Tag Archives: mentor

“She said I could change the world”

KirkWe are excited to announce that Kirk A. Brown will begin as the Department of Children and Families Extended Foster Care Director on April 11. Upon his arrival, we want to share the inspiring story of how he got here:

Kirk Brown is passionate about helping kids get out of poverty and move their lives toward an educated future. Currently as Senior Vice President of Programs and Business and Development at HANDY (Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth) Inc. in Broward County, Brown encourages youth in foster care to graduate high school and move onto higher education programs.  As DCF’s Extended Foster Care Director, he will guide youth as they transition into adulthood from the foster care system.

Brown grew up in a chaotic situation, and like many of the youth he helps, he had no original intentions to receive a college education. When he was 16 he moved from Jamaica to America and attended high school. Lacking a support system and the encouragement to strive for a higher education, Brown remembers feeling lost and faithless in the world. It wasn’t until he met his high school pre-law teacher that his story completely changed. “She gave me the most self-esteem I had ever received in my life,” said Kirk, “She said I could change the world.” His teacher acted as Brown’s first mentor in his life, giving him information on how to apply to college, receive financial aid and even helped him experience his first mock trial, which inspired Brown to pursue law school.

From then on, Kirk Brown’s future brightened. He not only graduated high school with outstanding grades, but went onto earn two undergraduate degrees at the Florida Atlantic University. After graduating in 1998, his schooling continued, as he now holds a Masters in Social Work degree from Barry University.

His inspiration to go into social work sparked one day when he was driving down Atlantic Boulevard and spotted the spitting image of his 16 year-old self. “It pulled on my heartstrings,” Kirk said, “I remembered being just like that kid, lost and hopeless, and that’s when it all connected for me. He even had on a Coca-Cola shirt just like one I had in Jamaica.” After picking him up and taking the boy to McDonalds Brown realized he couldn’t possibly leave him on the street. “I asked around, ‘Who fixes this problem?’ and I was told DCF.” Shortly after, Brown applied to the Department of Children and Families so he could fix situations like the lost kid he saw.

Kirk Brown’s first position at DCF was as a Family Services Counselor Supervisor. Through DCF and HANDY, Kirk has already improved so many young Floridian’s futures. Now back at the department, we are eager to experience the great work he will continue to do in the lives of our community’s youth. 

Crying for the Innocent

Guest post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock.

Niki Pocock

Every day in November, DCF will be featuring three wonderful foster children in need of forever families. As the social media gal at DCF, I struggle to put their lives into 140 characters in the hopes their future family will click on the link. Most days, I cry.

It is no secret that I am a crier: Exhibit A. I cry while posting the majority of our blog posts, even if they highlight good stories. These kids looking for families – something I always took for granted growing up – those are the stories that really get to me. And now as a mother myself, my heart aches for these children.

They didn’t ask to be abused or neglected. They are innocent victims born into tragedy. All they want is a family that will always be there for them. A family that will take them to see “The Avengers” movie. A family that will go their baseball games and recitals. A family that believes in them.

Many of the kids never find a family. DCF has great programs to help them transition into adulthood, but it isn’t the same as a family. It is no substitution for unconditional love.

I encourage you to check out this month’s Amazing Children. If you have room in your heart and home, please consider adopting or even mentoring a child by reaching out to the adoption specialist in your area. You could completely change their life.

I won’t be a failure

Guest post by Sixto Cancel, a 20-year-old former foster child from Connecticut who advocates for foster children across the nation and helps them learn the skills they need to succeed in their futures. 

Eighteen years ago, when I was just 11 months old, strangers came to my house and took me away. I was the fifth of 10 children. My mother couldn’t have kept me if she tried. She shot heroin day after day and even let my 3-year-old brother run into the street where he got smashed by a car.

I had a failed adoption and began to feel rejected and abandoned. I wondered why I was not wanted. The University of Chicago, Midwest Study (2010) shows that 40 percent of foster kids end up incarcerated, and 20 percent end up homeless, but I refuse to be a statistic. I won’t be a failure.

Soon my friends were calling me “Mr. Busybody” and a “know-it-all.” I needed to prepare and in that process I founded and now run a $17,500 program: Stellar Works Transitional Services. I designed the program to prepare foster children for adulthood through post-secondary education, including trades and certification. I wanted to give kids aging out of the foster care system the tools they needed to live and succeed on their own.

Sixto Cancel speaking at Education Summit to Improve Foster Care

All this led me to an invitation by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative to a national training where I was selected to be part of the national board to further my advocacy. I went from having no voice to being on CNN, NPR, Harvard Law and other media outlets stating foster care issues. Since the airing, I have visited the nation’s capital to speak with Congressmen, law makers, conferences and agencies. My anger has developed into passion.

My experiences have built resiliency, perseverance, integrity and leadership. My childhood made me the person I am today. I look back at my past and I know that I would not change any event of my life, but I will do everything I can to make life easier for kids in foster care now.

What is a “mother”?

Guest blog post by Mrs. Tanya Wilkins. Mrs. Wilkins mentors foster children, is a mother of three girls and is the wife of DCF Secretary David Wilkins.

You may remember your mother being there when you got home from school, giving you hugs and asking about your day.  You may recall the time when she stayed up late to talk when you couldn’t understand why your so-called friend didn’t invite you to their party or when you didn’t make the basketball team.  So many of you are so blessed to have had a mother who gives you unconditional love and was there for you through thick and thin. If you experienced these beautiful times with your mother, please give her a call or visit with fresh flowers or big hugs to say a special thank you and tell her how much you love her!  Don’t take your wonderful mother for granted because those mothers are not always the norm.

Then there are many that may find Mothers Day a very painful day.  You may have grown up with a wonderful mother, but maybe you cannot have a child of your own, so you wait month after month to once again be disappointed to realize that your hopes and dreams of being a mother are diminishing. Your mother may have passed, or you remember your mother with a physical or mental illness that left her unable to care for you.  Or your mother neglected or abused you for reasons that you will never understand.  Please take the time for yourself to heal – spend time with a counselor and work through your painful experiences so that you can move forward with your life and learn to love yourself and others in a healthy way.

On Mother’s Day, it is imperative for us to remember the many abused or neglected children who have escaped a horrific parent or caregiver that they thought they could love and trust.  There are so many ways that we can help these innocent and vulnerable children that find themselves with no one.  These are not “bad” children; they are precious children that have had bad things happen in their lives. These children hope that they will have someone that will open their hearts and their homes and love them “no matter what.” They dream of a life where they have that one person who believes in them – believes that they will be successful and help them overcome the odds that are against them.

If you feel your heart break when you hear of a little boy or girl that doesn’t have a mommy or daddy, please pause to think of what you can do to make a difference in the child’s life. There are many ways to help, from mentoring at a local children’s organization or school, to fostering or adopting Florida’s wonderful children. Even businesses can get involved through Partners for Promise – simple things like a haircut donated from a hair stylist or an on-the-job learning opportunity mean so much to the kids. More than 1,000 Florida businesses are already helping!

Together, we can change lives … one mommy, daddy, mentor and volunteer at a time. Happy Mother’s Day!