Tag Archives: student

Motherly Instincts

One of our CPIs visited a school recently and saw a 10-year old girl rocking back and forth and rubbing her temples hard. The CPI contacted the school nurse, who said she had been unable to reach the father. The CPI then tried calling the father herself and reached him.

She found out that the frustrated father had already taken his daughter many times to the doctor but received no diagnosis and had no more time to take off from work. The CPI offered to take the child to the hospital herself, which inspired the father to call his mother who took the girl to the hospital where she received an MRI. Because of the CPI’s adamant concern, the child was determined to be on the verge of a major stroke after having had multiple mini strokes. The child was later transported to a larger hospital for further treatment.

The CPI says it was simply her “mother instincts” that saved this girl’s life, but it is just this kind of instinct, motivation and big heartedness that makes such a big difference in the lives of those we are called to serve.

“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. 

A smart cookie

Guest post by the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida.

EEpicEmmanuel dropped his head when he saw his caseworker. “Did you hear about my GPA?” She answered, “No, did it drop below an A average?” Emmanuel then said in a very disappointed voice, “It’s a 4.3, but I’m working to get it up.”

Despite all of the adversities that Emmanuel has faced in his life, he has remained a positive and polite young man. Emmanuel aged out of the Florida foster care system in March of 2009, after having been in foster care for three years, and is today in the Independent Living Program. He has always been a smart cookie – graduating from Lely High School in May of 2009 with a 4.4 GPA.

He then went on to attend Colgate University, located in New York. Not only did he continue to keep his grades up, but he was also part of the Colgate Raiders football team, a team that went to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in December of 2012. Emmanuel has also been a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity since 2011. He was very busy!

This month, Emmanuel will be graduating from Colgate University with a Major in Psychology and a Minor in Biology. As a persistent young man who continues to strive for success, he plans on continuing his education by pursuing a Master’s degree from a Florida university.

Emmanuel remains close with his foster parents who continue to support him as a young adult and whom he visits during school breaks. In fact, Emmanuel plans on returning to his previous foster parents’ home following graduation, temporarily, until he decides which state school he will attend for his master’s degree.  They are his family.

We look forward to following Emmanuel as he continues to grow and meets his goals – he has a very bright future ahead!

Sex trafficked and their parents never knew

Guest post by Amy Turner, Trail Blazers Club Leader for Lee County 4-H Extension. The student organization recently organized an interactive human trafficking awareness exhibit at the recent conference organized by the International Committee on Human Rights in Southwest Florida in partnership with the South Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Kudos to these students for taking the lead and being proactive in their community.

 She missed the bus and a popular older boy offered her a ride home. They stop at his house on the way so he can pick up a book. He offers her to come inside and gets her a glass of soda. She wakes up groggy, on a bed, sore. The soda was drugged, and he and his friends sexually assaulted her. They have pictures and will show her parents if she doesn’t come back. She comes back. Her parents never knew.

His new girlfriend introduced him to a music producer. The producer sees a lot of promise in him, offers to cut him a demo tape for free. His parents check out the producer – he has a website and references. He goes to the studio, closes the door and is beat up by three large men. They force him into prostitution with the threat of being beat up again if he refuses.

 A new girl is in her class. Seems edgy, cool. They are friends, texting and hanging out together for weeks. Her dad cleans office buildings and offers her a job. Her parents meet the friend and her parents to try to check it out. Her parents reluctantly say ok and drop her off. She is drugged and driven out of town in a truck.

Trail Blazers Club Leader for Lee County 4-H Extension

The examples above are based on true stories. They were kids from good homes with caring families. Hearing stories like these made Lee County Extension 4-H want to get involved in human trafficking prevention awareness. Our students wanted to do something with a big impact that would make people understand that it can happen to anyone. They wanted to warn their friends.

Side view of human trafficking exhibit

So the students worked with Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships Inc. Founder/Executive Director Nola Theiss to design an elaborate set called the T.I.P.S. exhibit (Trafficking Interactive Prevention Simulation). It had life-size pictures of buildings and school buses, true-story scenarios, and led Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking conference event attendees through the hallways of real human trafficking situations.  Visitors were given cards with various scenarios and armed with tips to avoid being “trafficked.” Mental health counselors were placed at the exit so every attendee that completes their walk through had the opportunity to discuss what they just experienced.

One of the biggest things for parents to remember is to talk to your kids. Let them know they can tell you anything. Some of the other tips on the attendees’ cards included:

  • Don’t eat or drink anything you did not see prepared.
  • Always make sure a trusted friend knows where you are.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, wait at least 24 hours.  Talk about it with someone you trust.
  • Use the Internet to research the background of opportunities that come your way, like music and modeling.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to an adult who makes you feel uncomfortable.  Lie if you have to and warn others about him or her.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of human trafficking, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.

Trail Blazers Club Leader for Lee County 4-H Extension

“Just Ignore It” Doesn’t Work as a Solution to Bullying

Guest post by North Florida mother of a high-school girl and middle-school boy. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. 

*click image for full size* Facebook post bullying the second girl who left the clique. The monkey comments stemmed from the girl standing next to a tree in her profile photo.

At first I adored my daughter’s new friend. She was (and still is) bubbly and vivacious. She was the queen bee of a group of four 8th graders who were inseparable. They appeared to love life: having fun at school, sunbathing and shopping on the weekends, and racking up minutes via endless text chats. 

By the end of 8th grade I had figured out that she was also a bully. 

My daughter left the clique when the girls started bullying more students. Her departure only fueled the girls’ meanness. They called her “ugly” and “ginger” (slang term for persons with red hair) in front of her peers and upperclassmen. They spread rumors about her, making it very difficult for her to make new friends. They edited her out of photos on Facebook and posted mean things on her wall, which intensified as other students joined in – the kids weren’t afraid to attack her because a computer screen blocked them from actual confrontation. 

What had gone wrong and what could I do? My heart ached for my daughter. 

Eventually, another girl was “ejected” from the original four and began the same painful path my daughter had traveled. Facebook posts calling her a “monkey,” others depicting her in sexual situations and worse were met with comments and likes from other students at a fast and furious pace. Enough was enough – I took action. 

The second girl’s mother and I explained to the school principal that this was pervasive bullying, especially on social media. We were desperate for help and I will be forever thankful that he spoke to the girls and their parents. His authoritative position helped stop the bullying. 

It is always wise to be aware of your child’s social media world. Even the savviest of kids can’t take care of things on their own and it is more than okay to bring in reinforcements. 


Here are some tips from the free DCF and Ounce of Prevention Parenting Resource Guide e-book

Prevent bullying:

  • Don’t assume your child knows how to handle every social situation. Talk to your child about not teasing or hurting other children
  • Get to know all your child’s friends and friends’ parents.
  • Monitor your child’s online activity. 

Signs your child may be being bullied:

  • Torn articles of clothing or missing belongings
  • Fear of going to school or participating in organized activities
  • Anxious or depressed when returning home from school
  • Complains of illness such as stomach aches 

What to do if your child is being bullied:

  • Save all evidence of cyber bullying and report it to your website moderator, cell phone service provider, school officials or law enforcement officer.
  • Don’t blame your child for provoking the situation; this can make the child feel further victimized and may close the lines of communication.
  • Teach your child how to step away from the bullying situations instead of fighting back, which may make matters worse.