Join Kids Central Open House and Ribbon Cutting

February 22nd  – 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Ribbon Cutting at 1:30 pm

Kids Central is proud to announce the opening of its new KCI Open Housecorporate location in Wildwood. Come for the Ribbon Cutting and stay to tour the facility. Everyone is welcome; registration is not required but is appreciated. Use form below.

Also, please consider helping the families Kids Central serves by bringing a hygiene item or cleaning supply. It’s important that the shelves in the Resource Center stay full.

For more information, contact Nicole Pulcini Mason at 352-387-3474 or Nicole.PulciniMason@KidsCentralinc.org .

Open House Registration

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A New Year, A New Life, A New Strength

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not grow faint.”

Isaiah 40:13

It is 2017 – who can believe that?  Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, quickly approaching the third decade!  As a child, I was sure that by this point we would be living on the moon or Saturn or at least flying around in Jetson cars! But guess what? Except for the modern technologies of computers, smart phones and the social media activities that come with them, life on earth is still pretty much the same.

We still live as families. We still eat together. We continue to go to work and to school.  And we share our lives with family, friends and neighbors. Each January, we continue to make new resolutions about the things we are going to do this year. How we will renew ourselves and our families.  How we will renew our lives with healthier lifestyles, getting back to our spiritual connections, and generally trying to BE better. I am not very good at keeping those resolutions going throughout the New Year, but I strive to be better and to do better.

This year, I would like to ask you to consider a less popular resolution. Think about not just changing your lives but those of others as well. Will you do it for a child? Could you help one child or perhaps two? How about siblings residing in foster care or a teen in a group home? They began this New Year with the same hopes as you did, save one thing: they probably did not believe that they can make their lives better. So much of their lives are completely out of their control with others making the decisions.

What will you give them?  Will you give them hope and a future? A safe place to be cared for, to feel love, to try and trust again and to be trusted? To be part of a family? Perhaps for a short time or perhaps for a lifetime?  It seems so simple. Just answer, “yes.” Think about opening your heart and home to children who need you perhaps more than anyone else has ever needed you.

Many people answer, “We cannot do this. We are not strong enough to handle all the issues and problems that come with these children. We are not special. We cannot do this thing you ask of us.”

But we respond, “Yes you can.”  You do not have to be special to foster or adopt children.  You do not have to be strong, like Hercules.  You just have to believe that you can do it.  You have to trust God. You have to be full of love. You have to care for our world and for the children who don’t have what you have, what your children have, what you most likely had as a child.  It is not too late for them.  It is never too late, if you answer, “yes”.

Will you care for the most vulnerable?

By Rosey Moreno-Jones, a contractor for Kids Central, Inc. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the philosophy, strategies or opinions of Kids Central.

Just Take One….and Watch a Miracle Grow!

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

As we get closer to Christmas, most of us tend to look for and ponder miracles, because as we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the biggest miracle of all: the birth of a baby. We celebrate the gift of everlasting life and salvation that his birth and death brought to humankind. As foster and adoptive parents, we celebrate the miracles in our lives, the gift of the children God has brought us to love and care for. Whether they come into our homes for a short time or for a lifetime, they are truly gifts to be cherished and thankful for.

Many people imagine they could never care for foster children or raise someone else’s child; however, with faith, all things are possible. You too can give the miracle of a home filled with love, a place to feel safe and cherished to these children. So many of thekid_facebook2016ad_3-002m wish for a family, hope for it, dream of it. With faith in God, you can answer their prayers.

It is no secret that the hardest age group for us to find homes for is teenagers. Everyone seems to fear these children, expecting them to have two heads or be capable of only bad behavior.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While teens do present some interesting issues stemming from their lack of trust, their past hurts and fears, at the end of the day they are just children. Children who so desperately want someone to listen to them and to care for them.  Someone to give them a chance to be loved and to love in return.

One of our recent initiatives focused on placing teens in homes that have previously not be open to caring for them.  “Just Take One” asks you to open your home and heart stretching the boundaries of your comfort zone. Take one teen into your home and let them experience life in a family, where dinners together are the norm. Where there are parents who care and will guide them gently on their journey.  Where they can be perhaps for the first time in their life, a role model for younger children.  A chance to be part of a family.  All too many of our teens have spent the majority of their time in foster care in group home settings, cared for by staff in a dorm.  While we are so grateful for our group homes who take care of our teens, we know that ultimately these children deserve a chance at family life.

Recently, I had the chance to work with two new foster families who faced this new journey with some fear that they would not be able to accomplish this somewhat daunting task.  While both had children of their own at home, they were willing to try fostering.  Both, however, felt strongly that they needed to care for children younger than their own children in order to lessen the challenges they would face. What happened to both of these families this holiday season has been nothing short of the miracles I spoke of at the beginning of this blog.

I recently spent a great deal of time with the mothers in both of these families. I shared with them the stories of my own children, who came to me not as little babies or toddlers but as a young pre-teens and teens. I shared the stories of how their lives changed and how they changed mine.  How 25 years later we are a wonderful family filled with each other and with grandchildren, a great daughter-in-law, and a wonderful son-in-law who my children brought home. The miracle of the changes in all of our lives came to us because of our faith that God could lead us through anything.  And He has!

Within days of our visits, both of these families met teenage boys who spoke to their hearts. Boys they could not get out of their minds.  Lisa and Eric were stunned that they were considering giving Thomas* a home. He would be their first foster placement and teens had NEVER been part of the plan; however, God had other plan.

Miraculously, the same thing happened to Heather and Bobby.  They could not get Adam* out of their thoughts after a chance meeting with him.  Consequently, just a week before Thanksgiving both of these families welcomed these young men into their homes.  In both cases, the boys are now the “eldest child” in the home, and both of these teens have embraced the role.  It has been wonderful to see the photos of these two families, to chat with them and see the changes already taking place in the lives of these young boys. They have helped kid_facebook2016ad_6-002with hanging Christmas lights, decorating trees, taking part in cherished family traditions which now include them. Both of the boys are talking about high school graduation and college.  Both of them now have hope and a future.  Miraculous!

Coincidentally, Thomas and Adam are attending the same high school, and these two families have each other to fall back on for resources and help.  But for the most part, they have it all under control, with God’s help.  At Kids Central, all of our hearts are overflowing as we watch what is happening with these two families.  We are not asking them to take any more teens right now.  They listened to God and to their hearts and just took one.  The lives that are changing are not just those of Thomas and Adam.  These families will never be the same.  What they feared they could not do alone, they have been able to achieve by their faith.

Oh, it is still early in these placements and the road ahead will surely have some bumps and potholes, but don’t all of us face those every day in our own families?  Yes, we get through them with faith.  What wonderful gifts these families have given these boys.   A home for the holidays and just perhaps … a home for a lifetime!

May all of your families be blessed this holiday season.  And if you just happen to be thinking that you can open your heart and your home, well… you know how to reach me. We will get you started and I promise you if you ask for God’s help – you will get it!

*Names changed for confidentiality

A Bright Future

It can be easy to focus on the negatives in life. Things do not always go our way, and we are faced with the choice to let those negative things define us or move past them and1025160921a-002 make our life better than we thought possible. Jesse, an Independent Living youth, is proof of the latter. She found herself sent to a group home after getting in trouble for some misdemeanor charges. During this time her father died, her mother had already passed away. When her father died she was placed into foster care and eventually aged out.

Lexi, her Independent Living Coordinator said this about Jesse, “Jesse is proof that what I do every single day matters. She has shown such resilience in hard times and has proved she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to.”

Jesse was enrolled in college and planned to pursue a degree in Nursing when she found herself in an unhealthy, abusive relationship and pregnant. She shifted gears and ended the unhealthy relationship. While eight months pregnant, she began working to get her EMT License and eventually her paramedic certification. She was inspired by her dad who was a paramedic during the Vietnam War. Jesse is currently completing her final semester at College of Central Florida, and it is her final year in the Independent Living P.E.S.S. program. At the end of Fall 2016, Jesse will have obtained an Associate of Science degree in EMS.  She has already received her letter of completion for her Paramedic Certification and is waiting to take the state test.

Along with being enrolled full-time and maintaining good academic standing in her program, Jesse works at the group home where she aged out. Not to mention, she does all of this while raising her son. Her job at the group home is that of a counselor. She spends time with the girls living there now. Knowing how important positive relationship are, Jesse is working to build relationships with each of teen girl. They relate to each other, because she truly knows where they are now and some of the things they have faced in their lives.

Jesse says, “It means a lot to be able and come back to help girls. I have a sense of understanding for their situations. My life has given me the patience needed to help them.”

The future is bright for Jesse and her son. Every day she shows us that there is nothing you cannot accomplish as long as you put your mind to it. Lexi says it best, “Jesse is the truest definition of what courage, determination, kind-heartedness, dedication, and optimism look like. She means so much to all of us here at Kids Central, and we are so proud of all the accomplishments she has achieved.”

3 Things NOT Needed to Be a Great Foster Parent

by Chris Johnson

Foster parents are some of my favorite people in the world! They truly are heroes, as they put others ahead of themselves on a daily basis. They focus daily on what is best for the child in their care and strive to better that child’s life and circumstances. It truly is an honor to be a part of this wonderful group of people.

There are often great misunderstandings about what it takes to be a foster parent. Many have a heart for others, but they feel inadequate to serve in this special capacity. This struggle leads tokid_facebook2016ad_5-002 statements such as, “I could never do what you do,” or “I just don’t have what it takes to be a foster parent.” While some people use these expressions simply as excuses to not step up and meet a great need, many legitimately feel that they do not have the ability to answer the call to be a foster parent. You may be wrestling with this reality yourself.

While there are certainly some basic necessities for being a foster parent (which I will address in my next post), there are some clear expectations that are truly misconceptions.

 

There are at least three misconceptions about what is necessary for you to be a foster parent:

 1. You have to be a perfect parent to be a foster parent.

This statement could not be farther from the truth. If this misconception were true, it would eliminate everyone I know, including ME! Some people think that because they have made parenting mistakes with their own children, they are not qualified to care for foster children. The reality is that children in care are not looking for perfect parents. These children are not perfect themselves, and they learn best by watching imperfect people deal appropriately with their imperfections. We make mistakes as parents, and then we own our mistakes and strive to learn from them. This is what our children need to see as they navigate through their own issues and frustrations.

Please do not put off fostering because you feel inadequate. Perfection will never come, this side of heaven, so stop believing this lie and step up as you are, imperfections and all!

2. You have to have all the answers and everything together to be a foster parent.

People often express that they are waiting for the right time or waiting for everything to fall into place before they become a foster parent. Some feel that they just do not know enough to be a foster parent. The reality is that the “situation” will never be perfectly lined up. You will never have enough time. You will never have all the resources. There is a certain element of faith that is needed to step up to this calling. No one starts off knowing all the answers. There are so many opportunities and resources available to help you grow in your knowledge and understanding of what is needed to excel in your mission to be a great foster parent.

3. You have to be able to do everything on your own to be a foster parent.

The reality is that no one can do this type of service on their own. No matter how strong you are or how well prepared you feel, you need people around you to provide support, encouragement, and wisdom. The best foster parents I know are those who have surrounded themselves with help from their family, church, and community. When you become a foster parent, there is also a full system of care to assist you to navigate the journey. There are case managers, guardians, therapists, specialists of all kinds, legal teams, coaches, and many others who partner with you to help you be the best parent you can be. My wife and I are so thankful for the people in our lives who regularly come alongside us and help us in so many ways.

You have probably heard the statement, “God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the called.” If you are being drawn to be a foster parent, know that God will provide for you the assistance and wisdom that you need. The reality is that those of us who have answered the call to provide foster care often struggle with feelings of inadequacy and sometimes get overwhelmed; however, it is in those times that we look to the God who called us to this task. It is in Him that we find strength, encouragement, and help in our time of need. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord…” Psalm 121:1-2a

Which of these untrue statements are holding you back from being a foster parent?

What is standing in the way of your saying yes to this amazing calling on your life?

If you have questions, please let me or someone on the Kids Central team help you navigate through the uncertainties. We would love to help you provide the care and support that our kids so desperately need. Next time, I will share with you three things that are needed to be a great foster parent. I think you might be surprised to find out that you have exactly what it takes!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chrisjohnsongt
Twitter: @chrisjohnsongt
Instagram: @chrisjohnsongt
Blog: www.chrisjohnsongt.com

What Do You Have to Lose?

There are days in your life that you never forget what you were doing and where you were when everything changed. On an international level, September 11th or the Challenger 13393957_10208708693688383_2778422244929648258_nexplosion are perfect examples. For me, January 16, 2016 is the date I will never forget. It’s the day my world changed. On January 16, my husband and I learned of a baby who needed a family. This is the day I spoke to my son’s birth mother for the first time, only hours after finding out he existed. Only three quick months later, and he was born and in our home. He legally became our son after only two more months when his adoption was finalized. To say it was a whirlwind would be an understatement.

Every family’s story is different. Our adoption did not happen like most do. We are aware that our child came into our life quickly. I attribute this to God. While we were waiting for Him to answer our prayers for a child, He was working behind the scenes lining everything up perfectly. There were times at the beginning when I thought about what would have happened to him if we hadn’t received the fateful Facebook message or if we had answered, no. Working in child welfare, the reality that children grow up without forever families is not lost on me.

The work we do at Kids Central is so important for the children who are in foster care and those seeking forever families. The children Kids Central serves rely on people just like you to answer the call of adoption. Before my husband and I knew about our son, we were planning on adopting from foster care. We even attended an orientation class a few years ago. This past summer, we were planning on starting the process again; however, God had a different plan for us. After adopting our son, we have not closed the door on adopting, possibly through foster care.

Are you curious about adoption? Call today and ask you questions. You have nothing to lose and stand to gain so much more. While our adoption was private, the concept is the same, opening your home to a child that needs a forever family. Will it be easy and pain-free? Probably not. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.

Our adoption finalization hearing was in June 2016. As we stood in front of Judge Robbins, my husband and I were both very emotional. The moment we had dreamed 13669728_10153870407138931_7966872991689228812_nabout for months, years even, was here. We were going to walk out of that courtroom as parents, legal parents. It took everything in me not to breakdown in tears in front of her. The most memorable moment came when she asked us a few questions, confirming our desire to be our son’s mom and dad. I cannot even remember most of the questions she asked; it was such a blur of emotions. Then Judge Robbins shocked us and asked our infant son a question: if he would love us and listen to us, even on the hard days. Obviously she 13528927_10208743321514057_2790710830008403643_ndidn’t expect an answer, and the whole courtroom was surprised to hear him respond, in a way only a two and a half month old could, with the cutest coo ever! How perfectly timed it was. Lastly, Judge Robbins addressed all of our friends and family who filled the courtroom and asked if they would continue to be there for us and support us in the years to come. It was wonderful to turn around and see so many loved ones standing with us who answered with a resounding, YES!

So you see after all of the waiting, six years to be exact, and all of the heartache, it came down to that one moment. I will ask you again, what do you have to lose? I assure you that what you gain is worth it all in the end.

To learn more about the adoption process, please call Paula Mealy today at 352-387-3487.


Jennifer Clark is the Development and Communications Coordinator for Kids Central’s Community Affairs Department.

 

Birth, Step, Foster, Adopt – It is all Family. Build yours with us.

“Behold! Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a true blessing!”  Psalms 127:3

By Rosey Moreno-Jones

I recently had the opportunity to conduct a Foster/Adoptive Parent Orientation for 14317554_1100236250044860_1496516262389471928_nparticipants getting ready to begin Kids Central PRIDE classes starting their journey towards fostering and/or adoption.  Over 70 people attended; the largest orientation we have ever done at Kids Central. What a blessing to stand in front of so many people who have answered the call to care for Florida’s most vulnerable children – the abused, neglected or abandoned.

As we talked about the classes and what they would be learning, it was heartening to see so many people who have come forward recently to inquire about fostering and adopting. Our recruitment efforts are reaching more and more people. I am spending more time speaking to churches and civic groups, our social media efforts are exploding, and we are finding new and innovative ways of spreading our message.

We recently updated our Facebook Page Timeline with the graphic and quote: “Birth, Step, Foster, Adopt – It is all Family.  Build yours with us!”  When our marketing team unveiled the page, I just loved it. I know firsthand that families are created in many ways – not just through blood.  However, each family can be defined by the love that surrounds them and fills their home. There are so many ways that Kids Central helps children find temporary or permanent homes; thereby building families and changing lives.

As foster and adoptive parents, we know that the children we welcome into our homes are true gifts, blessings from the Lord.  We may care for them for a day, a week, a month or a lifetime – but no matter the length of time, we spend together, the love we share with them never stops. kid_facebook2016ad_6

A great quote by Tonia Christie touches on this so beautifully, “You might be temporary in their life. They might be temporary in yours.  But there is nothing temporary about the love or the lesson.”

What a lovely sentiment about the lives of our foster children and the foster parents who care for them.

Here in Circuit 5 (Citrus, Lake, Hernando, Marion and Sumter Counties) our recruitment efforts are productive; however, the need is still greater than the resources.  With some 450 children in temporary foster care, we struggle each day to keep them in safe and loving foster homes.  About 30% of those children are waiting for permanent, forever families through adoption.  Some children may never be adopted and will age out of the child welfare system without permanency, without a chance of the love of a forever family.

Perhaps you can help.  Please think about it. Contact us to find out more about building a family with us.  Contact me to come visit your church, civic group or business to talk about the needs we have and the process involved with becoming foster or adoptive parents.  You will not regret taking the next steps, because whether by birth, marriage, fostering or adopting, it is all FAMILY and family is one of the most important things any of us will ever have in our lives.  Children are a gift from the Lord – a true blessing!

 

 

How Faith Calls us to Care for Children in Need

By. Dr. John DeGarmo12644784_1206389502724179_2110189937083923640_n

A few years ago, I asked a group of foster parents at a conference why they became foster parents.  The answers I received did not surprise me, as so many of them echoed my own reason. The majority I spoke to on that afternoon told me that they felt called by God to look after His children.  For them, and like so many others, foster parenting was simply answering God’s call, and to live a life of faith that demonstrated God’s love for all.

When a relative of mine asked me why I was so tired, I smiled and told them that sometimes it can be a little exhausting caring for seven children.  With a look of non approval, she then responded and told me that it was our choice, and that we did not have to do it.  At that time, I had three biological, one adopted, and three foster children.  Our adopted child and the three siblings in foster care were all in diapers.  You can imagine what our mornings were like, as my wife and I tried to get all seven children ready; breakfast, diapers changing, feeding babies with bottles, getting the older ones ready for school, and trying to make sure that my wife and I both looked presentable when we went to work.

My relative was quite correct when she said that I had made a choice.  To be sure, foster parenting is a choice, a voluntary act, if you will.  Foster parents volunteer as an act of service to a child welfare agency or government organization.  What many outside of foster care do not appreciate, though, is that foster parents have very little say in regards to the child’s life, as the agency or organization that has placed the child in the foster parent’s home have control over every key area and decision regarding the child, and which will affect his life.  We are choosing to take care of children that are not ours, and doing so in a selfless manner.  Sometimes, these children might keep us awake at night; sometimes they might challenges us; sometimes they might resist our attempts to care for us; sometimes they might even fight us.   It can be a daunting and difficult task, at times.  Goodness knows it has been for me, on several occasions.

Nevertheless, these children need us to care for them.   One of my favorite hymns we sing in our church is the old classic “Here I am, Lord” by Dan Schutte.  Each time we sing it, the words penetrate me deeply, and I have to often swallow back the tears that threaten to replace my signing with sobbing.  This hymn, first written in 1981, addresses God’s call to look after children, and hold these young people of his in our hearts.  Just sharing the chorus alone with you brings a lump to my throat.

“Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord.
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.”

I have found that the general society does not really understand or appreciate what foster care is about.  They do not realize what foster children go through each day, nor for that matter what foster parents go through, either.  Even my own friends and family members do not fully understand what my wife and I experience each day as a foster parent, or really why we do it.  I even have family members who question why my wife and I continue to take into our hears and home children who are in need, after all these years, and after all the sleepless nights and stress filled days.  God’s call on my life, though, is a strong one, and one that my wife and I cannot ignore, as I am sure it is for you, as well.

Visit John’s website and the original blog post here.