We offer something few of our kids and families have known: hope.
Too many children in our community understand just one thing: fear. They've suffered brutalities of abuse. Pain of neglect. They've been let down time and time again. They've lost any sense of belonging. They don't know how to trust.
And then they find Children's Home Society of Florida.
Tens of thousands of kids and teens come to us every year, hurt and confused by their past yet fearful and uncertain about the future. They rely on us for protection, healing, comfort and guidance.
Some come to us in crisis, looking for safety and hope after learning about our emergency shelters and counseling from our Safe Place outreaches that educate kids and teens about alternatives to running away and, for those in danger, about local Safe Place sites that provide immediate help to youth in danger.
When it's not safe to live at home
Others arrive in our care after suffering abuse or neglect in their own homes. Many child victims take their first step toward healing with our Child Protection Team. Our trained professionals gently talk with children about their experiences and take steps to keep kids safe as try to overcome their pain.
Hundreds of kids find their first glimmer of hope and safety at WaveCREST, our emergency shelter; more than a nurturing place to stay, WaveCREST also provides counseling and support as children take their first step toward healing.
Many then find love and acceptance with local foster families eager to embrace our kids as their own. For some kids, it's the first time they've ever experienced a true family home.
What happens next?
While we care for kids, we also work with their parents to overcome challenges that once threatened the children's safety. Through counseling, parenting groups and services in the home, more families become strong and stable. And, many times, kids can safely return home.
Sometimes, though, kids can never return home. When this happens, our adoption team works hard to find families eager to welcome these children into their hearts and homes forever. Hundreds of local kids have found forever families through the Heart Gallery of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast, which features beautiful portraits of our children and offers families a glimpse into the hearts of kids longing for a place to call "home."
Life after 18
Sometimes, teens turn 18 while they're still in foster care. The day they turn 18, Florida considers them legal adults, responsible for every aspect of their well-being. School. Careers. Housing. Transportation. Food.
It's a lot for any 18-year-old to handle. For young adults who've never really had a solid support system and positive role model to guide them, it's practically impossible.
Fortunately, they have us. Our Youth Transition Center provides a safe, secure place for young adults to stay so they can focus on completing their education and pursuing careers. Without the Youth Transition Center, many teens who exit foster care without families may drop out of school, sleep on the streets and become parents before they're ready, thus repeating the tragic cycle of abuse that brought them into foster care so many years before.
Our Youth Transition Center offers more than a place to live. We also teach teens and young adults how to make responsible decisions. We help them set and reach educational and career goals. We teach them how to find reliable transportation. And we teach them basic skills many of us take for granted - proper hygiene, house cleaning, budgeting, grocery shopping.
But we also know many teens face homelessness at 18 or 19 even if they weren't in foster care. Sometimes, their parents just kick them out of the house.
For these young adults, we offer Baines Hall, a safe place for Treasure Coast's teens who want a chance to complete school, to set and achieve goals, learn how to live self-sufficiently.
We give teens and young adults a chance to succeed, to pursue meaningful, productive lives.
Help for families in crisis
Crises happen. For some families, they happen a lot. Fortunately, we're here to help. Our experienced counselors understand how to compassionately work with families so they can overcome challenges, improve communication and learn how to appropriately handle stress, anxiety and other strong feelings.
We advocate for our kids and families. We keep children safe. We bring families closer together. We make our community a better place for us all.