South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday August 4, 2020
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February 2005 - Volume 1 - Issue 7
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Marjorie Evans: Nurturing Broward Children’s Center Since 1971

Maybe it’s because she is an avid gardener, but Marjorie Evans likes to say that a person should "bloom where you’re planted."

Fortunately for thousands of children and their families in South Florida, Evans, a transplanted western Pennsylvania native, has nurtured the Broward Children’s Center since its founding in 1971, growing it into one of the preeminent not-for-profit institutions specializing in helping infants, children and young adults with special healthcare needs.

"I grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh," Evans recalled. "Back then the area wasn’t really nice. When I turned 18, my dad took me on a plane to the University of Miami and I’ve lived here ever since."

Although Evans returns to her hometown frequently to visit relatives – and considers the area much improved from when she was growing up there – clearly western Pennsylvania’s loss has been Florida’s gain. After earning a bachelor’s degree in French and English from Miami and a master’s degree in counseling from Nova University (now Nova Southeastern) in Ft. Lauderdale, she was attracted to an advertisement by the Broward Captivated Child Center for volunteers.

"I wasn’t working at the time, when I read about a place that needed volunteers," Evans said. "A group of parents whose children had profound disabilities did not want to institutionalize them. I didn’t choose the position as much as it chose me. I served as a volunteer for about five years, while the program kept growing and evolving."

Evans, who soon was named chief executive officer, recalled that some days were a struggle just to keep the facility solvent and the doors open. Eventually in that first year, the state urged the facility to expand from six to twelve and then twenty-four hours a day. The first residential program began by serving twenty-five children. In 1980, the center established a home for medically stable residents and, three years later, the child care and preschool and residential programs moved to Pompano Beach while the center began emergency respite stays for children with special needs.

"A highlight of our early years came in 1987, when we accepted our first ventilator-assisted child," said Evans. "That changed everything. Many of these children have normal intelligence, so our focus changed from just multiple handicaps to medical problems."

"There were a lot of highlights along the way when we first started. We had to find a place, get the food and nutrition folks on board, and encourage the county to fund us. As we achieved this, each was a triumph in its own way."

From those humble beginnings, the Broward Children’s Center has sprouted to a campus and affiliated programs where 300 staff members meet the needs of 600 children – some of whom are among the country’s most medically fragile – and their families. The center continues to specialize in helping infants, children and young adults with special healthcare needs. Its not-for-profit facilities headquartered in Pompano Beach offer a range of health, wellness, education, recreation, therapeutic daily living and advocacy services.

Broward Children’s Center provides a home to some of the most technologically-dependent children in the country and addresses the educational, social and medical needs of both typically developing and special needs children. The center has pioneered the development of community-based residential facilities and school programming for children who are medically fragile or developmentally delayed.

Services include group homes for infants, children and young adults with special needs; two preschools for special needs and typically developing children; a skilled nursing facility through an affiliate, CompCare (Children’s Comprehensive Care Center); education for children who are medically complex; medical transportation; licensed home health care through another affiliate, HomeCare; in-home and facility-based respite care; before- and after-school programs; physical, occupational and speech and language therapy; counseling; "Kids Klinic" mobile and center-based primary medical care, and prescribed pediatric extended care.

Through it all, the struggles as well as the triumphs, Evans has been there as a passionate advocate for children, especially those unable to speak for themselves.

"We have faced many challenges and will continue to do so," she said. "Today, a primary concern is how to get Medicaid and various other government programs to understand how really expensive technology has become for facilities like ours.

"It’s also challenging to be the only free-standing pediatric facility in the area, versus geriatric. Our children need skilled nursing at a young age, but the regulations are all written for the elderly. In other words, children’s needs are different from the elderly, yet the requirements for a license are the same."

Evans’ passion has led her to a leadership position as an advocate for children. She frequently appears before the Florida Legislature and is a member of the state’s Early Intervention Task Force. She also works with Florida Tax Watch to develop cost-effective care for children, and consults with organizations such as the State Department of Children’s Medical Services and the American Healthcare Association.

Evans has also worked with the Florida Department of Children and Families and Vocational Rehabilitation to create opportunities for medically complex children and young adults, and helped develop state regulations for pediatric nursing homes.

"Probably what I enjoy least about my work is trying to make the government understand what is going on in our industry," Evans said. "Of course, this is balanced by seeing kids make improvement, no matter how small."

Evans maintains a balance in her life by pursuing "lots of hobbies," including gardening, sailing and water color painting. Her husband, Geoffrey, is a retired Episcopalian priest. She has two sons, Richard and Chris, and two granddaughters, Lindsey and Kelly Stephan.

"My sons grew up with my work," she said. "When I first started, we had no money. I drove the bus, scrubbed the floors, and I took the kids with me because I had no one to take care of them."

As for a philosophy that guides both her work and her life, Evans said, "I try not to do anything harmful to people. Even if they get on my nerves, I try not to say anything if it won’t do any good to make the situation better. I always see the cup as half full.

"I guess I’m impressed by how many people in this world really do care about others and are willing to show up and try to do something for kids. When we have a need, someone always seems to step up and help make things happen."

Marjorie Evans can be reached at (954) 943-7336 ext. 114. For more information about The Broward Children’s Center visit their website at www.bcckids.org.
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