August 13, 2012 - Founded in 1917, Boys Town is a national organization that's actually not only for boys but for girls as well. According to Ken Bender, the Executive Director of Boys Town of North Florida, “we provide a continuum of care of services throughout the state of Florida and here at our north Florida site we provide therapeutic foster care for children, we also provide in home family services where we actually go to homes and work with families to help them keep their families intact."
The organization currently has 67 children living in 5 homes on the 10 acre campus in Tallahassee and also has sites in Orlando and Palm Beach County. Bender says, "one of the biggest issues is to give them a family like atmosphere which is a hallmark of our program and start learning traditional values, how to function within a family like atmosphere with 2 parents there."
Many foster children have suffered the trauma of abuse neglect or abandonment and have been removed from their homes. Here at Boys Town of North Florida the goal is to address the child's needs and reunify the children with their families. According to David Wilkins, the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, there are currently 20 thousand children in our foster care system and the ideal model is to have a child live in a true family environment. Wilkins says "the challenge is we never simply have enough foster parents and today we need 1200 additional foster parents in the state to just keep up with the demand of the number of children that we have.” He goes on to say “coincidentally, in the Tallahassee area is one of our weakest areas for foster parents."
Many children have been moved an average of 6 to 7 times before they arrive at Boys Town and through the program many of the children are able to turn a dark past into a bright future. Bender states "we have nationwide over an 80 percent high school graduation rate, we have 12 kids who have graduated right here in Tallahassee over the last 4 years that are either attending TCC or FAMU.” According to Wilkins, "not only do they have room and board and shelter they have all the expectations and all the opportunities that any other child has in terms of school, extra curricular activities, socialization and that's what every kid wants."
For more information on becoming a foster parent or group home family call (850) 575-6422 or go to www.boystown.org/northflorida