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Report: Real Issues For Florida Girls Not Being Addressed

A group of girls of all different races sitting in the lobby of an office building.
The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center says minority girls and those in the LGBTQ community are facing more violence and victimization in their everyday lives. COURTESY DELORES BARR WEAVER POLICY CENTER

Minority girls and those in the LGBTQ community are facing increased rates of violence and victimization, but organizations in Florida meant to serve children are failing to address these issues.

That’s according to research from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, a research and advocacy group for girls all over the world.

On a mission to change how these issues are dealt with, Florida child advocacy group, The Children’s Campaign, is hosting community conversations across the state.

“I get asked a lot ‘Why are you focusing on girls?’” said Roy Miller, President and CEO of The Children’s Campaign. “Here’s my answer: we need gender specific services.”

Vanessa Patino Lydia is the Vice President of Research and Planning at the policy center. She said, when looking at the data, it’s important to focus on what different girls are experiencing in their communities, schools, and homes.

“That data gives us a place to start. Where are those differences?” Lydia said. “Because if we just focus on looking at differences by gender, we will miss out on the invisible girls, the girls who are falling behind, and the cohorts of girls that really warrant attention.”

According to the research in Florida, one-in-eight girls in middle and high school said they don’t feel safe in their neighborhood, one-in-three said they don’t feel safe in school, and one-in-four don’t feel safe in their homes. Those numbers triple when focused on minority girls and those identifying as LGBTQ.

“How we define well-being is that the child should be free from violence and victimization in all of these spaces. They should have access to supports and opportunities to lead healthy lives,” she said. “What we’re seeing right now in our state is that one-in-three girls are reporting that life is not worth it.”

Based on her research, girls without support are experiencing more substance abuse and hopelessness, and higher rates of bullying and suspension.

State of Florida with the steps on how to shape policy surrounding girls.
The Children's Campaign and the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center are looking at the experiences of girls in Florida as a way to shape policies and services for them. COURTESY DELORES BARR WEAVER POLICY CENTER

“It is a wake-up call that those experiences really matter and have an impact on these indicators of well-being,” she said. “If we don’t address the trauma that girls are telling us they’re experiencing… what we see is a disconnect from the spaces meant to protect and be places of opportunity.”

The research also indicates that girls who end up in the juvenile justice system have much higher rates of victimization and trauma.

“It’s that unaddressed trauma that really drives behavior,” Lydia said.

Lawanda Ravoira, president and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, is working with Miller to create new guidelines for services and intervention for Florida’s girls.

“We need to challenge ourselves as communities, as service providers, as government, and as individuals, to take this obligation of understanding that need drives behavior,” Ravoira said. “As we hold girls accountable for their behavior, we have to hold ourselves accountable for where we have failed to address their need.”

To read more information about the status of girls, go to See The Girl.

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