiles asked 55 citizens from around the state to make recommendations for the future of public education in the next millennium. Among them was David Lawrence Jr., then-publisher of The Miami Herald.


Dave Lawrence reading to children

David Lawrence Jr. chaired the task force on school readiness that led to an important law consolidating early childhood education and child-care programs into one integrated program.


Two generous and public-spirited Miami couples, Dr. Jane and Gerald Katcher and Jan and Daniel Lewis, together with David Lawrence Jr., formed The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, which became a national model for high-quality early childhood development, care and education. The foundation’s work promoted a dramatic increase in high-quality childcare and early learning centers, and helped tens of thousands of children get health insurance coverage.


ECIF Teach More Love More logo

The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation launched a successful public awareness campaign, Teach More/Love More, which became the model for today's statewide Help Me Grow parenting resource program


The Children's Trust original logo

Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation, Miami-area voters agreed by a 2-1 margin to increase their property taxes to create a dedicated funding source, The Children's Trust of Miami-Dade, which was charged with giving children the essential foundations to achieve their full potential.


Jeb Bush, Alex Penelas and Dave Lawrence

The Foundation again succeeded in moving Florida voters to pass a constitutional amendment in November -- championed by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, Lawrence and others -- to make high-quality pre-kindergarten available and free for all four-year-olds in the state.


Jeb Bush with kids
Jeb Bush with kids

In December 2004, FL HB 0001A passed and was signed into law in 2005, making Florida one of only three states to offer universal VPK.


The Children's Trust was required by law to be reauthorized by Miami-Dade voters, who this time approved it by an overwhelming 85.4 percent.



The Pilot (The Palm Beach Project): The Foundation organized 30 neighborhood meetings in Palm Beach County in March as a one-month test market for a new organization.


That summer, The Children's Movement of Florida begins, with Lawrence serving as board chair. The Movement is focused on making Florida the best state in the nation for children.


Barnetts for ReadingPals

Since The Movement's start, two other couples--Mike and Constance Fernandez of Miami and Barney and Carol Jenkins Barnett of Lakeland--have been key benefactors along with the Katchers.


Milk Party video screenshot

In October, The Movement organized 17 regional committees throughout Florida. to assist in organizing and launching 17 "Milk Party" rallies from Pensacola to Key West with a total attendance of 15,000.


Adult reading to two smiling boys

ReadingPals, a statewide initiative, was launched with our partner, United Way. This early literacy program engages close to 1,000 trained volunteers each year in a weekly mentorship of more than 1,500 young children from pre-kindergarten to third grade.


The Listening Tour: That summer, The Movement team returned to the same 17 cities in which it held Milk Party rallies the previous September to meet with the regional committees – more than 400 business, civic and political leaders dedicated to Florida's children – to discuss The Movement's next steps.


2012 media tour: Led by Lawrence and political strategist Sergio Bendixen, we traveled to 10 major media markets in September -- meeting with local organizations, editorial boards and media people -- to announce our 2012 legislative agenda and host "Books and Cookies" reading events at local early learning centers.


Help Me Grow logo

With the passage of HB 5001, we worked to gain state support to create Help Me Grow Florida, a comprehensive parent resource system available by calling 211. It is now available in 38 of Florida's 67 counties.


We partnered with the Florida Chamber of Commerce to create The Business Alliance for Early Learning. This business-led coalition pushes for innovative early education systems at the state level.


TurboVote: Launched a highly-publicized, three-week voter registration campaign using the online platform TurboVote. Coordinated with dozens of partners across the state to register more than 800 new voters in Florida, along with developing a strategy for coordinating with childcare centers to conduct voter registration during drop off and pick up.


Assembled a 13-member board of directors that includes many of the state’s most influential decision makers.


Prior to 2016, when HB 5101 passed, legally residing immigrant children had to wait five years to receive health insurance. With our advocacy, most particularly that of benefactor Mike Fernandez, we were able to ensure tens of thousands of children now receive the pediatric care they need.


Worked with a nationally-recognized firm to develop a statewide advocacy strategy that expanded The Movement’s grassroots base to tens of thousands of supporters.


The legislature creates the Committee on Early Grade Success to create a plan for early learning reforms that will guide legislation and funding decisions in the years to come.


HB 1091 passed thanks to the unified voices of early childhood advocates across Florida. This bill establishes quality measures for early learning centers that contract with the state for subsidized child care, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and we can demonstrate real, positive outcomes for children enrolled in early learning.


#100Mayors for Early Childhood: We built a list of more than 100 mayors from around the state who support early childhood, and had them sign on to a letter to the Governor to make children’s issues a priority.


Original Built to Thrive Banner

Built to Thrive Summit: The Movement launched its first annual virtual summit, engaging more than 700 live participants with an interactive, fast-paced agenda. We heard from national experts and local change makers, bridging the worlds of politics, business, and early childhood. Our keynote speaker was Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.


Original Bosses for Babies banner

Launched our “Bosses For Babies” initiative that brings together business champions for early childhood, highlighting the many ways companies can make an impact and inspiring others to take action. Family-focused practices are proven to boost a company’s workforce and contribute to community prosperity.


Continuing to build on the recommendations of the Early Grade Success Committee, the Legislature passes HB 419, a comprehensive VPK reform bill which made historic improvements to standards and for early learning programs.


The legislature appropriates more than $200 million of new funding for early learning, and Governor DeSantis says "Early learning and early literacy really is the key."


In 2010, at the founding of The Movement, a bipartisan coalition of 28 of the state’s most prominent citizens came together to work on behalf of Florida’s children.

  • Carol Jenkins Barnett

    Chair and President, Publix Super Markets Charities


  • Sam Bell III

    Former House Majority Leader; now with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney law firm


  • Allan Bense

    Former House Speaker; now president of GAC Contractors

    Panama City

  • Cecilia Bryant

    Attorney and former vice chair of the State University System Board of Regents


  • Bob Butterworth

    Former attorney general and Department of Children and Families secretary; now Of Counsel at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney law firm.

    Fort Lauderdale

  • Marta Casas-Celaya

    Director of government and community affairs for Comcast

    West Palm Beach

  • Betty Castor

    Former legislator, education commissioner, University of South Florida president and chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board


  • Scott Clemons

    Former legislator and mayor; now president of The Clemons Company

    Panama City

  • David Dennis

    President and CEO of Eckerd Youth Alternatives


  • Manny Diaz

    Former mayor and president of U.S. Conference of Mayors; now senior partner in Lydecker Diaz law firm


  • Rob Gidel

    Former chair of the Florida Polytechnic University board; now managing partner of Liberty Capital Advisors


  • Pegeen Hanrahan

    Former mayor; environmental engineer and principal in Community and Conservation Solutions


  • Kathryn Hensley

    Former K-12 and college educator; now St. Lucie County School Board member

    Fort Pierce

  • Ed Jennings

    Former legislator; now U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development administrator


  • Toni Jennings

    Former lieutenant governor and legislator; now chair of Jack Jennings & Sons construction


  • Greg Langowski

    Former executive director of the Palm Beach Republican Party; now regional director for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

    Palm Beach

  • David Lawrence Jr

    Retired Miami Herald publisher; now chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida

    Coral Gables

  • Roberto Martinez

    Former U.S. attorney and State Board of Education member; now partner in Colson Hicks Eidson law firm

    Coral Gables

  • Gepsie Metellus

    Executive director of the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center


  • Jon Mills

    Former House Speaker; now dean emeritus and professor at University of Florida’s College of Law and Of Counsel at Boies Schiller & Flexner law firm


  • Sandy Murman

    Former legislator; now Hillsborough County commissioner


  • John “Q” Quiñones

    Former legislator and Osceola County commissioner; now an attorney and certified mediator


  • Nan Rich

    Former legislator and board member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum


  • Mario Rubio

    State policy director for the city of Jacksonville


  • Burt Saunders

    Former legislator; now an attorney with GrayRobinson law firm


  • H.T. Smith

    Former National Bar Association president; now an attorney, law school professor and community leader


  • Bill Sublette

    Former legislator; now an attorney and head of his own law firm


  • Margaret Tidmore

    Mentor coordinator and parent liaison at New Horizons Learning Center

    Panama City