Associated Press Release
TALLAHASSEE, FL - Paul and Christy Larsen had thought about becoming foster parents for years. Paul and his twin sister were adopted as babies, and Christy’s brother is a foster and adoptive parent. The Larsens have two young sons of their own, but when they heard the plea for more foster parents in Florida, they decided to open up their hearts and their home to other children in foster care. Their two sons, ages 6 and 9, say they are excited to have new friends they can share their Legos with.
This is just one of the 606 new foster families the Department of Children and Families and our statewide partners have recruited in the past six months. In July, we set a goal to recruit 1,200 new foster parents in the next year as part of our “Fostering Florida’s Future” initiative to ensure that children in our care are on the path to success.
“This goals of this initiative were to increase the number and quality of foster homes in Florida, build stronger foster families for our children and ensure that our children have every chance at becoming successful adults,” said Secretary David Wilkins. “We are so proud to announce that we are halfway to our goal. Each new home provides a loving family for a child in foster care, and provides the hopes for a brighter future.”
Foster parents change lives of children all over this state every single day. Currently, there are more than 7,500 children in foster care in Florida. They are removed from their homes through no fault of their own, but because they have been abused and neglected and are not able to safely remain with their families.
DCF created the new foster parent initiative at www.fosteringflorida.com in collaboration with our 18 community-based care agencies across the state, the Guardian ad Litem program, the Florida State Foster/Adoptive Parent Association, local associations and many more.
Lourdes Otero and Tarsha Voyer of Punta Gorda became foster parents last year and have already changed the lives of the children they took into their home. They have taken care of infants and teenagers and have worked closely with the biological families to reunify several of their foster children with their parents. They have become true advocates for children in foster care and are mentoring other prospective foster parents with their inspiring experiences with these families.
Scott and Melanie Hill of Punta Gorda decided to look into respite fostering, which involves short-term stays when other foster parents need a break. As they continued their training, they decided to become full-time foster parents instead, in addition to caring for their 9-year-old daughter and another child in college. Currently, the Hills are thrilled to be taking care of two young boys placed in their home.
Recruitment efforts are centered at the 18 community-based care agencies that DCF contracts with throughout the state for prevention, foster care and adoption services. Using the model of the Quality Parenting Initiative, foster parents will know that they are our partners in deciding what is in the best interest of the children in their care. Improved support of foster parents at every agency and every level will increase retention and recruitment.
To read stories from some of our foster parents and children in foster care, please go to http://blog.myflfamilies.com/category/foster.