Tag Archives: parents

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.

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.

I broke the stereotype

Guest post by Terran Vandiver, who grew up in kinship/relative care in Southeast Florida.

TerranMy history isn’t a pretty one—my childhood was full of tragic and traumatizing experiences. You know what they say, “it takes a village to raise a child,” well, I didn’t have that. I was living on the edge of the poverty line.

I had an alcoholic mom and an abusive stepdad. I was the oldest brother in my family, which made me the man of the house and I had to take on a lot of responsibility of being a man before I was able to.

Imagine trying to defend your mom and sisters from molestation when you don’t really have the strength to fight back against your stepdad. Imagine losing every fight. I wanted so badly to show my little brothers that there is a good man somewhere in this world.

One day, something in me just told me to open the front door and run down the street and call 9-1-1 and see if they could help me. And a few minutes later, police cars came and basically took away the devil in my life.

After that, I got referred to a program called HANDY by one of my caseworkers. HANDY felt like home because I was simply able to relate there. They helped me understand that what I went through is a worldwide issue. I didn’t like going to school. I didn’t feel like I could connect or that people understood me.

But people understood me at HANDY. They understood that I was just as lost as them. And we all had a hope that we could overcome the dilemmas in our households.

We talked about managing money, time, and relationships, and transitioning into adulthood. Now, I’ve graduated from not just high school, but also Florida Atlantic University. I was the only person from my block and from my family to go to college. I broke the limitations of my stereotype.

My successes are based on the hearts that I’m able to positively influence. My salary is defined by the empowerment that I’m able to help youth experience. And my asset is the revitalization of my community, so that we can all comprehend the necessity and benefits of the universal connection, which impacts us all. #ITCANBEDONE

A Life Extra … Ordinary

Guest post by Jesse Wilson, child formerly in Florida’s foster care system, advocate, TV host, nationally recognized author and emerging politician. This post is reprinted with permission from www.jessewilson.org. 

jesse1Strange. Strange but … beautiful. A life extraordinary is what I have been mandated, 25 years now. I was dealt a tough hand early on and have been trying to bluff my way through since. I want to tell you about the wild card that was dealt my way this morning but realize many of you do not know my back story. So I’ll start somewhere near the beginning.

 I come from a broken, messy, disastrous family that is cursed. Perhaps due to all the horrible things they have done to themselves and others over the years. The family includes members of the KKK, sexual predators, felons and so much more.

I burst forward into this glorious family and the world on September 22, 1988. My mother was 15 and my father was 28. They would proceed to give me three younger brothers over the next four years. A situation that undoubtedly should have been cancelled from the start was given permission by my grandparents on my mother’s side.

I have sitting on the table beside me two discs compiled from a box of records. Records that detail the first few years of my life. They include all the abuse reports, medical records, and baker act documentation for my family. Around 5,000 pages of information to be shared at another time. I have blacked out much over the years and am slowly allowing it to trickle back. It all basically says how horrible my parents were. My father was the purveyor of pain and mother was the enabler who sat idly by in fear.

My three younger brothers were eventually removed from my parents and placed into foster care and I went on to live with my grandmother, grandfather and aunt. Things here were not too bad. My aunt and I developed a strong relationship. I remember going to school together, looking up to her, coming home and eating sliced cheese together. She became my very best friend.

My grandmother would attempt to be sophisticated, but she would always fail. She was helpless; she had the same abhorrent blood of the family coursing through her body. Moments of unprovoked or irrationally provoked rage were ordinary.

Eventually it led to me too being brought into foster care.

When the police and child protective investigator came to remove me from my grandmother, I was locked in a closet. Sock in mouth and vowed to silence, I sat lifeless, afraid to move. Footsteps all around. Voices of thunder.

I spent the rest of my childhood in foster care and was eventually adopted into a wonderful family. I was given a new life, though not perfect, calmer.

The first times my biological family began to come back into my life was shortly before my 18th birthday when I was contacted by my biological mother. Being a child of wonder, I wanted to know so many things and spent hours on the telephone with her and had a few meetings. I quickly realized she was not the type of person I wanted a relationship with. I have a mom and dad who adopted me and raised me, yet she insisted on calling me son and me calling her mother. The “I love yous” rang furiously and rattled bitterly in my head. The relationship became one sided. She was the only pursuer.

My father came back into my life a couple years later. I was curious and searched his name online. His picture came across the Florida Sexual Offenders database. The charge read “Lewd assault/sexual battery on a victim under the age of 16.”

What do I do with that? Like my mother, I had many questions for him but now had a daughter in my life and couldn’t imagine spending any time with a man/coward/waste like this.

I gave in and rode out to meet him at his trailer. A large confederate flag donned the window, and trucks were parked in the yard. The house was filled with pictures of family, some in KKK outfits, and art that he had drawn. The art was really good. He was talented and wasted it. The meeting was therapeutic and strange. He provided dozens of photographs from my early childhood. I had never seen one of my baby pictures until this moment. He showed me photographs of us at visitation, though I was always told he never showed. I saw myself in him physically. The way he would talk and the way he would laugh. It was electrifying.

Shortly after I met my father, one of my brothers was murdered. August 20, 2011. Six months out of a three-year prison sentence, he was on the way to restoring his life. He was still young though and spent a lot of time having fun. A long story short, he was stabbed 26 times at a party by two guys with strange stories of their own. The trial for the second one finally concluded in May. This was perhaps the toughest point of my life. I planned and signed off on a funeral for my 21-year-old brother. I kept strong for my family, both sides, and tried to keep tensions between my biological and adopted family non-existent.

Last June, my aunt was involved in a freak, still not fully explained, accident. The story is blurred, but reads something like, she was headed home with her boyfriend and their car broke down in the mountains of North Carolina. They were drunk and something happened where she ended up in the middle of the road and was hit and dismantled by a semi. When I received a call that she was gone, I wasn’t sure what to feel, or do. She was family but I hadn’t seen her much apart from the occasional Facebook post. At the same time, she was a major part of my story.

My grandmother died in July and again I find myself not knowing how to feel. Forgiveness is something I believed I had given but I could never bring myself to have a relationship with her, or any member of my biological family apart from my brothers. She would often reach out to me, comment on pictures, shares messages on my Facebook timeline. I was always quick to delete and erase any trace of her. I now sit confused. She was no longer my family but at the same time … she is. Where is the line between compassion and forgiveness drawn?

jesse3Because of her, I am here. Because of them, I am here. My story is them. The numerous additional stories I have are because of them.

My extraordinary life is because of them.

I share this not for pity but to possibly encourage someone else. Look where I was and look where I’m at.