Great news – Florida Sees Increase in Foster Care Homes Over Past Fiscal Year!

Photo courtesy of Devereux Community Based Care. This CBC's efforts led to a 45 percent increase in the number of homes licensed during the past year through their “25 by 25” campaign.

Photo courtesy of Devereux Community Based Care. This CBC’s efforts led to a 45 percent increase in the number of homes licensed during the past year through their “25 by 25” campaign.

GREAT NEWS! We’ve seen an increase in foster homes available. DCF and community partners have recruited more than 1,380 new foster families this fiscal year!

Approximately 10,000 children are in foster placements throughout Florida. Foster parents change lives and offer hope to children who have been removed from their homes by no fault of their own, because they have experienced abuse or neglect and cannot safely remain with their parents. They play a significant role in helping families heal and reunite. When reunification is not possible they help children transition to a new home and a new family.

Interested in fostering? Visit www.MyFLFamilies.com/FosteringSuccess.

 

It takes a lot of heart

Last month, two DCF child protective investigators initiated an investigation at a home where a 4-year-old was allegedly living in unhealthy conditions. The father answered the door and initially would not allow them into the home, but with persistent encouragement he relented and let them in. The home was filthy, with human waste and trash strewn around the home. The father appeared to be going through severe withdrawals, and the mother was lying on the couch completely covered under a blanket. The mother was incoherent and visibly unwell, with severe bruising on her face, arms and legs.

The CPIs called 911 and at the hospital the mother was diagnosed as suffering from seizures. Doctors said her health was so poor that without intervention she faced death.

The child was placed with her grandmother, and a couple of days later, the child asked one of the CPIs to attend her 5th birthday party. The CPI attended the party and then accompanied the child and her grandmother to visit the mother in the hospital. The mother has since been discharged from the hospital. The grandmother cleaned the house, and a relative is staying with the parents in the home to provide support and assistance. The child is thriving in her grandmother’s care.

It takes a lot of heart to do this job well.

A birthday for a princess

bdayDCF child protective investigators were recently on a case that involved physical and emotional abuse to a little girl child. In the midst of the case, we realized that today was the little girl’s birthday and we would be removing her and her brother from their parents on a very special day in this young woman’s life. We hesitated and discussed the pros and cons but ultimately came to the decision that she and her brother needed to be removed immediately for their safety and well-being.

The decision was made that the DCF team would provide the child with a birthday party at school, complete with gifts and cake. The team had gathered so much information that we even knew what kind of music, interests and likes the kids had. So with some gift cards we had at the office, the team bought some gifts for both kids.

It turns out that these kids had NEVER had a birthday party before. The child was unsure of how to respond and was hesitant for fear she would be disciplined for accepting gifts.

We took a day that could have been terribly traumatizing for these kids and made it a little less painful. All of us learned a lot that day – we learned that faith and trust can overcome so much and the little girl learned she is worthy of love.

In Control

By Carmen Morales

Carmen ICBDI can honestly say that I never envisioned how my future would look or feel, until I came into care at the age of 12. The importance of education was never uttered to me. I had no sense of structure, consistency, or courage to dream. However, being 12 years old was the start of what would be a blissful journey for me.

I was blessed to have been placed in a home with a family that had nothing but love, protection and direction to give. Being with my forever family and having an influential support system, I was taught the fundamentals of education, the significance of family values and, most importantly, that I matter. The strength of my faith is certainly owed to my unfortunate circumstances and without a doubt to the amazing people God has placed in my life.

Currently, I am 23 years old and seeking a degree in Public Administration at the University of Central Florida. I have been employed with the Department of Children and Families since I was 18 years old. Working for DCF, as well as the mentoring I continue to receive and the encouragement and guidance of Independent Living, I have been able to establish profoundly amazing relationships. My experiences have allowed me to grow both personally and professionally.

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” My advice to you would be that when things seem unattainable, keep pushing forward because hardship is only temporary. I have learned that I am in control of my actions, my successes, and my future.

#ItCANbedone

Why I Met My Biological Family

Guest post by Mark Bono, who was adopted as a child.

Mark and his biological mom - reunited!

Mark and his biological mom – reunited!

I’m 47 years old, and I’ve gone my whole life knowing I was adopted. I grew up in a supportive family with two adoptive parents and two siblings, but every time I looked in the mirror I didn’t see the same features of the family I grew up with had. As a kid this didn’t bother me much, but later in my life something started to cultivate inside me. I realized I needed to find my biological family.

When I was 24, I opened my heart to the possibility of finding my biological family. I tried the hospital for any records of my mother, but there was no trace of her. I still wanted to find her, but after my experience I was so discouraged and distraught that I put the thought of finding her away.

During the next two decades I got married, I did what I wanted to do with my life and became successful. However, every now and then, while watching a lifetime movie about some crazy family reunion, I couldn’t help but wonder where I got my height from or my big forehead. I just felt as if something was missing.

I started wrestling with my past. I wanted to be proud of where I came from and know why I have certain mannerisms. I had no biological connection to anyone. I couldn’t help but come back to the thought of, “Why was I not loved and why was I not wanted by my biological family?” This frustration within my heart and the lack of answers had caused conflict in my life and within my relationships.

I thought maybe I’d go my whole life with my family out there and never meet them. All I knew was that my parents were from Jacksonville. I feared maybe they were dead or perhaps they are horrible people. Maybe they are poor or sick. Maybe our reunion would resemble something like a Jerry Springer show.

But then in 2013, I talked to my wife and finally decided that I wanted to find my biological identity for certain. We talked first to a private investigator who led us to resources, including the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry (FARR). Hopeful, I mailed in my FARR registration and expected to maybe hear something in the next few months.

Days later I got a call back from the woman helping me with my case. She said that she found records of my mother and she’s trying to get in touch with her. In that moment I was so excited, yet it was tough not knowing what to expect next. But that afternoon, the woman from FARR called again and told me that they contacted my mother and that she was interested in talking to me.

The phone rang on my way home from work with a Jacksonville area code. I knew it had to be her. I picked up and heard my biological mother’s voice say, “Mark, this is Angela.”

That night, my mom and I talked for seven hours, only taking breaks to use the restroom. I found out that she was a nurse at the age of 69, and lives in a nice home near the beach with my aunt and she has a lot of siblings. We caught up about each other’s lives and before hanging up, I asked her what I needed to know my whole life. I asked why she gave me up.

She told me that she fell in love with my father in the mid-1960s. Six months after they started dating, she found out he was married and had a family of his own. After getting pregnant with a married man, she couldn’t bring herself to tell her family, so she decided to move in with her sister in South Florida during her pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption. She said she thought it was the best decision for the child.

That weekend, my wife and I drove up to meet her and my aunt in person. Meeting on the phone was life-changing in itself, but meeting her in person was a whole different story. That missing piece was fulfilled. When I look at her, I can tell I’m her son.

To my surprise, I met my mom, my aunt and many other family members that weekend too. In just a short time, I went from having no biological family to meeting 10-12 people who looked like me, talked like me and shared my genes. Over the next few months, while back in Tampa, I kept meeting new family members though the phone. I found out that I have 10 first cousins around my age—all who are accepting of me as part of the family. It feels like I had been there all along.

Eventually, I needed to introduce my adoptive mom to my biological mom. I had to learn how to integrate both of these women in my life. I still call my adoptive mom ‘Mom’ because she was and is, and always will be the woman who raised me. I call my biological mom ‘Angelina,’ since that is how we met as grown adults.

Now, my family is bigger than ever. I know I can’t get back the time I spent in my life without my family, but I take every chance to talk and be with them that I can. My story continues as I find more family members, including my dad. I hope that I can meet my half brothers on his side one day. But until then, I will embrace all the new ties I have to my family members and the family who raised me, making as many memories with them as I can.