Category Archives: 2012 Child Protection Summit

Day 3: Rising Up

Guest post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock. This is the last in her blog series following her first trip to DCF’s Child Protection Summit.  

After hearing from Judo Olympian Kayla Harrison and Secret Millionaire Marcus Lemonis, the Chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises (hoping to get guest blog posts from them in the near future!), I took a minute to talk to some of the kids in foster care who were at the Summit.

Florida Youth SHINE

There was an awesome group from Florida Youth SHINE, which helps kids in foster care or aging out of foster care. Most of them were vice presidents or presidents of their local chapters, so I was seriously in the presence of greatness. I loved that one young man, Brandon in Southwest Florida, told me that when he was invited to be a part of starting a new Youth Shine chapter he said, “Yeah, as long as I can be president.” How cool is that?!? That’s how to do it!

And there was a young lady from Pinellas who was placed in foster care as soon as she was born. The social worker she met when she was 8 adopted her when she was 12. She is involved with helping the other kids in foster care and her defining moment was when she attended the Eckerd Wilderness Camp at age 17. She saw how the younger girls looked up to her and she realized that her story made an impact on them. She was also inspired by the camp staff, who truly wanted to help her and the other campers. She now wants to be a social worker and also plans to get a law degree. She currently attends St. Petersburg College.

Florida Youth SHINE

A young man named Edward from Miami may have said it best: “Who better to help them than me? They can hear from another foster youth who has been through what they have been through. Felt the depression. I understand them and have experienced it all first-hand.”

Another young woman, Tracey from Fort Myers, who aged out of the foster system in March. She said that she got into Youth Shine because they kept calling her … and calling her … and calling her. She eventually gave in and attended a meeting – and she was hooked. She found out tons of info, like that she could have a Guardian ad Litem and she could initiate going to court if she needed to. She wanted to be in a position to help other kids learn more about the services available to them.

Then I spoke to Alan Abramowitz, the Executive Director of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program. He told me about a 17-year-old kid in foster care he met who had not seen his family in two years. Alan located his cousin, who was like the foster child’s sibling, and set up a little reunion. He said it was one of the most emotional things he has ever seen. He’s seen children change the entire direction of cases in the courtroom. Hearing the child say they love their parents even after everything they’ve been through has often given parents the strength and motivation to completely turn their lives around and become great parents.

I spoke to Samuel Morris, who licenses foster homes in Northeast Florida. He said he makes sure the homes he approves for kids will really be homes, not just a place they land. He told me about a lady who showed him a hallway full of children she had fostered and told him, “These are my kids.” Homes like that help the kids reach their highest potential.

And then I met Tina, a child protection investigator executive in Santa Rosa and Walton counties. She said that her day is filled with positives, and was even when she was a CPI in the field. She reunited families, helped parents become real parents, became a mentor to foster children aging out of the system and seen parents get off drugs and back with their kids. She has been to high school graduations and often gets wonderful calls from kids and biological parents, even if they are separated.

My biggest take away from this Summit is how proud I am to be a part of such a wonderful system. The people who work and volunteer in child welfare. Everyone I spoke to had the same thing to say – I am here because I want to help people.

Day 2: Good vs. evil

Guest post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock. This blog series will follow her first trip to DCF’s Child Protection Summit. 

Niki Pocock

How do you talk to a person so sick he just raped his daughter? How do you keep your cool, staying calm, when you really want to strangle him? Our child protection investigators are in situations like that all the time. It makes my heart hurt to just think about that scenario. I know I am not strong enough to face that.

Today at Summit I had the honor of speaking to Mechill, a CPI in Panama City, about her experiences in the field. I still don’t know how she does it. Dealing with these horrific situations all the time. But she says she does it because she may be the only person a child will talk to – their only hope to get help. She also might be the only person a perpetrator will admit crimes to – for some reason they think telling a CPI they hit their wife won’t get back to the police (spoiler alert … the police still get the info).

She told me her supervisors help her get through. It is ok for her to cry at work. If she comes across a really hard case, her bosses stop everything to lend an ear – or a shoulder. They are available to her 24 hours a day because they have been there. They know how hard it is to look evil in the eye.

And then I saw the other side:

Princess Alana, Rob and Chris' 3-year-old adopted daughter

I met Rob and Chris who are a part of the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida and the Southwest Florida Foster/Adoptive Parent Association. They have three biological children, two adopted children and one foster child. But to them, they are just a family. The kids are their kids. They aren’t foster kids or biological kids. If they are in their house, they are their children.

Beautiful Brooke at age 2 on her Adoption Day

When they brought home their 4-month-old, a child in foster care, their 3-year-old adopted daughter said, “I have a new sister!” And her 16-year-old biological son would like to continue helping others – he plans to be a foster parent himself someday.

And I saw the bridge:

I met Jonathan from our Northwest Region, who works with foster parents so their homes can be approved for children. He told me how much he absolutely loves his job. He said he meets a lot of people who want to help their community, but they don’t know how to get started. He told me of the foster parents who cry tears of joy when he calls to tell them they are officially approved to foster children. He loves seeing community members merge into the child welfare role.

Stay tuned – more coming tomorrow!

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, please visit www.fosteringflorida.com.  

 

Day 1: A river of tears

Guest post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock. This blog series will follow her first trip to DCF’s Child Protection Summit. 

A news clip comes in about a baby that was shaken – I cry. I hear about a foster child who has found a forever family to call their own – I cry. I see a photo of a brightly colored mural on the walls of the room where human trafficking victims are given help – I cry.

At Summit the goal is to inspire and educate, which means lots of stories. And so … all day I have cried. The stories are uplifting, but still derived from sadness:

A foster child throws his arms around his foster mother’s neck, calling her “mom” as he gives her a huge hug.

A foster parent is recognized for showing great support for a child’s birth mother, even supplying the mother’s breast milk for the child.

A mother’s child died from medical complications. DCF helps her emotionally so she can continue to take care of her surviving child, a little boy. Her thanks towards DCF is overwhelming and humbling.

A case manager travels hours to visit all the children she helps, knowing that she is the one constant in many of their lives.

A father falls under intense financial and life stress and begins taking his frustrations out on his family. He cries as he thanks DCF for helping him get back on his feet and get mental health care. He is now a successful husband and father.

These are just a few of the many stories that made me tear up today. They are the stories that keep DCF staff in the field. Stay tuned – more blog posts (and awesome videos) to come! And be sure to follow #DCFSummit on Twitter for up-to-the-second updates.