Central Florida Foster Problem Grows
By Tracy Stein
Unfortunately, the issue of children who end up in a situation where they need foster parents or a group-living situation is pervasive throughout society. Some states are dealing with this issue better than others. Florida is currently severely lacking when it comes to not only providing for the number of children needing foster care, but also the way the system is dealing with these children.
In Florida, a private organization called the Florida Department of Children and Families has handled foster placement and case management since 2005. Right now, we’re dealing with an urgent issue. The number of children in our state’s foster care system program has reached epic proportions. There are more children being removed from their homes, and the number being released from foster care is dropping. The number of kids in “out-of-home care” in 2013 was 17,591. In 2015, that number was up to 22,004.
In Central Florida alone, about 75 children will turn 18-years-old each year without the benefit of a loving parent to help them during this critical time. Studies show that when this group reaches the age of 26, only 3% of them will have a college degree. The end result of this situation is greatly increased numbers of unemployment, substance abuse, and legal issues.
There are a variety of theories as to why the levels of children needing foster care have risen so quickly in Florida. According to the Community Partnership for Children, one of the issues was the epidemic of prescription drugs that reached its height in 2012. When the state cracked down on prescription drug abuse, many children were taken from their biological parents. In addition, since the state population has increased, that means there are more children in general who may need services.
The good news is that there are a variety of charitable organizations that are working hard in Central Florida to make a difference. For example, one organization called iPrevail has set up a local group called Foster Friends of Oviedo. This grass roots community-based effort is dedicated to enriching the lives of children while in foster care. All donations – 100%- go directly to the children, as the volunteers do not receive any compensation. They help organize events for the group homes and solicit business donations. The volunteers provide the community parenting/normalcy by preparing meals and activities for the foster kids such as birthday parties, paintball games, sporting events, and more. Furthermore, Foster Friends of Oviedo seeks to showcase the most inspiring foster homes. One such is Friends of Children and Families who currently has five group homes with six teens and two staff members in each location. To help, contact iPrevail. The assistance director is Wednesday Hugus and Dara Urbina is thefundraising & development director, at Wednesday@iwillprevail.org or www.iwillprevail.org (or make a direct donation at paypal.me/iprevailorg).
Community Based Care of Central Florida is another local organization that is offering considerable services to serve our region’s foster children through adoption and child-welfare services. For example, this month they are holding a workshop to encourage more private citizens to become foster parents. “In order to have one loving foster family per child, Central Florida needs 100 more families to open their hearts and homes,” said Gerry Glynn, the chief legal officer for Community Based Care of Central Florida. http://www.cbccfl.org/
The Children’s Home Society is Florida’s oldest organization serving at-risk children. With 90 offices throughout Florida, more than 8000 children rely on this group to keep them safe and give them hope. The Children’s Home Society assists with adoption, foster care, counseling and perinatal programs. They also run the Evans Community School, which is an academic institution dedicated to foster children. https://www.chsfl.org/
It is important to remember that it isn’t just young children who face difficult and trying situations due to the lack of a safe home, foster teens also need help. Part of the Children’s Home Society, ten-year NFL veteran Jeff Faine founded the Faine House specifically to help those turning eighteen while still in foster care. Faine has personally donated over $500,000 to help this charitable organization.
Statistics show that 36% of former foster teens end up homeless, but those in supportive programs are far more likely to graduate and get a job. They are less likely to turn to substance abuse and/or violence in the future. To help, contact them at https://www.thefainehouse.org/by