Stubborn, determined, driven, tech savvy, caring, and hurt are some of the qualities of our most misunderstood population who needs help: TEENS. Teenagers get such a bad rap, when in reality they, just like the younger children Kids Central cares for, have been abused, neglected or abandoned. They didn’t ask to be mistreated and most didn’t want to leave their family but for safety reason had to leave their home. If you were 15 and removed from your family because your parents couldn’t care for you and your brother due to drug abuse, wouldn’t you want a fair shake? These are the children we need your help the most with.
As the lead agency charged with managing the child welfare and protection system in Florida’s Circuit 5, Kids Central is responsible for recruiting, training, licensing and managing quality, safe and loving foster homes throughout Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties. Currently there are 188 licensed foster homes in the five counties with 454 beds available beds for children who have been removed from their biological families.
On any given day, approximately 350 children are placed in those homes. These numbers change on a daily basis as children come into care or go home to their families. The overflow of beds may seem to be a positive situation, but in reality, the 100 or so beds still do not meet the needs of the children who are coming into care.
A home with open beds may not be able to accommodate siblings who need more beds than the home has available, or the children may be allergic to pets in a home, or there may be a safety plan in place which requires them to be in a home with children of only one gender. There are numerous reasons why we may not be able to utilize the beds that are open today. We strive to find the right family home to place children in – not just a “bed for a head,” so to speak.
Our greatest need is finding homes that are open and willing to take teenagers and siblings. Just imagine how traumatizing it must be to be placed in a home with strangers, away from your family and home and then find out your brother or sister is not going to be able to stay with you. In many cases, younger children may be kept together while older teen siblings are sent to a group or congregate home. Often these children feel further victimized by the system that has been put into place to help them.
This year our goal is to find homes throughout our five counties willing to help us on two key issues: keeping siblings together and finding homes that will care for our teenagers.
Our hope is to ensure at least 80% of our sibling sets are placed together. This includes keeping siblings together from the moment they come to us and reuniting some of those who have been separated. At the direction of Kids Central leadership, the placement team will not separate siblings without direct approval of the Chief of Operations and only will that be done as a last resort to find safe placements. Spend just one afternoon in our placement call center, and you will hear the team hard at work trying to find those placements. It typically takes more than ten calls to find an appropriate foster home placement for to keep brothers and sisters together!
We are also striving to recruit, train and license 10 teen-specific homes that will agree to care for our teens. These foster families will provide warm and loving environments to help teens transition through this traumatic time. Our Just Take One initiative is an effort to this end. We spread our message asking you to consider starting with just one teenager and see how your life will change and theirs. By taking just one teenager and showing them life in a loving family, their paths may be changed forever. Our foster families are finding that teenagers are not that “scary” after all.
There are children in your communities who need help. They need homes where they will be loved, cared for and taught that they all have something special to contribute. We can’t do this alone. We need YOU! Can you help? Will you help? Our children are waiting for you.
For more information on how to become a foster parent, contact Rosey Moreno-Jones at (352) 387-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org