Open Your Heart and Your Home

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 Citrus County event aimed at recruiting foster and adoptive parents for Kids Central. Taking place at the Crystal River Church of God on May 9th, 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. A partnership between Kids Central and the Citrus County Community Alliance, this dynamic event is unique since its focus is on the families and not the professionals.

Nearly 2,000 children have been removed from their homes in Central Florida. Kids Central is the nonprofit, lead agency charged with caring for the neglected, abused, and abandoned children in Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Lake, and Sumter Counties. In Citrus County alone, over 150 children removed from the custody of their parents are the responsibility of Kids Central. Not all of those children are placed in foster care.
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 time, Citrus County is home to only 14 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 Open Your Heart events held in Lake, Hernando and Marion Counties, the Crystal River event on May 9th 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 have all of their questions answered in one place, be able to visit with case management and 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. Guests can complete information packets on site.

Potential foster parents must be Florida residents at least 21 years old, 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 receive 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 free event at the Crystal River Church of God located at 2180 NW 12th Avenue in Crystal River on Saturday, May 9th from 10am until 1pm. 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.