Champions for Children Building Stronger Families in Tampa Bay Mon, 18 Apr 2016 20:16:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Every child has a dream Tue, 08 Mar 2016 17:36:20 +0000 With your support we are able to help children in the Tampa Bay area achieve their dreams.

Thank You Suncoast Credit Union Foundation! Thu, 04 Jun 2015 13:03:05 +0000 ]]> Brian McEwen’s Tampa Bay Business Journal Executive Profile Fri, 22 May 2015 19:42:04 +0000 Brian McEwen: Early childhood correlates to a healthy workforce

Thank You BB&T! Wed, 20 May 2015 18:34:18 +0000 Click the link below to view WFLA News Channel 8’s coverage of the BB&T Lighthouse Volunteer Day at Layla’s House.

Liz Kennedy Honored as Community Child Advocate Wed, 13 May 2015 19:41:17 +0000 Liz Kennedy was honored on Thursday, May 12th at the Healthy Mothers Luncheon benefiting the REACHUP Foundation.  We would not be Champions without Liz.
 Kennedy honoredIn the middle 1970’s, after reading about the horrific experiences of a child who had suffered extensive abuse and neglect, Liz was compelled to do something to help her community.  She attended a 3-day Junior League conference on child abuse issues in Tampa in 1976, and out of that conference the Child Abuse Council (now Champions for Children) was born.  Liz was instrumental in this agency’s founding and served in different capacities as either Board member, volunteer, or program director for the next two decades.  Champions has named its annual volunteer appreciation award in Liz’s honor.

Her retirement from the Child Abuse Council was short-lived when the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County came calling.  Liz worked with the Coalition for a few years, helping it to expand its community reach and involving others in its mission of reducing Florida’s high infant mortality and improving the lives of pregnant women. Many of us saw her in action working with the Coalition as it set about gathering community needs assessment information about teenage pregnancy.

As Liz’s work with Healthy Start was winding down, she had an idea.  She envisioned a cozy place where moms with young children could come to learn the latest parenting tips, find good resources for support, and meet other moms with kids the same age.  She approached the Child Abuse Council, the Junior League of Tampa and the Healthy Start Coalition to discuss this idea.  Out of these discussions a partnership was formed and Baby Bungalow became a reality.  Liz became Baby Bungalow’s founding director and she got it off to a strong start, getting it settled into its home at Child Abuse Council/Champions.  Now 15 years later, Baby Bungalow delivers its popular child developmental playgroups and other services from the “Mother Ship” at the main campus of Champions in south Tampa, as well as at each of the 6 Children’s Board Family Resource Centers. The program’s service mobility makes it also available at other sites throughout Hillsborough County.

While Liz was getting Baby Bungalow off the ground, she ran across some information about a national home visitation program called Parents as Teachers, or PAT. This was intriguing because she anticipated Baby Bungalow needing to have an outreach arm. Liz and her partner in crime – Paul D’Agostino, longtime Executive Director for the Council – invited the leadership from United Way to hear about Baby Bungalow and the idea of PAT, with the goal of securing enough United Way funding for 1 home visitor. The impact of Liz and Paul’s presentation was evidently persuasive, because the United Way folks called back after the presentation and offered to invest in PAT as Hillsborough County’s Success by Six United Way initiative. And another early childhood program was born at the Council due to Liz’s efforts.

But she had 1 more trick up her sleeve, and that was to establish a father-specific program, as a companion piece to Baby Bungalow and PAT. And 1 year later, Fathers Resource and Networking Center – or, FRANC – came into being, with its Boot Camp for New Dads sessions, its Nurturing Dads parenting courses, and its Dads Dinners seminars.

Once Baby Bungalow/PAT/FRANC were up and running, it was time for a new challenge.  The State of Florida had just begun the process of privatizing child welfare services by turning over foster care and adoption to local community-based care organizations, or CBCs.  Liz was tapped to work with a coalition formed by the Tampa Metro Area YMCA to create a CBC in our community.  Out of this work Hillsborough Kids, Inc. was formed and for the next 10 years managed foster care and adoptions services in our community. Liz served as a member of the HKI Board of Directors, including as its Vice Chairperson.

Somewhere along the line after Baby Bungalow/PAT/FRANC and about the time HKI was getting off the ground, Liz had a chance to catch up with an old friend from Tampa who lived in Erie, Pennsylvania.   Her friend mentioned The Ophelia Project that had been started in Erie and Liz had her next Big Idea – to start an Ophelia Project in Tampa.  She approached the YMCA and they agreed to make it a program of theirs.  Liz then began to enlist others into her plans and put them to work.  In just a few short years, the Ophelia Project was born and gave rise to the Boys Initiative. And soon after, those spun off from the Y to become what we now know as Frameworks, dedicated to nurturing social and emotional development in Hillsborough’s children.

About 5 years ago, Liz joined a team of local talent to investigate the nation’s interest in “neighborhoods of promise”, with the Harlem Children’s Zone being the gold standard for that approach to growing great kids in supportive communities. On Valentine’s Day 2012, the doors were officially opened to Layla’s House, adapting the Baby Bungalow model to the unique needs of the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. Lays House is now the coordinating partner of early childhood services within the Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise. And last year, Liz completed her efforts to expand Champions’ presence in Sulphur Springs by securing an agreement with a faith-based organization, enabling Champions to open its Community House directly across the street from Layla’s House. This facility has become the home of the FRANC program and is a touch down location for other providers.

An Embarrassment of Riches

Liz was awarded the Tampa Metro Civitan Club’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2003.  Liz has also been honored by Guardian Ad Litem, the Hillsborough County Bar Association, the St. John Presbyterian Learning Center, and there is an annual volunteerism award named in her honor given by Champions for Children.



Read Brian McEwen’s Article in The Tampa Tribune Thu, 23 Apr 2015 15:41:22 +0000 Brian McEwenClick the link below to read Executive Director Brian McEwen’s article in today’s editorial section of The Tampa Tribune.

Boot Camp for New Dads Workshop Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:14:56 +0000 Champions for Children’s FRANC Program was featured on WTSP Channel 10 News Tampa Bay this past Saturday. Boot Camp for New Dads uses veteran fathers to orient “rookie” dads expecting their first babies.
Check out the video here:

We are proud to be dedicated to child abuse prevention and family education in Tampa Bay!

Baby Café Breastfeeding Support Fri, 03 Apr 2015 13:32:46 +0000 If breastfeeding is so easy and natural, why don’t more women do it? Lack of support is one big reason, and the Baby Café Breastfeeding Support service at Champions for Children is trying to fix this. Here is one mom’s testimonial;

“(the Baby Café)….was a one on one, hands on, uplifting and educational experience. I didn’t feel rushed and I left feeling like I was provided with enough information to accomplish the goal of breastfeeding our baby…..I, like many women, was on the brink of giving up when my Mom told me to contact them.  I can honestly say with the help of this program I was able to successfully breastfeed our baby.”

The Baby Café meets once every week, at two locations, in Hillsborough County. This free drop in service is open to all nursing women and their babies.  The Baby Café provides the highest quality services from two IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) and one CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor).

To learn more about Baby Café and other program offerings, please visit the ABC Program’s webpage!
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Who’s the Man?! is Making Headlines! Thu, 08 Jan 2015 21:20:51 +0000  

Overseen by Dan Berman, Who’s the Man?! is a program for fathers funded by Allegany Franciscian Ministries and is held in partnership with the Children’s Board Family Resource Center in East County. We are proud of the education Berman continues to provide to the community and grateful Plant City started offering the class in the fall.  Below, read all about Who’s the Man?! at the Children’s Board Family Resource Center – East County that appeared in the Plant City Observer newspaper.

Children’s Board program promotes father-child bonding

By Catherine Sinclair | Staff Writer on December 26, 2014

“Nurturing” is often a word associated with a mother. But it’s just as important for fathers to spend quality time with their babies. And dads can do just that at a new program offered at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County’s East County Center.

The program called, “Who’s the Man?” is run by Dan Bergman, of Champions for Children Tampa Bay. Though Bergman leads the class at three Bay-area locations, Plant City started offering the class in the fall.

“Our goal is to promote the bonding between father and child,” Bergman said. “The research is so clear that that first year is so important.”

For one hour each Thursday, dads can take their babies (one year to 18 months old) to the Children’s Board for developmental playtime. Dads can expect plenty of games and activities involving trucks, balls and even a parachute. And it’s not just their children that dads will be getting to know.

“It’s really a chance for them to interact with other parents — other dads who are going through the same thing, so they feel more comfortable,” Bergman said.

Of the three locations where “Who’s the Man?” is offered, Plant City is the only location with a Spanish interpreter on site. This Children’s Board staff member is always at the class. Spanish-speaking fathers do not need to notify the board in advance of their attendance.

With a master’s degree in early childhood from Vanderbilt University, Bergman is an authority on the subject. Though many fathers prefer to wait until their babies are old enough to run and jump to spend significant time playing with them, it is better to start bonding early, Bergman said.

“We’ve gotten tremendously positive feedback,” Bergman said. “Right now, the key is getting them through the door. … We’re still fighting things in society that say dads aren’t an important part of this time in their kids’ lives.”

Champions for Children is an organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and educating families through hands-on training. Its abuse treatment programs are a direct response to the number of child abuse cases in Hillsborough County, which is among the highest in the state.

Bergman said the goal is for “Who’s the Man?” to eventually become an extension of the prenatal program, a “bootcamp” for new dads offered by Champions for Children.

For dads and moms with children over the age of 18 months, Champions for Children offers a similar but age-appropriate playgroup called “Baby Bungalow.” Children up to age 5 are welcome.

“Who’s the Man?” is free and does not require advance registration. There also will be free gifts for children and their fathers who attend multiple times.


When: Thursdays, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, East County Center, 639 E. Alexander Street, Plant City

Contact: (813) 673-4646

Cost: Free

Walk-ins welcome.


Contact Catherine Sinclair at


Congratulations & Thank You Olga Joanow! Mon, 29 Dec 2014 14:26:58 +0000 On December 23rd, the Tampa Bay Lightning honored Olga Joanow as a Lightning Community Hero. To recognize Olga’s commitment to our community and the important work she helps support at Champions for Children, the Lightning played a tribute video in her honor during the Bolts game against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Tuesday evening. In addition, the Tampa Bay Lightning will award $50,000 to a non-profit of Olga’s choice. Champions for Children is honored and very grateful that Olga chose to designate the grant to Kids on the Block, our educational puppeteer program designed to teach third and fourth grade children how to stay safe!

Olga is a passionate leader of the work our agency does and we are happy to welcome her as our incoming Board President this year. Thank you, Olga, for being a true champion for children in our community. And congratulations… we couldn’t think of a more deserving person to receive this kind of recognition.

To see the tribute video they played in honor of Olga Joanow at the game, please see below: