In the NEWS

Ocala Star Banner

May 8, 2016
Woman is raising her three children, plus eight others

OCALA – Shanta Norton is a mom to the 11th power, raising a family of eight non-biological children, along with three of her, as one blended family.


Citrus Chronicle

Verlato, party of 10

To that, Madden replied, “It’s going to be sad when they leave, but not as sad as Jesus’ heart would be if we didn’t do it.”


Local Case Manager Awarded National VERONICA Award by the Superstar Foundation

Amber Riccinto / Daily Commercial

Amber Riccinto / Daily Commercial

Child welfare case managers lead very stressful, busy lives caring for society’s most vulnerable children and families. Every family on their caseloads has unique complexities and considerations, making it even more important to recognize exceptional work. Read more

Additional coverage at Daily Commercial.

Healthy Living: Raising A Family: The 2nd Time Around
by: Jim Gibson

2nd time

In Florida, 258,952 children live in grandparent-headed households (7.1% of all the children in the state). There are another 86,152 children living in households headed by other relatives (2.4% of all the children in the state). To prevent these children from being placed in foster care, Kids Central established its Kinship Care program. The Healthy Living Magazine wrote a beautiful piece on just a few of our kinship families.


Local LeaderOcala Star Banner Logo Honored by State Coalition


John Cooper, Chief Executive Officer of Kids Central, was honored with the Jim Strayer Leadership Award from the Florida Coalition for Children.The award was presented during the coalition’s 2015 conference and awards luncheon, during which more than 500 child welfare professionals, providers, legislators and advocates gathered in Orlando. Click here to read the article.


Kid’s Central CEO Gets Leadership Award

The chief executive officer of Kids Central Inc., which serves a five-county area including Lake and Sumter, recently was honored with the Jim Strayer Leadership Award from the Florida Coalition for Children. Click here to read the article.


HL_logo_990The Challenges and Rewards of Fostering Teens

It Takes A Village: Fostering and Adopting Series

Lake Healthy Living magazine is publishing a series on fostering and adopting. They have published the third article of the series. Click here to read the article.


“Open Your orlandosentinelHeart” Event Aimed at Recruiting Foster Parents

To help support families in crisis, Kids Central Inc., a nonprofit the state contracts with to handle foster-home and adoption placements, is hosting a recruiting event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 130 S. Lone Oak Drive. “Open Your Heart” is an outreach effort designed to identify residents willing to take in youngsters who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Read more here.



It Takes A Village: Fostering and Adopting Series

Lake Healthy Living magazine will be publishing a series on fostering and adopting. They have published the first article of the series. Click here to read the article.



 Foster families on the rise in one North Central Florida community

One North Central Florida community is very successful when it comes to recruiting foster families . There are approximately 140 foster kids in Marion County, with 172 beds available in foster homes. To boost the number of foster parents, Kids Central, Inc., a community-based care agency, changed the process to become one. Read More


Program Gives Foster Youths Chance For More Normal Life

Foster kids can now get assistance for what so many young teens strive for: their driver’s license. Recent legislation, passed unanimously in the Florida House and Senate, gives foster kids financial assistance for driver’s licenses, insurance and a better chance at a normal life. The statewide program Keys to Independence, which started in mid-October, is made possible by the “Normalcy Bill” passed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013. Read More



On Thanksgiving, Quiet not the Custom for Tireless Foster Parents

Thanksgivings were supposed to be getting quieter for Pat and Linda Hoins. They decided last spring to be “selfish” and stop taking in foster kids nearly every time they were asked, Pat Hoins said. They stuck a “For Sale” sign in front of their big house south of Brooksville and sold their 12-piece Broyhill dining room set on Craigslist. “Like fools,” Linda said, because since then almost nothing has worked out as planned. First, there were the three children from Spring Hill she couldn’t get out of her mind. They had lost their mother in a motorcycle accident and their father to cancer, and were sent to a group home in Ocala. The foster care agency called Linda to ask if she could take them and a few weeks later she called back and said “give me those kids.” Read More


Ocala Star Banner LogoPrograms Helps Foster Kids Earn Driver’s Licenses

A $2.4 million, three-year pilot program enacted by the Florida legislature may soon help youths in foster care obtain their learner’s permits and driver’s licenses, and the freedom and responsibility that goes with them. The Keys to Independence program is intended to help youths in foster care with the cost of licenses and insurance. A local girl whose foster parents helped her obtain her license shared what it meant to her. Read More.


 Kids Central Helping Foster Population

There are nearly 14,000 children in the foster care system in Florida. Despite the shortage of foster families to take care of the children, there are still a number of people out there giving foster kids more than just a roof over their heads. One local agency is saying thanks with a day of fun. Read more and watch video.



 Mount Dora Woman gets Satisfaction Helping Young Adults in Extended Foster Care

Ethel Badger has 748 kids who call her mom. Although she only has five children, she opened her home and heart to hundreds of others from across the area as a foster parent. Badger, 63, has opened her home once again. This time it’s for young adults who have turned 18 and aged out of the foster-care system. As part of a new statewide extended foster-care system, Badger recently took in an 18-year old woman who still needs added support to get ahead in life. “This program is a second chance,” Badger said. “It’s like hope.” Read More


Ocala Star Banner Logo

Local Non-Profit Recognized by Governor’s Sterling Council

Kids Central was selected as one of six teams from across the state to
compete for the state of Florida Team Showcase Championship during the
Florida Sterling Council Annual Conference. The Governor’s Sterling
Award and Sterling Management Model are based on the National Malcolm
Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Since 1992, the Florida
Sterling Council has assisted organizations to utilize proven standards
of excellence as a guide to making improvements that generate better
operations, customer value, and overall results. Read More


Lifestyles After 50

We Honor Foster Mother Who Pick Up the Pieces of Children’s Broken Lives

“Life is so complex out there. It’s gotten so rough for some of the children,” says Bobbi of St. Petersburg, a foster mother with 31 years of experience. Today’s foster kids come with lots of mental and emotional abuse. “We give them something they haven’t had before. And when they are in my home, they are mine.” Read More


Citrus County Chronicle

 We All Must Help Take Care of Our Children

By Sheriff Dawsy

A city is not a city until it takes care of its children.- Bobby James, Marion County School Board and Kids Central Board of Directors Treasure.

I’ve heard Bobby James say this a few times. It resonates within me, but I’d like to rephrase it, “A county is not a county until it takes care of its children.” Caring for our children is important to me. I serve on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit, Kids Central. This organization is a community-based organization that works to treat and prevent the abuse and neglect of children. Read more.



Child Abuse in Our Midst

By Rebecca Schatt, Kids Central Board of Directors

Have you seen the blue and silver pinwheels spinning around Ocala?

Every April, in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, Kids Central and its partners work to plant pinwheels across Ocala and Marion County. Pinwheels serve as a reminder to all that children deserve to have a free childhood — free from abuse, free from drugs, free from neglect, free from violence. These pinwheels are Pinwheels for Prevention, and Kids Central plants gardens of them to increase awareness of what is happening in our communities.

One of the reasons I’m writing this letter is to educate our community on what is happening in Ocala/Marion County. During 2013, almost 4,500 abuse reports from Marion County were received by the Florida Abuse Hotline — that’s between 350 and 450 reports every month! Of those reported in 2013, almost 1,000 children were verified to have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. Thirty-seven percent of the verified child abuse involved family violence. Read the full letter.



Hernando Today


Hernando Group Searching for Families to Become Foster Parents

By Wendy Joan Biddlecombe

April 10, 2014 -BROOKSVILLE – Last year, 259 children in Hernando County were placed in out-of-home care after being abused, neglected or abandoned.

And, for the past 23 years, hundreds of children have gone to live with Linda Hoins and her husband, Patrick. The Hoins are one of 32 licensed foster homes in the county eligible to take in children in need of a place to live. Read the full story.


Hernando Today

Children need your help to make Hernando a safe place

By Captain Cyrus Robinson, Board of Directors

April 10, 2014 -Hernando County is a hidden treasure nestled on the Nature Coast of West Central Florida and the home of 173,000 residents. Happy thoughts and beautiful images of growing urban communities, schools and businesses mixed with sprawling country landscapes make up Hernando County. Having said that, would you believe that almost 1,000 Hernando children were victims of child abuse or neglect during 2013? Not such a happy or beautiful image. Read the full letter. 



If you witness child abuse, don’t hesitate to report it 

By Gail Burry

April 6, 2014 – When people think of child abuse what comes to mind first?

Bruises? Broken arms? Or worse?

Of course, all of these instances are forms of child abuse, but they’re not what make up the majority of cases in today’s society. Unlike what may come to mind, the most common form of abuse is neglect. Read the full letter.


Programs Bring ‘Invisible’ Signs of Child Abuse to Forefront

By April Warren

April 2, 2014 – A warm breeze swept across the grassy field outside West Marion Community Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, curling underneath the reflective petals of dozens of pinwheels and turning the green patch into a blur of blue shimmer.




New Law Extended Foster Care


A Day in the Life of Santa

By Mike Hillad

December 15, 2014 – On a recent night, I played what is arguably the second-hardest Christmas event of this year, and one that is usually the hardest I face annually: The Lake and Sumter Families Foster Parent Association. The children arrive with both trepidation and excitement. From hearing Leesburg Fire Department’s siren announcing the arrival of Santa until they stand face-to-face with him, their emotions are in knots. Read the full story.






The New Face of “Orphans” 

By Nicole Pulcini Mason

November 24, 2013-The story of Davion Navar Henry Only walking into St. Petersburg’s St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church and making a plea to the congregation for a forever home has rocketed through the Internet, hitting blogs, bouncing through social media and making national news. As touching as Davion’s story is, though, he is one child in need of a permanent, adoptive home. Thanks to Davion, he has given a face, voice and story to the hundreds of teens awaiting loving parents in Florida’s foster care system. Read more.



 KidsCentral, Preventing Sleep Related Deaths Among Babies

By Stephanie Bechara

November 22, 2013 – When parents say “lullaby and goodnight” they plan on their infant waking up, but losing a sleeping infant is a terrifying possibility to parents and it has become a reality here for some in North Central Florida. Read more and video the video.


Citrus County ChronicleOpen Your Heart to adoption or fostering

By Eryn Worthington

November 10, 2013 – In observance of National Adoption Month, advocates are encouraging Citrus County residents to open their hearts to adoption and fostering.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, Kids Central Inc. and Community Alliance of Citrus County are hosting the inaugural Open Your Heart program at the Crystal River Mall, 1801 U.S. 19 North, Ste. 331, Crystal River.

“This is the third Open Your Heart event we have done in Circuit 5 — Citrus, Marion, Lake, Sumter and Hernando,” said foster parent recruiter Rosey Moreno-Jones. “The idea is to host an event for people who are interested in fostering or adopting through the Department of Children and Families.” Read more


Kids Central: Helping Find Homes for Those Who Need It Most

September 19, 2013 –OCALA – According to the Children’s Bureau there are over five thousand children in public foster care in the state of Florida, waiting to be adopted. But a local organization is trying to decrease that number. A group out of Ocala is helping to find homes for those who need it the most.

Last year in Marion county alone More than 300 children were removed from their homes for abuse, neglect or perhaps lack of supervision.

“People don’t realize how big of an issue it really is, cause you can’t tell a foster child just by looking at them… They look like a regular child majority of the time,” Joey Johnson who was recently adopted said.

Noah and Levi, who are six and ten are now part of the Campbell family because they were recently adopted. “I love my new home because before I was not cared for or anything like at my biological houses. So now with my new family I am well cared for… I get fed every day and it’s a pleasure to be there too,” Levi said.

But unlike Noah and Levi, some kids are never placed in a permanent home spending their whole lives in the system until they are 18.

But one teen in the system, Ethan was placed in a home right before he was 18. “I had just kinda given up hope that maybe I wasn’t going to be adopted by my 18th birthday and I would have to age out of the system and live on my own and do things that I wasn’t taught yet and wasn’t prepared for the real world.” With the help of Kids Central he can now call himself a Johnson.

Kids Central is an organization that promotes the welfare of children in Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Sumter and Marion county. The non-profit put together an event Saturday, to raise awareness… It’s part of their “open your heart” program.

One of the mentors, Antron McCullough who spent his childhood in foster care says he can connect with the youths he advises. “I feel like I am a role model, you know? I am setting an example for the youth and letting them know even the situation that you’re in you can come out of it and you can be somebody… You know you have that support… The foster parents, the adoptive parents who are behind them. So I just really feel like I am giving back to the community as well as those youths who are in the system,” McCullough said.

In circuit 5 there are about 400 foster beds… But in reality there’s a need for more than 600. “As a former foster parent and an adoptive parent… Every child in this world deserves a place where they feel loved and safe and that place might just be with you,” Rosey Moreno a Foster Parent Recruiter for Kid’s Central said.


DCF grant will help families address substance abuse, mental health issues

The state Department of Children and Families has awarded a $516,295 grant to local social workers to help them address — in clients’ homes — the substance abuse and mental health problems they encounter when handling cases of child abuse or neglect.

“Over 75 percent of all child abuse cases in Marion and Lake counties involve mental health and/or substance misuse. Unfortunately, severe mental health issues are commonly accompanied by drug or alcohol abuse,” according to a news release from Kids Central Inc., this area’s lead agency for child welfare services.

The grant will help implement what’s known as the Integration of Substance Abuse, Mental Health and Child Welfare Services Pilot project. Kids Central has been awarded the grant in partnership with The Centers, which serves Marion and Citrus counties, and Lifestream Behavioral.

When a case of child neglect or abuse is confirmed, the state and local social workers have many options to protect the children. Most commonly, KCI is involved in directly providing or arranging for special services to help the family — everything from medical help to transportation.

Frequently, KCI and its partners find that families need help overcoming substance abuse or mental health issues. One way to do that is with in-home services.

“Today, families introduced to the child welfare system receive varying levels of intervention based on their needs and the safety of the children,” the press release states. “The new pilot program could enhance the ability of families to remain intact and receive intensive interventions in their homes.

“Families, such as those being served by the grant, weren’t commonly able to remain together safely. Bringing the services into a close and comfortable setting improves family engagement and reduces barriers to treatment,” the release goes on to say.

A young woman named Kirstin, a former meth addict who lost custody of her kids because of dependency problems, is helping in this effort to beef up in-home services. She has told every group and official she can reach, including Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, that in-home treatment is critical and needed.

“I want to see others in need get help,” said Kirstin, whose name is withheld to avoid identifying her children. “It would have made a great difference if in-home treatment had been available to me earlier. I had no way to get around” to reach treatment centers.

Jennifer Clark with Kids Central said another goal is making the grant a “sustainable,” or continuing, item.



South Ocala Life Magazine

Open Your Heart at the Ocala YMCA Family Center

September 2013 – Event aimed to recruit foster and adoptive parents for Kids Central, Inc., a Marion County nonprofit. To read the article, visit Hibu.



Citrus County ChronicleGUEST COLUMN:
Community-Based Care Is Working 

By John Cooper, CEO

Tuesday, July 23, 2013-The unexpected resignation of Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary  David Wilkins elicits mixed reactions. DCF contracts with local community-based care organizations to serve the neglected, abused and abandoned children. Kids Central is the lead agency charged with developing and coordinating services in Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.

While working side-by-side with former secretary Wilkins, his passion and big heart was unmistakable. He always desired to improve outcomes for the children and families we are tasked with serving. Under his administration, DCF instituted an ambitious and innovative way to transform child welfare protective investigations.

To read more, visit

 Agencies Clash With DCF Chief

Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 11:39 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE | Florida’s community-based care agencies are pursuing a legislative solution to their contract dispute with Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. 

The CBCs, as they’re known, have been resisting Wilkins’ efforts to add terms to their contracts that would give him more control over their delivery of child-welfare services — including the right to name their chief executive officers and other top staff. (read more



June 17, 2013

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, The secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families and thecommunity-based care agencies that deliver child-welfare services have resolved part of a contract dispute with the signing of one agreement Monday.   (read more)


LakeFrontTV “Daily Commercial Forum”

Topic: Adoption

Nicole Pulcini Mason, Kids Central Director of Community Affairs/PIO; Rick Manuel, Youth and Family Alternatives Assistant Director of Adoption Program; Christine Arendas, A Chosen Child Attorney; and Rebecca Farling, Adoptive Mother being interviewed by LakeFrontTV anchor Sandi Moore. Watch here.


LakeFrontTV “Daily Commercial Forum”

Topic: Child Abuse

Nicole Pulcini Mason, Kids Central Director of Community Affairs/PIO; Joelle Aboytes, Department of Children and Families Circuit 5 Community Development Administrator; Amber Warren, Lake County Sheriff Office Detective; and Lynn, Guardian Ad Litem Volunteer being interviewed by LakeFrontTV anchor Sandi Moore. Watch here.

WFTV Channel 9 “Central Florida Spotlight”

Topic: Adoption and foster care

Taped January 7, 2013 in Orlando – Aired January 20, 2013

Danielle Damato Doty, Kids Central Director of Community Development/PIO and William D’Aiuto, DCF Regional Managing Director, Central Region, being interviewed by WFTV anchor Greg Warmoth.

Mary Jones Honored at Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marion County on December 13 recognized the support of community organizations and presented a special award to Mary Jones who has supported the organization for more than 45 years.  (read more)


Steak and Polo For Kids

August 12, 2012Weirsdale, Florida– Steak, polo, and helping kids in need; get ready for a classy and charitable event! (read more)                


August 21, 2012Guests at the Steak & Polo Night for Kids held at Grand Oaks Resort Saturday, Sept. 8 will enjoy a steak dinner, live polo and the satisfaction of helping disadvantaged children. (read more)


Budget Axe Necessitates Regrouping  

THE ISSUE: State funding chopped; closure imminent.
OUR OPINION: Need to keep this resource open in the community. When things go so wrong in a family that the case ends up in court, sometimes, for the safety of the children as well as the adults, the court orders supervised visitation.



CEO: Kids Central can’t afford funding cuts

Friday, January 20, 2012, OCALA — Having funding slashed for community-based care is another reduction Cynthia Schuler said Kids Central Inc. and other lead child welfare agencies just can’t afford.
After already experiencing a $2 million cut this fiscal year, the Kids Central chief executive officer said in meeting with Chronicle Editorial Board on Wednesday, that core services provided by the not-for-profit agency would suffer if Gov. Rick Scott proceeds to reduce the core budgets of community-based care organizations (CBCs) by $7.5 million next year.  (read more)



October 31, 2011 Thanks to efforts led by Circuit Court Judges Patricia Thomas and Barbara Gurrola, for 13 years Citrus County’s Family Visitation Center has provided a safe, neutral environment for monitored visits and child exchanges. Since 2000, the Family Visitation Center has occupied a house on Seminole Avenue in Inverness, on the grounds of Citrus Memorial Health System. The center, which provides a home-like, child-friendly environment, supervises more than 700 visits every year.  (read more)

 The Overlooked Social Cancer
 October 30, 2011 – A message we heard with resonating repetition over the past month is to “think pink.” From lapel ribbons and T-shirts to NFL wrist bands and billboards, pink was on display everywhere we looked during October as the nation joined to observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.    (read more) 
County Visitation Center Could Close
Kids Central Inc. to stop funding site used for court-ordered visits between children, parents
 October 23, 2011 – INVERNESS — Underneath the shade of a large oak tree, a little boy giggled as his father pulled him around the small, fenced-in play area in a little plastic red wagon.
Missy Allen-May doesn’t know what plight has brought this father and son to the Citrus County Visitation Center. She doesn’t want to know.  (read more) 
YMCA Gets New Director 

October 23, 2011 – HOMOSASSA – Joanna Castle’s face lit up with excitement as she entered the cafeteria Thursday afternoon at Homassassa Elementary School.

It was her first time seeing the YMCA’s Afterschool Enrichment Clubs’ dance program in action. Her eyes followed the group of young girls as they pranced about the stage wearing baby-pink dance shirts, trying their best to learn the intricate dance moves to perform later in front of their parents.  (read more  

Kids Central Joins the Alliance
September 6, 2011- Kids Central in Ocala, Fla., has joined the Alliance for Children and Families. The organization’s child-centered, community-based system of care is designed to strengthen families and promote reunification.  
DCF Chief Preaches Patience to Nonprofit Group
 July 13, 2011 – Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins’ reception at Ocala-based Kids Central Inc. on Wednesday was cordial, but frank. The local, not-for-profit agency wanted the newly appointed DCF chief to explain why its funding was cut despite being one of the best DCF service providers — while poor performers were being rewarded.   (read more) 
Kids Central Funding Slashed
May 13, 2011 – The words “Senate Bill 2146” may not mean anything — unless you’re a working parent of school-age children who relies on local agencies and organizations for summer day programs for your kids.   (read more) 
Nonprofit Puts Spotlight on Foster Moms for Mother’s Day
 May 7, 2011 – Kids Central Inc. wants to make sure that on this Mother’s Day foster moms are appreciated, too.

For the past seven years, the nonprofit organization has worked with the Florida Department of Children and Families and is the lead child-protection-services agency for the Circuit 5 county district, which includes Marion, Lake, Sumter, Hernando and Citrus counties  (read more)


Where Family Finding Comes First 

May 20120 – Kids Central, Inc., based in Ocala, FL, is passionate about family finding. The agency believes that identifying and engaging all the family members of children in foster care is critical to providing these children with permanent families and connections. As early as 2007, Director Irene Rickus was working with family finding trainer Kevin Campbell to provide intensive training and case consultation to workers in the five counties that Kids Central serves. When the opportunity to apply for a Family Connection grant came along in 2009, they lost no time in translating that passion into a winning grant application.  (read more)


Child Abuse Prevention is a Community Concern

April 18, 2008 – They come from families where it’s OK to hit. It’s OK to use drugs. Money is tight and stress is high. The parents need help. The children need protection.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Officials hope people will use this time as an opportunity to learn more about an issue that affects a young and vulnerable segment of society: children.  (read more)

Remembering Victims of Crimes

April 11,2011 – Child abuse victim recounts his story at county’s victim’s rights program. Sometimes it was a belt. Other times it was a board with holes drilled in it.

Bracing himself with a chair, Antron McCullough recalled trying to let his mind wander as he took the beatings from his then-adoptive dad.  (read more)

Say ‘no’ to Equity Funding

By Cynthia Schuler – April 4, 2011New legislation in the Florida Senate is calling for the reduction of funding for all community-based care lead agencies by 25 percent. That amount would then be used to create so-called “equity” for all lead agencies in the state contracted to provide child welfare, foster care and adoption services. Although there may be some areas in Florida that believe they are not receiving adequate child welfare funding, clearly the solution should not be to steal from other communities. 

Legislation Would Harm Best-Performing Child Welfare Agencies

By Cynthia Schuler – April 3, 2011New legislation in the Florida Senate is calling for the reduction of funding for all community-based care lead agencies by 25 percent. That amount would then be used to create so-called “equity” for all lead agencies in the state contracted to provide child welfare, foster care and adoption services. Although there may be some areas in Florida that believe they are not receiving adequate child welfare funding, clearly the solution should not be to steal from other communities.  (read more

Summer Program Funding Available

March 24, 2011 – Kids Central, Inc. is again providing prevention funding for summer break programs. Organizations interested in applying for funds can attend a training session from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, March 25, at Kids Central, 2117 SW Highway 484, Ocala.  (read more)

Daytona agency gets nod for foster care contract

March 21, 2011 – DAYTONA BEACH – A local child welfare leader is recommending the state continue contracting with Community Partnership for Children to provide foster care services as the agency has for the past 11 years.  

Reggie Williams, local administrator for the state Department of Children & Families, has agreed with the unanimous decsion of a negotiating committee to continue with the Daytona Beach-based agency.  


Infant Deaths: Safely Lay Me Down to Sleep

March 20, 2011 – Last year, five healthy infants in Marion County were laid down to sleep and never woke up. Sadly, these babies were denied access to a basic necissity: air.

Access to this life resource requires no medical appointments, immunizations or money. The lives of these babies were cut short simply because they were unable to breathe. It only takes a minute for a baby to become wedged between couch cushions, covered by a pillow or comforter in an adult bed or become entrapped in a crib between a bumper pad, stuffed animals or blankets. It happens in our own community. My heart goes out to these babies who will never take their first step and to the parents who will never hear their child say their first words.  (read more)

 The Perfect Fit: After-School Program Teaches Youngsters Healthy Habits

February 23, 2011 – On any given school day, as Marita Hurn, who will be 10 on Feb. 27, plays “Fox, Tree, Squirrel” on the playground at Pope John Paul II Catholic School, she thinks she’s only having fun.As part of the YMCA’s CATCH Kids’ Club after-school program, she’s really decreasing her chances of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease when she gets older.  (read more)


Kids Central Helps Family for Holidays

December 20, 2010 – Employee with Kids Central Inc. emptied their own pockets to donate groceries and Christmas presents to Brenda Monteiro and her grandchildren on Tuesday.

Her 10-year-old grandson, Anthony “Tony” Motler, was so excited about the possibility of a present being a RipStik, a type of skateboard, that neighbor Evelyn Bassler had to keep steering him away from the tree.  (read more)


Kids Central Honors Villagers for Contributing More Than 100 Hours of Community Service

November 1, 2010 – OCALA – Kids Central volunteer Patricia Wiswall remembers the excited look on the teenager’s face when she helped him find a suit for the organization’s teen dance this past June.

The boy could not find a suit that fit right until Wiswall came forward and suggested a lilac satin one.  (read more)


The ABCs of Safe Sleeping for Infants

September 5, 2010 – Hopefully the picture, right, upsets you. This is an ad from the Milwaukee Health Department. According to a March 15 article, three out of four Milwaukee County babies who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, involved co-sleeping.

What about Marion County? Does co-sleeping affect our babies? Why do babies co-sleep with an adult?  (read more)


Other Voices: Children in Crisis

August 29, 2010 – Are you or someone you know raising a relative child?

 In the United States approximately 6.7 million children live with grandparents and other relative caregivers. Nearly 14,000 children live with relatives in the five-county area served by Kids Central Inc. which includes Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. In Marion County, there are an estimated 5,200 children being raised by relatives. These relatives, many of whom are grandparents, struggle with overwhelming issues that can seem insurmountable.  (read more)

Baseball event to help homeless children

August 1, 2010 – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is hosting Home-runs for Homeless Children, a softball tournament fundraiser to benefit the Marion County Public School Initiative. The all-day tournament will be held in Citra at Wrigley Fields on Sept. 25.

“I knew we had some good softball players and wanted to do an event that first responders would want to participate in. It’s also a great way to promote agency camaraderie,” said Jenifer Lowe, MCSO assistant public information officer.   (read more)


Camp Brings Harmony Between Kids, Cops

July 22, 2010 – While most summer camps specialize in sports, crafts and hobbies, Harmony in the Streets focuses on building positive relationships between children ages 6 through 12 and law enforcement officers.

The day camp, in its ninth year, is a partnership between the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches.  (read more)


Building a Future of Abused and Neglected Children

April 4, 2010 – In these trying times, all of us have challenges to face and difficulties to overcome. However, little compares to a child suffering from abuse and neglect. As economic turmoil continues to add pressure to already at-risk families, we need to be mindful of what is present in our community and respond appropriately.


Fortunately, there is hope if we all do our part.  (read more)

Caregivers support group in spotlight
September 14, 2009
Sue Callahan was settling into her empty nest. Her youngest child was 21. The 57-year-old was planning to embark on life-long projects.
“When you get to my age, your life is focused in another direction,” she said.
Then her life took a sharp turn: She took in her two granddaughters, ages 7 and 14.
The stress of raising two young girls weighed heavily on her. She felt alone – it had been more than a decade since she raised small children
But after participating in a Kids Central Inc. support group she realized, “There are other people doing the same thing I’m doing,” she said.  (read more)
Sewing group uses creations to help children in need
August 9, 2009
Suzanne McGuire wishes she could create nice things out of fabric and said she admires the way members of the Sewing Bees club make beautiful items out of scraps of cloth.
As Marion County Public School’s liaison for homeless children, McGuire reaps some of the benefits of the club’s work because she gets to distribute some of their creations to the kids in her care.  (read more)
Saving money, saving families
June 25, 2009
We all know what happens when children have too much idle time on their hands over the summer. None of it very good, for sure.
So we were heartened to learn that Kids Central Inc., the private, not-for-profit organization that oversees child welfare services throughout the Fifth Judicial Circuit, doled out $630,000 in grants this year to a dozen Marion County community and faith-based groups for summer recreational and educational programs and day camps. As a result, hundreds of children, who otherwise would be sitting idly at home or worse, now get to participate in everything from academic camps to arts programs to just fun and games. It is a genuine gift to the community.  (read more)
Symphony orchestra offers free tickets to local youth
March 31, 2009
The Ocala Symphony Orchestra is offering free tickets to local youth for this weekend’s concerts featuring the winners of its recent Young Artist Competition.
In a program called “OhSO Klassical Kids,” the local symphony is reaching out to youth who may not otherwise get a chance to experience a live orchestra performance, and in particular to see two young people who have achieved musical excellence perform with the OSO professional musicians.  (read more)
Retirees find enrichment in volunteering
March 23, 2009
Dr. Mike Jordan and Dyer Michell are busy men, but much of what they do – serving as volunteers – enriches
the community, and the two men.
For Jordan, retirement means more than playing golf. He spends much of his timeserving on the boards of local nonprofit organizations, lending his expertise and wisdom to bettering the community.  (read more)
Forging ahead
December 29, 2008
Ron White, 21, spent his teens in foster care.
He lived with two families and spent time in four group homes
He still sees one of the families every weekend but said, “I always told myself it could only get better. I only looked to the future.
InSITE, a new scholarship program headed by Lorraine Abruzzo, awards funds to young adults like White who have aged out of Marion County foster care services and are attempting to forge their own way in the world.  (read more)
Lots of love, little money
December 18, 2008
OCALA – It’s been a challenging year for Annie Washington, who buried her father in May and her daughter a month later.
Washington’s daughter, Lamica Keys, was 29 when she died on June 14, 2008, leaving behind nine children who range in age from 7 months to 12 years. Washington said an autopsy showed that Keys likely died from child-birth-related hemorrhaging and an enlarged heart.  (read more)
Summit examines problem of child abuse
September 6, 2008
OCALA – It’s the little things that make the most difference when it comes to preventing child abuse and neglect. That was the theme of the End Kids’ Tears Prevention Summit held Wednesday at the Ocala Hilton.
“The problem is not awareness,” said guest speaker Lonnie Parizek, director of communications for the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, noting that nine out of 10 people are aware that child abuse and neglect is a significant problem.  (read more)
Child-welfare agency looking to ‘end tears’
August 24, 2008
OCALA – Do something – it can even be something small – but do something to help a child who is abused or neglected.
That’s the message Kids Central Inc. wants the people of Marion County to take away from its “End Kids’ Tears” child abuse prevention summit. Organizers hope the public will fill the hall during the free event, to be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Hilton Ocala, 3600 S.W. 36th Ave.  (read more)
An outrage overlooked
August 17, 2008
When Marion County officials discovered 120 neglected horses back in May, public outrage was swift and sustained.
Then, when the county animal shelter last month put down 65 dogs because of a disease outbreak, there was outrage again.
So when representatives of Kids Central Inc., the private group that handles child welfare cases in Marion County for the Florida Department of Children and Families, came knocking last week to talk about “an epidemic of child abuse, neglect and endangerment” in our community, I wondered: Where’s the outrage?  (read more)
Independence Road
August 1, 2008
For those aging out of the foster care system, Kids Central is a lifeline between these young adults and the community.
NO ONE EVER SAID GROWING UP IS EASY. Even in the best of circumstances, inevitable bumps and detours occur along the way. And that’s when having loving and supportive adults in a child’s life can make all the difference. Someone to show the way, someone to offer proof that this too shall pass and a good life awaits.
But for many children who have been abused and abandoned by the very people who are supposed to love them, growing up can be a daily struggle just to survive.  (read more)
Kids Central, Inc A Strong Kinship Resource Center Model
June 12, 2008
As a result of the publication of the book, “A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children for Grandparents and Other Relatives As Parents”, I have had the opportunity to speak with a variety of groups. The audiences vary from professionals who work with kinship families, to kinship families themselves, to general bookstore visitors.
Kinship care is multicultural and as traditional for as long as we have walked the earth together. Perhaps that is why our society has an apathetic attitude about kinship care. Yet today’s caregivers, millions of them, are faced with extreme difficulties in their effort to secure the children.  (read more)
Summer enrichment programs in full swing
June 21, 2008
OCALA – Canisha Lecorn wasn’t like the typical 11-year-old on her summer break, hoping to get a turn on the basketball court or playing with friends at Lillian Bryant Recreation Center.
The soon-to-be Howard Middle School sixth-grader sat inside the center’s computer room and talked about her education, specifically how her grades have excelled since tutoring began a year ago.  (read more)
Grandparents suddenly forced to raise their grandchildren need some stress relief
June 1, 2008
I recently had the pleasure of having three of my grandchildren spend the night. Ages 8, 6 and 4, they are always good fun and a source of many cute comments.
On the way home from work, I switched gears to think about dinner, how much milk we had, what menu would be pleasing to both ends of the age spectrum and how to organize the time.  (read more)
Single woman reflects on joy her 2 adopted children bring
May 10, 2008
OCALA – Even though Brenda Petkanics served as a foster parent to more than 30 children during the past eight years, she always wanted to hear the word “Mommy” from children she could call her own. Having never been married and diagnosed as perimenopausal at the age of 32, Petkanics saw only one option – adoption.   (read more)
Raising grandchildren? Conference in Ocala can help
May 1, 2008
SPRING HILL — Like any mother, Judy Phelps has hopes and dreams for her children.
Twelve years ago, the 58-year-old stepped in to raise her two granddaughters when their parents could no longer do it. Phelps has ushered the girls, now 16 and 14, toward adulthood just like she did her own daughter.  (read more)
Conference set for non-parent caregivers, kinship-care professionals
April 28, 2008
OCALA – Grandparents and other relatives who are the primary caregivers for family member’s children, as well as professionals working in the field of kinship care, may wish to attend the Second Annual Kids Central Kinship Care Conference on May 2 and 3.  (read more)
Wide range of topics aimed at helping abused children
March 29, 2008
OCALA – Teresa Hanks learned helpful information Friday about using hypnosis as a tool to help children overcome trauma in their lives.
“So many people think it’s hokey,” said Hanks. “They do it for 90 days at least two times a week. Even though it’s intense, it can save years of therapy.”  (read more)
Albertson’s donates to KCI
March 25, 2008
Kids Central Inc. receives donations from Albertsons based on the amount of money Kids Central supporters spend at the store.  All you have to do to participate is carry a small card on your key chain and have the cashier scan it when you check out at the cash register.  (read more)
Kids Central plans open house March 12
March 6, 2008
OCALA – The public is invited to an open house on March 12 being sponsored by Kids Central Inc. to thank donors, volunteers and community members who have helped Kids Central’s work with abused and neglected children.
The theme of the open house is “Celebrating Sweet Dreams for Children.” Those attending are asked to consider bringing a gift, such as bed sheets, blankets, pajamas, slippers or bedtime storybooks, for a foster child.  (read more)
Community leaders don’t wait for state to act against abuse
March 4, 2008
OCALA – The state is not looking at root causes of child abuse and neglect, and it needs to come up with long-term solutions to those problems, Ocala West Side community leaders say.
Those leaders, however, are not waiting for the state to call the shots for their neighborhood, which has been identified as a problem spot. They will attend future focus groups and tell the state Department of Children and Families and Kids Central Inc. how they think the issue should be addressed. The focus groups haven’t been scheduled yet, but they should be held this spring.  (read more)
Grants available to fight child abuse
February 21, 2008
OCALA – Kids Central Inc. is offering grants ranging from $500 to $49,999 to nonprofit agencies in Circuit 5 for the prevention of child abuse, neglect and abandonment.
Circuit 5 includes Marion, Sumter, Lake, Citrus and Hernando counties.
Interested agencies are required to register for and attend one of two mini-grant workshops to obtain Request for Proposal information and guidelines.  (read more)
Young adults in need of household items
February 15, 2008
OCALA – Young adults who have been in the foster care system but who have turned 18 years old and are now on their own are in need of items to help them set up their first apartments.
The Independent Living Program of Kids Central Inc. is asking for donations of everything from bath towels and shower curtains and oven mitts, to cleaning supplies, toasters, irons, vacuum cleaners and furniture to help these young people get off to a good start. Pantry items, such as ketchup and mustard, aluminum foil, cooking oil, nonperishable foods and soap and toothpaste, also are needed.  (read more)
Prevention Work Group to seek input from west Ocala leaders
December 18, 2007
OCALA – The group concerned with reducing the number of Marion County children removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect will address leaders from Ocala’s west side before conducting a neighborhood focus group to get input on ways to ease the problem.  (read more)
Ocala bank executive becomes chairman of Kids Central board
October 31, 2007
OCALA — A bank executive has been named chairman of the board of directors for Kids Central Inc., the not-for-profit agency that coordinates child-protective services in Lake and four other counties.
Mark Imes, president and chief executive officer of Independent National Bank, succeeds Dr. Mike Jordan, who directed the nonprofit’s board of directors the past two years. Jordan helped guide the agency through troubled times.   
Kids Central has new board officers
October 30, 2007
OCALA – Kids Central Inc., the lead agency for child welfare services in Circuit 5, which includes Marion County, has had a change of officers on its governing board.
Mark Imes, president and CEO of Independent Bank, has been named chairman. Dyer Michell has been named vice chairman and treasurer, and Brad Thorpe has been named secretary.   
KCI to provide free bus to USF conference
October 6, 2007
OCALA – Kids Central Inc. will provide family caregivers free bus transportation to attend the free University of South Florida’s Kinship Care Conference on Oct. 18.
Transportation is limited to the first 50 people who are registered for the conference and who call Melissa Casto by 5 p.m. on Oct. 5 at 352-873-6332, ext. 3458.  (read more)
Program assists people raising relatives’ kids
September 27, 2007
OCALA – Although she loves her 10-month-old grandson, Riley, to bits, Freda Hunter finds that raising him can be isolating.
 “Socializing is a problem because who else at your age is taking care of a baby?” Hunter said. “At this age – [if] you have kids, you don’t have friends, because they don’t have kids.”  (read more)
Kids Central earns accreditation
July 27, 2007
MARION COUNTY – Kids Central Inc. was granted accreditation from the Council on Accreditation, the agency’s Chief Executive Officer Cindy Schuler announced at Thursday’s board meeting.
KCI is the community-based- care provider and lead agency for the state Department of Children and Families’ Circuit 5, formerly District 13, which includes Marion, Citrus, Sumter, Lake and Hernando counties.  (read more)
Council visiting Kids Central for accreditation process
June 27, 2007
OCALA – The Council on Accreditation is doing an on-site peer review of Kids Central Inc. and will be at the agency through today as part of the process that could lead to accreditation of the community-based care agency.  (read more)
Fostering a spirit of caring
June 29, 2006
The story of Antron McCullough, as recently reported in the Star-Banner, was certainly inspirational. Antron, 18, stands at the threshold of adulthood – he’s now weighed down by concerns of paying the rent on his apartment as he soon heads to Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville – after having navigated the foster care jungle for most of his life.  (read more)
Report: DCF District 13 took fewer children from homes in 2006
June 18, 2007
OCALA – Department of Children and Families District 13, which includes Marion County, removed fewer children from their homes last year than it did in 2005, according to a report by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
On Monday, the NCCPR released its Rate-of-Removal Index measuring the propensity of the states’ child welfare systems and their privatized agencies to remove children from their homes unnecessarily, which, the NCCPR says makes children less safe.  (read more)
Conference helps frustrated caregivers
June 17, 2007
OCALA – There are some angry grandparents and other relative caregivers in Marion County. They have done the right thing and stepped forward to care for their grandchildren or other relatives’ children who have been neglected, abused or just dumped in their arms. They often are left alone wondering what help is available to aid them in raising these children.  (read more)
Kinship care frustrates families trying to protect children
June 16, 2007
OCALA – There are some angry grandparents and other relative care givers in Marion County. They have done the right thing and stepped forward to care for their grandchildren or other relatives’ children who have been neglected, abused or just dumped in their arms. They often are left alone wondering what help is out there to aid them in raising these children.  (read more)
Camelot takes over foster care
May 19, 2007
BROOKSVILLE – Foster care services in Hernando County will now be supervised by a new agency that will have many of the same workers as its predecessor but will operate with less money.
Child welfare officials say, though, that the changes won’t impact services or allow children and families in Hernando to fall through the cracks.  (read more)
Kids Central cuts foster care to meet `15%’
February 28, 2007
The private agency that handles foster care and adoption services in Lake and four surrounding counties forced its subcontractors to eliminate 92 positions on Friday, mostly case managers who directly watch over the most needy and vulnerable of children.
A spokeswoman for Kids Central Inc., the agency that contracts with the state to take care of those youngsters, acted as if she had no idea what the newspaper was talking about when a reporter asked about the cuts in personnel who take care of abused and neglected kids removed from their families
Children’s welfare agency may move to Belleview
May 11, 2006
Kids Central Inc., a nonprofit agency that tackles child welfare issues in the area, is considering a plan to move its operations from Ocala to Belleview by the end of the year.
The organization’s executive committee is studying a proposal that would mean moving operations to a site in Belleview – in a shopping plaza near the intersection of County Road 484 and Interstate 75 – allowing for the consolidation of its current services.  (read more)
The world you may not know
February 6, 2006
The world the headline refers to is not on the other side of the planet, but exists here in Marion County. It is the world of the “child welfare” system.
Children who live in this world are there because they have been abused, abandoned or neglected. The state of Florida, through the Department of Children & Families (DCF), has intervened in their lives in order to insure their safety.  (read more)
Spending plan benefits Marion County projects
May 6, 2006
OCALA — The State Legislature approved a budget Friday that should bring much needed relief to the Department of Children & Families District 13 and Kids Central Inc., the community-based care agency that handles foster care and child welfare in the five-county district.
The budget, which Gov. Jeb Bush still needs to sign, set aside $20 million to bridge funding gaps among the 22 DCF districts child welfare programs.  (read more)
The Festival of the Horse to Return with Second Annual Event
July 2, 2006
OCALA, Fla. – After an initial year that drew thousands of spectators and scores of international-level competitors, Florida Horse Park will once again host the Festival of the Horse, sponsored by the Ocala Star-Banner.
The festivities and spectacle will last from Wednesday, April 18 to Sunday, April 22, yet the competition is known as a “three-day event” in equestrian circles because of the successive challenges of internationally recognized dressage, cross country and show jumping. The festival will feature both one- and two-star competitions on the Concours Complet International (CCI) rating system.  (read more)
A safe place that’s badly needed
December 30, 2005
For years, Marion County children who were removed from their homes due to neglect or danger often had to spend a night or two sleeping in the offices of state welfare investigators, until a proper foster home could be lined up. Even then, the lack of decent temporary shelter sometimes forced authorities to rush the child into a situation that maybe wasn’t just right.  (read more)
Receiving rewards beyond belief
November 6, 2005
Thank you for your editorial on the Department of Children and Families and Kids Central Inc., which was very perceptive and accurate. It is refreshing to see a voice and vision to hold our state leaders accountable for our voiceless, vulnerable children.
Transferring public services and wealth to the private sector isn’t always the answer; in fact many Marion County foster parents sensed less support than when DCF was administrating the program.  (read more)
Child welfare gets strong support
September 30, 2005
OCALA – It was time Thursday for local government officials and social service agencies to deliver their funding wish lists to the Marion County delegation of state lawmakers.
While the full Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush will decide who gets what next spring, the county delegation’s strongest show of support went to the regional office of the Department of Children & Families and Kids Central Inc., which handles child welfare in DCF District 13.  (read more)
Kids Central Inc. to keep $8.4 Million DCF Contract
October 12, 2005


OCALA – With an $84 million contract hanging in the balance since February, The Department of Children and Families has expected to see improvements from welfare service provider Kids Central Inc. On Thursday, a letter from DCF released Kids Central from probation, expressing satisfaction with its recent performance.

Kids Central had multiple hurdles to overcome. Children taken from their homes,were being placed in over-crowded (read more)
Kids Central wins DCF OK
August 12, 2005
The consortium will keep its $84 million contract for handling adoptions, foster care and other services.
OCALA — Kids Central Inc., the lead child-welfare agency serving Lake and neighboring counties, has corrected its many problems and will keep its $84 million contract, state officials said Thursday.
The Department of Children & Families’ announcement means the Ocala-based nonprofit agency will continue overseeing adoptions, foster care and other services.   (read more)
DCF leader compliments Kids Central on progress
August 11, 2005
WILDWOOD – The future of the troubled private consortium that oversees child welfare in Citrus, Hernando and three neighboring counties seems to have brightened.
Department of Children and Families Secretary Lucy Hadi said Wednesday that Kids Central Inc. of Ocala has shown “a lot of progress. We are very optimistic.”  (read more)
Kids Central Has 90 More Days To Improve
April 7, 2005
OCALA — The Department of Children & Families has agreed to give Kids Central Inc. 90 more days to improve its handling of child-welfare services.
Kids Central is a group of five social-service agencies that has an $84 million contract with the state to oversee the protection of abused and abandoned children in the 13th District, which includes Lake, Marion, Sumter, Citrus and Hernando counties. The group recently was chastised by DCF for performance problems and was given 45 days or less to correct them or risk losing the contract.  (read more)
Kids Central Inc. hires new CEO
April 1, 2005
OCALA – The Kids Central Inc. board of directors on Thursday hired Cynthia Schuler to be the agency’s chief executive officer replacing Janice Johnson, who resigned last month.
Schuler, who has worked for the past two years as the state Department of Children & Families District 14 administrator in Lakeland, will begin her job with KCI in Ocala on May 9.  (read more)
Changes required for Kids Central
February 4, 2005
The state Department of Children & Families issued a cure letter to Kids Central Inc. late Wednesday afternoon requiring the agency to correct its problems within 45 days – and in some instances less – or risk losing its contract to provide child welfare services to the children and families in District 13.  (read more)
Kids Central might get financial lifeline
February 2, 2005
Help may be on the way.
The board of directors of Kids Central Inc., the private consortium that oversees child welfare in Hernando and four neighboring counties, explored possible new solutions to its financing crisis during an emergency meeting in Ocala on Tuesday.
“We talked a little bit about the options,” Kids Central chief executive officer Janice Johnson said.  (read more)
Kids Central in grip of financial crisis
January 29, 2005
OCALA – Find money fast.
That was the directive given Friday to the staff of Kids Central Inc. by its board of directors.
The private consortium that oversees child welfare in Hernandoand four neighboring counties has been unable to find adequate financing to stay in business.
But at Friday’s board meeting, chairwoman Irene Rickus said there may be new hope.  (read more)
Leader Of Kids Central Resigns
January 8, 2005
Janice Johnson Is The 2nd Ceo Of The 10-month-old Group For Abandoned Children.
OCALA — The head of a consortium that oversees child-welfare services in Lake and neighboring counties announced her resignation Friday after five months on the job.
Janice Johnson said she is stepping down as chief executive officer of Kids Central because of personal reasons. Her resignation is effective Feb. 8.  (read more







Comments Off on In the NEWS

Comments are closed.