A Faith – Based Community Coalition

Supporting children in foster care

If we told you a major and well-established risk factor in the top 10 causes of death in the United States and worldwide – received virtually no coverage in the media, would you be surprised?

And if this risk resulted not only in premature death but in significant increase in suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, brain damage, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma, obesity, and depression – would that surprise you even more?

Well, all of this is true about Child Abuse, Abandonment, and Neglect! All the painful scenes we have recently witnessed of immigrant families seeking asylum in the US along our southern border – and the heart-wrenching photos of children separated from their parent and being kept in cages – all of that pales in comparison to what pediatri-cians, child psychiatrists, psychologists, and the Department of Family Services (DCF) see daily in this country!

Last year 676,000 children were verified as “abuse and neglect” cases in the United States. Of those, 1700 died. That number is certainly much higher when human trafficking, malnourishment, and unreported violence is factored in. Today 437,000 children are in foster care, 2000 in Miami-Dade County alone.

HOPE, HEART & HOME MINISTRY was created to oversee a recruiting effort in the South Dade Deanery of the Archdiocese of Miami to support a coalition of child advocate groups committed to serve foster care in Miami. Over a dozen Catholic parishes have joined forces to team up with child welfare partners including Citrus Family Care Network, Guardian ad Litem, Voices For Children, Educate Tomorrow, Florida Foster Care Review, Children’s Trust, Kristi House, His House, South Florida Foster and Adoptive Parents Association, One More Child, The Citrus FCN Youth Advisory Board (YAC), Explore Foster Miami, Casa Valentina, Children’s Home Society, First Star, UM Law School, Safe Families for Children, Catholic Charities Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program, Lifeline Children Services, Center for Family and Child Enrichment, and CAREPORTAL!

HOPE, HEART & HOME recruits for 6 opportunities to support children in foster care:

(1) FOSTER PARENTS – Children entering foster care due to child abuse, neglect, or abandonment need quality foster families to provide safe, nurturing, and loving homes where they can thrive and feel they belong. These children need support, comfort, and guidance during this difficult time in their lives.  Foster parenting can be a short or long term commitment. Citrus provides CARE classes for interested parents.

(2) RESPITE PARENTS – Foster parents often need “breaks” during their time caring for children. Respite Parents provide that break by temporarily caring for children in their homes for short periods of time. Anyone interested in becoming a respite parent completes the same CARE training with Citrus that full-time foster parents go through.

(3) GUARDIAN AD LITEM – These same children also need court-appointed Guardian as Litem (GAL) to advocate for their best interests in dependency court procedures. Guardians make sure children are not lost in over-burdened legal and social service systems or languish in an inappropriate home or shelter. The Guardians require 30 hours of training, including on-line study and courtroom observation.

(4) MENTORS – Teenage children “age-out” of dependent care at age 18. Studies have shown that teens who connect with a volunteer mentor achieve better grades, achieve higher graduation rates, and find better jobs. HHH Mentors will assist high school and college students navigate their way through college entrance, curriculum, “life questions,” and career paths. Extensive training and background checks required.

(5) PANELISTS – Florida Foster Care Review conducts review sessions of pending cases before the Children’s Court. They interview, screen, and train panelists to serve on civilian review “roundtables.”  Panelists serve one full day a month.

(6) CAREPORTAL NETWORKING – HHH needs Child Advocates to volunteer to help meet the specific needs of local foster families posted on the CarePortal platform. Anyone from 19 to 90 can join!