Will You Open Your Heart?

Open Your Heart … and your home to change lives forever. Not just the lives of others, but yours as well.  That’s the message behind Open Your Heart, a Hernando County event aimed at recruiting foster and adoptive parents for Kids Central, Inc. Taking place at the First United Methodist Church of Spring Hill on April 12th, Open Your Heart focuses on the individuals and families who live the life—those who currently care for the children and support the families in crisis. As part of Child Abuse Prevention Month, this dynamic event is unique since its focus is on the families and not the professionals. Local foster and adoptive families have taken a vested interest in the event’s execution. In an effort to drive home the need; the foster and adoptive families will create a visual impact through specialized, identifying t-shirts. Open Your Heart is not to be missed nor forgotten.

As of June 30, 2013 in only Hernando County, 259 children were living out of their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. In Central Florida area, approximately 2,000 children have been removed from their homes. As the lead nonprofit agency, Kids Central is charged with caring for the neglected, abused, and abandoned children in Marion, Lake, Sumter, Citrus and Hernando counties. As John Cooper, CEO of Kids Central explains, “When children can no longer safely reside with their parents, we first look for family members and family supports to care for the children. Children flourish in a family-like environment and whenever possible we fight to keep the family together. When an appropriate family member cannot be identified, the children are placed foster care.”

At this point in time, Hernando County does not have enough foster parents to keep children in their home county. Hernando County is home to only 32 licensed foster homes. In order to best match foster children and families, a ratio of three families to one child is necessary.

The need is apparent and according to John Cooper, one of the agencies main priorities is recruiting, training and licensing more homes, “Kids Central’s greatest responsibility is to the children and families we serve. In order to best support and care for the community’s families, it is our priority to train and license loving foster families who have room in their homes and hearts for the community’s most vulnerable children.”

Hoping to capitalize on the success of the previous Open Your Heart events held in Citrus, Lake and Marion Counties, Hernando County’s event on April 12th at the First United Methodist Church will feature the experts: the parents and children. Through one-on-one informational sessions and candid conversations, truth will be spread, myths dispelled, and experiences shared. Guests attending will be able to have all of their questions answered in one place. Visit with case management agencies, adoption agencies, learn about the different levels of foster care and hear stories from families who are deeply entrenched in this mission.

Open Your Heart is free and open to the public. Arrive at 9:30 am and enjoy a complimentary pancake breakfast courtesy of Devereux’s Spring Hill Neighborhood Project.  Guests will have the opportunity to fill out information packets and research the options open to those interested in helping to care for children.

Potential foster parents must be Florida residents at least 21 years old, can be single or married, and with or without children of their own. They must be financially stable with a proven history of income and may not be on any state or federal aid, including subsidized housing or food stamps. They must be physically and emotionally able to care for children and have enough beds and room in their home for foster children and their belongings. Homes must meet basic fire, safety and sanitary standards, and foster parents must be free of any substance abuse issues, as well as passing state and federal criminal background and child abuse registry checks.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, contact Kids Central at (352) 387-3424 or (352) 387-3472.  Furthermore, make plans to attend this event at the First United Methodist Church located at 9344 Spring Hill Drive in Spring Hill on Saturday, April 12th from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.  At Open Your Heart, make sure to join in the activities, meet some amazing individuals, and perhaps begin a journey that will change your life and the lives of children forever.  Open your heart and your home to a child that needs both.