Tag Archives: safe families

Keeping siblings together

Guest post by Neighbor to Family’s Director of Donor Relations, Karen Chrapek. Neighbor To Family is a national child welfare agency that provides sibling foster care and prevention programs for abused and neglected children. Florida offices are located in Daytona Beach and Jacksonville. 

In 2010, four adorable siblings aged 5, 7, 9 and 10 and their mom addicted to prescription drugs came to Neighbor To Family’s FIRST program to keep the children out of foster care. Despite the intense in-house services delivered to help the family, the mom’s battle against her drug abuse was not immediately won. We felt it was unsafe for the children to remain in her custody and so they were placed into a Neighbor To Family foster home. We succeeded in keeping the siblings together when they entered foster care. This placement minimized the trauma that the siblings felt from being separated from their mother.

Mom then entered Haven Recovery and successfully completed a six-month residential program for addiction treatment.  Now clean from drugs, the mom received housing assistance from Haven Recovery and was able to have her own home. Neighbor To Family’s foster caregiver continued to mentor the mom. She was even chosen as the speaker for our Siblings of the Year event in 2011 as an example of our program’s success.

The children have been reunited with their mom and have been living with her for the past four months. She continues to utilize all the Neighbor To Family services including the help of staff, her case manager, family advocate and other supports.  Neighbor To Family continues to strengthen this mom’s parenting skills and supports so that the children can be reunified permanently in the next two months.

If you are already involved in Neighbor To Family in some capacity, WE THANK YOU! We really are healing families – one sibling group at a time. If you are interested in supporting our agency, please callKaren Chrapekat 386-523-1440.

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.

Breaking the Cycle of Family Violence

Guest post by a graduate of Healthy Families, a home-visiting program that prevents child abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting skills, promoting healthy child development and improving family self-sufficiency.

When I enrolled in the Healthy Families program, I was 24 years old and just had my fifth child. I had no sense of direction or purpose as a single mom trying to raise all of my children. I never finished high school, did not have my GED and was unemployed. I was living in a very bad domestic violence situation with the father of my children and thought I had no way out. He had me believing that I could not make it without the little bit of financial support he provided to us.

One of the first and most important things my family support worker did was help me learn how to set goals for myself. She taught me that I could achieve things on my own. She believed in me and, more importantly, helped me believe in myself. She pushed me and told me not to give up even when I faced setbacks, and I faced a lot.

With the help of Healthy Families, today I am proud to say that my children and I no longer live in fear of domestic violence because my support worker showed me where to go for help and I got it. The father of my children is in jail where he belongs and I helped the police get him there.

My children and I are safe, I am working full-time, I have gotten my own transportation and my own home. Now I want to get my GED, and I know I can do it! Healthy Families has helped me to see that once I had my kids, my life became about them and their well-being and no longer just about myself. I have learned how to be a better parent and how to help my kids be the best people that they can be too.”


Almost 25 percent of Healthy Families participants are identified as having experienced, or currently experiencing, domestic violence at program enrollment. As indirect victims of domestic violence, children who witness family violence experience similar trauma to those who are abused. This trauma significantly alters children’s brain development leading to emotional and behavioral problems, poor school performance, and increased risk of criminal behavior as youth and adults. A child’s exposure to domestic violence is also the most significant predictor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. 

Healthy Families home visitors prevent child abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting skills, promoting healthy child development and improving family self-sufficiency. Home visitors also connect families to other community resources that can address domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health and other issues that place children at-risk. 

For more information, visit www.healthyfamiliesfla.org.

Bagel Bites and ice cream

Guest post by Central Florida Safe Families Mom Debbie Titus. Safe Families for Children is a program of Bethany Christian Services through a partnership with Community-Based Care of Central Florida. Safe Families for Children is a national movement of compassion that gives hope to families in crisis. Safe, loving homes are provided where parents may voluntarily have their children cared for while parents seek to restore stability in their lives. 

It was around 9:30 p.m. when the three children arrived at “Camp Titus,” sweet kids ages 9, 11 and 13. But they were traumatized by what had just happened to their family.

Their mom was offered a job in real estate from a friend in Miami. When she arrived, she discovered her friend was actually involved in a prostitution and identity theft ring. Once she realized what was going on, she locked herself in the bathroom and called for the police to get her and the kids out of the house. All three kids were about to be trafficked. The police arrived, escorted them out and the family began the trip back home to Missouri.

On the way home she was pulled over and arrested because she had not paid a speeding ticket in Georgia several years ago. The mom went to jail and the kids went into DCF care in Osceola County.  The facilities in Osceola were overextended, so DCF called Safe Families for help and the kids landed at Camp Titus. The children snacked on Bagel Bites and ice cream, watched movies, and then played at the playground until their grandma arrived from Missouri to take them home.

The mom was going to have to stay in jail for several weeks and be transferred to Georgia, but my husband Gary and I wanted to help her get back to her kids. Gary was able to get the judge to lift the order so the mom could be released. A few hours later she was out of jail – and in a bit of shock over what had happened. The mom spent two nights with us before she flew back to Missouri.

They were three beautiful and sweet kids and one unsuspecting mom just looking for a better job. Safe Families was able to step in and give them a helping hand. The family is now doing quite well.

If you are involved in Safe Families in some capacity, THANK YOU! We really are changing the world one kid at a time. If you are interested in getting involved, please call Kyraneshia Coleman at 407-877-4006.