July 31, 2015
By Julie Montanaro
There's a 'Help Wanted' sign up in the Big Bend for more foster families who are willing to take in teenagers.
The Department of Children and Families says there are nearly 400 teens in foster care in our area.
Perhaps no one knows what that feels like more than a group of teens taking the stage in Tallahassee tonight. The NextGen band is made up exclusively of children from foster and adoptive homes.
"If not me and you, right now, it's time for us to do something," they sang as they rehearsed Friday afternoon.
"We understand better than most people what it means not to have a family, and the true gift of a family," Deborah Petkovich said. "So, we get up here, and we play and we speak, and we really just want other people to understand where we're coming from and how to help somebody else to have the lives that we have now."
Deborah says she went into foster care when she was just 15 days old and was adopted by her foster parents when she was three. Her parents were foster parents for 20 years and took in nearly 300 children in that span, she said.
Deborah plays guitar in NextGen. Ethan and Andrea sing, Emma plays the drums, and Alyssa sings and plays bass guitar.
"I shook my hand at heaven and said God, why don't you do something? He said I did, I created you," they sang.
Autumn Johnson went into foster care at the age of 17. She and her brother were adopted about a year later. She serves as the band spokesperson and shares her story with the crowd.
"I was always continuously worried about my brother and how...where we're going to sleep? Where we're going to stay? Am I going to upset these parents to where we're going to have to move again? Where's my next meal coming from?" Johnson said. "And so, to finally have a place where they accept you and they take care of you -- it takes a lot off your shoulders."
"It gives them hope, for those that don't have the family that this is something they can have -- it's something you can have, and you deserve more than anything in the world," Deborah Petkovich said. "And so, we're using this to really get out there because there's nothing music can't do."
"It's time for us to do something..."
The NextGen band is performing at Christian Heritage Church tonight from 6:30 to 8:15. It's free and open to the public. There will be parents and advocates there to answer questions about fostering and adoption.
Florida Department of Children and Families Press Release:
TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is partnering with Big Bend Community-Based Care, Children's Home Society, NexGen Band and Christian Heritage Church to host a foster parent recruitment event for teens in care . The event is free and open to the public.
Florida's NexGen Band is a group of teenagers who are either foster, adopted or biological children of foster families from various locations within Florida. NexGen has played at the Florida State Capitol, the National Faith Symposium, the DCF Child Protection Summit, the National and Florida foster parent association conferences and more. The musical group was formed from a larger network of teens in foster care and their families through the Florida Foster and Adopted Parent Association.
In the Northwest Region, there are 2,056 children in foster care. Approximately 385 of those children range in ages 13-17, and many are in need of loving foster parents and families. Foster parents provide children in care with a sense of security and stability. Many foster parents also play a significant role in helping biological families heal and reunite with their children. When that is not possible, they help children transition to a new home and a new family.
For more information Fostering in Florida, please visit: www.MYFLFamilies.com/FosteringSuccess
To learn more about the NexGen Band, visit: http://centervideo.forest.usf.edu/NexGen/start.html
Who: Florida Department of Children and Families, Big Bend Community Based Care, Children's Home Society, NexGen Band and Christian Heritage Church. Several local foster parents and advocates will be available to answer any questions for people who are interested in becoming foster parents.
What: Family-Friendly Foster Parent Recruitment Concert featuring the NexGen Band. Musical genres include pop, rock, country, etc.
When: Friday, July 31, 2015
6:30 - 8:15 p.m.
Where: Christian Heritage Church
2820 Sharer Road
Tallahassee, FL 32312