INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — As awareness is heightened regarding foster children during the month of May in observance of National Foster Care Month, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Treasure Coast Division, enthusiastically reports record numbers of foster children adopted or placed with families planning to adopt this year.
With an adoption goal of 98 for the 2011 fiscal year, 113 adoptions have been finalized to date and it is expected that number will rise to 130 by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The organization credits its success due to many adoptive family recruitment activities including the Heart Gallery of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast – a traveling photo exhibit of local children waiting to be adopted.
The Heart Gallery has assisted the Treasure Coast Division to reach far beyond adoption goals for the past four years. In 2010, the division facilitated 131 adoptions of which 20 children were featured in the Heart Gallery. Currently the Heart Gallery is expecting a 50% adoption rate for children featured in the exhibit, compared to around 10-20% without proactive outreach activities.
The Treasure Coast Division’s Dependency Case Managers provide services to families and children who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. Caring professionals work with families and children in their homes to maintain and strengthen the family unit functioning. When necessary, children may temporarily be placed in foster care or a group home, such as Baines Hall, to ensure their safety and well-being. Baines Hall, located the organization’s Vero Beach campus, provides a home for up to 12 girls, ages 12-17, that are in the foster care system.
When it is determined by a court of law that it is in the best interest of the child to revoke parental rights or a parent relinquishes their rights, these foster children are eligible for adoption by loving, caring families who have been identified, trained and screened. In addition to the Heart Gallery, the Treasure Coast Division’s Adoption Team finds forever families for children through special needs, traditional and international adoption services and also includes post-adoption therapeutic and support services to families.
“While we have a comprehensive network of services, including adoptions, for minor children and their families, we’ve also developed a unique Transitional Living Program for foster children who are not placed in an adoptive home by age 18,” explained Jan Swink-Huffert, Executive Director, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Treasure Coast Division.
“This program typically serves close to 100 young adults each year, ages 18-23, with a continuum of care through financial assistance, job preparedness training, counseling, education and mentoring to prevent homelessness and break the cycle of abuse and neglect that have been part of their lives.”
Huffert credits a coordinated and comprehensive collaborative partnership with United for Families, Inc., our community based care lead agency, in identifying and serving foster youth throughout their lives and as they transition into adulthood.
Children’s Home Society’s Transitional Living Program is administered from the Youth Transition Center, located on the Vero Beach campus. The Center includes staff offices, a counseling center, computer lab, job placement services, a meeting room and 10 independent living apartments, from which a full spectrum of services are provided for residents and outreach clients that live within the community. In addition to staff, the Youth Advisory Board, consisting of five volunteer Transitional Living Program clients, provides guidance for ongoing program development and implementation.
The Children’s Home Society of Florida Treasure Coast Division, which is one of 14 divisions in Florida, serves more than 9,500 children and their families each year in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. Children’s Home Society is not a government agency and must rely on the support of individuals, civic groups, foundations and businesses for the funds to give children and young adults the opportunity to be safe, healthy and prepared for life.
For more information, visit www.chsfl.org or call 772-344-4020.