Monthly Archives: September 2012

Using technology, maintaining familial bonds to create a Forever Family

Guest post by Serina Williams, adoptions specialist at Sarasota Family YMCA, Safe Children Coalition.

The Kayes, John and Hannah on their adoption day, holding their Heart Gallery photo.

Two siblings, 2-year-old Hannah and 4-year-old John, came into our care in 2010. Luckily, the two were able to stay together while in foster care.

The Safe Children Coalition case management team was able to locate a paternal aunt and her husband who were more than fit to give love and care to these children.  The children made great improvements while living with their aunt and uncle and developed a parental bond with them.

As much as the relatives loved the children, they came to the realization that they would be unable to provide long-term care for the children and selflessly informed the SCC they could not adopt.

Adoption recruitment began in November of 2011, continuing the use of technology through the Explore Adoption and Heart Gallery of Sarasota websites. The sites showcase youth available for adoption, focusing on sibling groups who need to maintain some of the only and most significant biological family ties they may have when entering the foster system.

Several families were considered to be their Forever Family, but John has special needs and our team worked diligently until the right family was found. In February of 2012, our Family Finding staff worked with the aunt and uncle to find a pre-adoptive family, the Kayes.

From the first match meeting it was evident to everyone on the kids’ services team that the Kayes were perfect for the children.  It isn’t often that children who’ve been in care can click immediately with strangers, but John, Hannah and the Kayes made an immediate connection.

The Kayes understood and truly embraced the understanding of family connections. They knew how close the children were to their aunt and uncle, so they maintained open lines of communication.  The Kayes kept regular visits, contacts, phone calls, and even took the children to see their aunt and uncle for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. John and Hannah didn’t lose an aunt and uncle; they just gained a mom and a dad.

Since residing with the Kayes, the children have made great strides. Hannah is a happy girl who loves introducing her new parents to others. John has made great improvement. Prior to moving to his adoptive home he was shy and withdrawn, but he now is confident and secure in his new home.

By the use of old fashioned social work combined with educating adoptive parents on the importance of family connections and using the latest technology available for child welfare professionals, finding a Forever Family is truly a dream come true for John and Hannah!

Sleep Safe

Guest post by the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida

In recognition of Infant Mortality Awareness Month we encourage everyone to get involved and help reduce infant mortality rate by providing safe sleeping environments for our babies.  How do you do that?

Here are some tips from our “Sleep Right, Sleep Tight” public awareness campaign on how you can provide safe sleep for your baby:

  • Make sure your baby’s crib, bassinet, cradle, or side-car bed is undamaged and meets current Consumer Products Safety Commission standards.
  • Put baby’s crib, cradle or bassinet close to parent or caregiver’s bed for the first six months.
  • Place your baby face up to sleep; sleeping on the stomach or side increases the risk of suffocations.
  • Tell everyone who takes care of your baby about how to keep your baby safe during sleep.
  • Make sure the baby’s mattress is firm and fits snugly in its frame.
  • Make sure the baby’s sheet fits tightly around the mattress.
  • Keep the baby’s sleeping area away from all loose strings (i.e. blind cords, electrical cords and clothing)
  • Offer your baby a pacifier (never a bottle) when placing your baby down to sleep. The pacifier should not be put back into the baby’s mouth if it is spit out during sleep. If the baby does not want the pacifier, do not force it and never do anything to hold it in place.
  • Respond to your baby’s cries during the night.
  • Keep the room temperature of your baby’s sleeping area comfortable for a lightly clothed adult to keep baby from getting overheated.
  • Hang baby’s mobile out of baby’s reach and remove it once baby learns to sit up.
  • Lower baby’s mattress when your baby learns to sit, and again when they learn to stand to prevent baby from falling out of the crib.

Sleep safe!

Protect your children from sex trafficking

Today was the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Human Trafficking Summit. Some very scary, real stories were told and there were many discussions among law enforcement, organizations and survivors. You can follow the dialogue on Twitter at #Trafficking2012. The post below offers some tips for parents to keep their kids safe. 

Every teen gets in fights with their parents and feels like they are misunderstood. If they find someone who will shower them with gifts, listen to their problems, always be there for them, they will latch onto them. They don’t know or think they are in danger. They see the person as a friend. They don’t know they are entering a cycle of abuse that will force them to be victims of human trafficking.

Where is one place teens love to hang out? The mall. But malls are key locations for traffickers and gangs too. So how can you help your kids stay safe? Talk to them.

Build honest relationships with your children. If kid acting out, sit down and listen – what is going on? Don’t take their response personally. If parents can’t talk to the child, maybe an aunt or family friend can be their sounding board.

Be honest about your own experiences. By being real with them it will encourage them to talk to you and confide in you.

Human Trafficking Summit keynote speaker Tina Frunt, an advocate and survivor with Courtney’s House, shared a story today about her daughter: A “producer” wanted to “cut a track,” with her daughter and go to a studio (this means he wanted to make a tap of her singing/rapping a song). She told the guy her mom would want all the info – website, phone number, and his name to run against the sex offender list. Be sure your kids are prepared!

If you don’t have open, honest conversation with your kids, someone else will. You don’t want that to happen. Be there for your children – let them know you can talk to them about anything, and mean it.

Is Your Child’s Car Seat Installed Correctly?

It is Child Passenger Safety Week and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a study on the five most common mistakes parents and caregivers make when using child seats and booster seats in cars.


The five most common mistakes are:


  1. The harness straps used to hold the child in the seat are either too high or too low, instead of over the shoulders.
  2. The chest clip is positioned over the abdomen or not used at all.
  3. The child seat itself moves more than two inches in any direction. Anything more than one inch is too much.
  4. The harness has more than two inches of slack between the child and the harness straps. There should be no slack.
  5. In booster seats, the seat belt placement is wrong, with either the lap belt resting over the stomach instead of the hips or thighs, or the shoulder belt resting across the child’s neck or face instead of in the middle of the shoulder.

The NHTSA study also found that 20 percent of parents do not read any instructions when installing car seats. The agency, along with Safe Kids USA, are encouraging parents and caregivers to conduct an at-home checkup of their seats using their checklist. For additional assistance, contact your local police or fire departments because many provide free car seat checks year-round.

Be safe out there!

A Team of Hearts

No child is ever unadoptable. Every child deserves a mom and dad. Even if they are only to be with us for a short time, they touch our lives forever.

Polk County child welfare professionals teamed up to ensure one local infant, born with medical complications that threatened her life, would fine a forever home. The newborn, delivered at Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center in Highlands County, came to the attention of child protection officials after her mother relinquished custody through the Safe Haven Baby Law.

Traditionally, babies considered Safe Haven Babies are quickly adopted to potential parents already screened and awaiting a new addition to their family through private agencies. They do no enter foster care.  Safe Haven Laws allow mothers unable to care for their infants to leave newborns with a designated professional to reduce the risk of abandonment in an unsafe environment. As long as the newborn is seven days of age or younger and found in the care of hospital, fire station or EMS location, there are no questions asked of the parent, no repercussions, and the infant is placed with a loving family.

But with such a life-threatening diagnosis, private adoption agencies in this case were concerned they would not be able to find a new mom or dad in time, which is how the newborn came to the attention of child protection.

Employees from DCF and Heartland for Children, the Community Based Care organization overseeing foster and adoptive services in Polk County, were touched by the newborn’s story, refusing to accept that the tiny baby may pass without ever being part of a family.

Heartland for Children’s staff reached out to Nick Silverio, founder of Safe Haven for Newborns, a not-for-profit agency that promotes awareness about the Safe Haven Law in Florida. Mr. Silverio linked the team with Gift of Life, a private adoption agency in Pinellas County. Gift of Life staff immediately accepted the infant as well as support through the legal process. An amazing local couple with years of experience with children with special needs, came forward. The baby was named Maiya. She was also given the gift of family prior to her death on August 28.

Baby Maiya’s story is a reminder that there is a home for all children available for adoption.  It also serves as an example of the great lengths child protection officials go to help a child find the greatest gift of all – a family.