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Friend to Foster Kids

2:39 PM, Oct 26, 2009   |    comments
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At 10 Connects, we've spent more than 10 years helping children in the Foster Care system find forever families through our weekly "Wednesday's Child" stories.

Now we are proud to step up once again to help the over hundreds of children in foster care in Pinellas and Pasco counties. The need for Foster Homes has never been greater and it's going to take the entire community to help.

If you're interested in becoming a foster parent, call the Foster Parent Recruitment Line at (866) 233-0790.

2009 Friend to Foster Kids - Eckerd Community Alternatives of Pinellas and Pasco

Our Agency...

  • Eckerd Community Alternatives is the lead agency for community-based child welfare in Pinellas and Pasco counties as contracted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.  Overseeing the local child welfare and foster care system, Eckerd Community Alternatives and its partner agencies provide case management, foster care, adoption and independent living services for children and their families, helping to ensure the safety, well-being and permanency of our community's children.
  • Eckerd Community Alternatives serves more than 3,100 children in care due to abuse or neglect in Pinellas and Pasco counties.  This includes children who live with their parents under protective supervision as well as children who have been removed from their parents as a result of safety concerns and now live with relatives, non-relatives or in licensed foster care. 
  • Eckerd Community Alternatives is one of nearly 40 programs under parent organization Eckerd Youth Alternatives, Inc. Founded in 1968 by Jack and Ruth Eckerd and now with programs in nine states, Eckerd Youth Alternatives has given tens of thousands of youth the opportunity to succeed. 

Our Need...

  • Of the total number of children in care, over 700 children live in licensed foster homes in Pinellas and Pasco.
  • We currently have a total of 260 licensed foster homes in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
  • More foster homes are needed... more families are needed to open their hearts and homes to become temporary foster parents to our children!

Our Goals...

  • Recruit, train and license more foster homes so that we have a total of 300 licensed foster homes at all times.  Each month, foster homes close for a variety of reasons; therefore, it is important to continuously bring in new homes.
  • Recruit more foster homes for our targeted foster child populations.  That means, more homes that specialize in caring for infants/toddlers, teens and sibling groups.  In addition, more African-American foster homes are needed to ensure we have homes that adequately reflect the ethnicity of our foster children.
  • Maintain sibling groups together in foster homes...currently, we are able to do so in most of our cases, but we would like this to be 100%.
  • Keep children in foster homes in their own county of residence...currently, we are able to do so in most of cases, but again we would like this to be 100%.
  • Keep children in their own communities and schools...our goal is to minimize trauma, change and disruption for the child to the greatest extent possible.

The FAQ's...

Often, people don't realize that the following individuals or families can become foster parents.

  • Single adults?  Yes, single adults can become foster parents.  If you have the capacity to love a child, you can foster.
  • Empty-nesters, retirees or grandparents?  Yes, you can foster if you're an empty-nester starting over in life...or if you're a young couple just starting out!
  • Childless families?  Yes, families who have never had their own children can foster along with those who have their own children... both make great foster parents!
  • People who work outside the home?  Yes, many of our foster parents work outside the home.  In most instances, support such as free daycare for the change can be arranged.
  • Renters?  It doesn't matter if you own your home or rent your home, as long as you have stable housing and income (plus meet the other requirements), you can foster a child!
  • If I want to foster, where do I start?  Call 1-866-233-0790 to schedule a free orientation.
  • If I can't foster right now but want to help in some other way, who do I call?  Eckerd Youth Alternatives is always in need of individuals who can donate time, talents or treasures to help the thousands of children we serve.  To find out how you can help us help more kids, call 1-800-554-HELP (4357).

The Requirements...

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have stable housing and income
  • Have adequate sleeping space - a bed for each child placed in your home
  • Complete 36-hours of required pre-service training called M.A.P.P. (Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting)
  • Pass a background check (every person in the home over age 18 must be screened)
  • Complete all required paperwork, inspections and reference checks
  • Have a favorable home study completed
  • Commit to children in care and partner with Eckerd Community Alternatives

The Benefits...

  • When you become a foster parent, you will make a difference in the lives of children as you help them and their families through difficult times.
  • Foster children will enrich your life, and your own children will learn the value of helping others.
  • You will receive free training and support from foster care workers and other foster parents, and you will have the opportunity to join foster parent associations for additional support.
  • In addition, financial assistance is provided for the foster child in your home to include monthly stipends or "board rates", medial coverage, annual clothing vouchers and free/reduced child care.

Most of all, when you become a foster parent you will learn the true meaning of unconditional love!

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