June 22, 2012
press Secretary, 850-459-2063
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Paxton Zancker was 13 years old when she was removed from her home and placed in foster care. She admits there were a few rough spots as she learned how to live with more structure and rules in her new home, but she credits her foster parents with helping her make positive choices to put her on the right path.
Paxton, now 15, has been living with Bill and Kim White for two years. She has improved her grades in school and gives most of her credit to her foster family and the pride and trust they had that she would overcome her struggles and be successful. "They are the parents I have never had," she said today at a press conference announcing a new foster care initiative in Florida.
The Florida Department of Children and Families kicked off a new foster parent initiative at www.fosteringflorida.com in collaboration with our 18 community-based care agencies across the state, the Guardian ad Litem program, the Florida State Foster/Adoptive Parent Association, local associations and many more.
"This partnership will help increase the number and quality of foster homes in Florida, build stronger foster families for our children and ensure that our children have every chance at becoming successful adults," said DCF Secretary David Wilkins.
The "Fostering Florida's Future" campaign will be focused on five key goals:
- Awareness Campaign– Fostering changes lives and helps children become successful adults
- A Family for Every Child— Recruitment and retention of foster parents
- Quality Parenting Initiative – Training and support for foster parents
- Letting Kids in Foster Care be Kids– Extracurricular activities, social media, time with friends
- Promising Futures – Attending school, graduating and pursuing further education
A new website was launched today at www.fosteringflorida.com to highlight stories of successful foster parents and children in foster care or who have aged out of foster care. This website will give information to anyone in Florida who is interested in fostering a child. A video page shows foster parents talking in their own words about how meaningful being a foster parent is to them.
Foster parents change lives of children all over this state every single day. Currently, there are more than 8,000 children in foster care in Florida. They are removed from their homes through no fault of their own, but because they have been abused and neglected and are not able to safely remain with their families.
"Children in foster care just want to be like every other kid," said Guardian ad Litem Director Alan Abramowitz. "This initiative will help foster parents be parents and make reasonable decisions regarding the children we are entrusting to their care."
Our goal is to recruit 1,200 new foster parents this year. Recruitment efforts will be centered at the 18 community-based care agencies that DCF contracts with throughout the state for prevention, foster care and adoption services. Using the model of the Quality Parenting Initiative, foster parents will know that they are our partners in deciding what is in the best interest of the children in their care. Improved support of foster parents at every agency and every level will increase retention and recruitment.
"Here in our area, we have found many ways to give an extra hand to foster parents, through support groups, specialized training and more," said Mark Jones, CEO of Community Partnership for Children, which covers Flagler, Volusia and Putnam counties. "We know that having quality, engaged foster parents leads to better outcomes for children in foster care."
All children in foster care should have the same expectations at educational success as other children. As part of this effort, DCF began tracking the school attendance and graduation rates of these children on a monthly basis to identify ways to increase school participation and ensure that children in foster care have the opportunity to graduate high school and move on to future studies. A new report card will begin looking at an array of measures for each child so that our community-based care partners can work with them on an individual basis and provide the tools that are needed to help them succeed.
"Fostering is a calling. When kids come to us, they become members of our family," said Karen Condry, who with her husband has been a foster parent for seven years. "Even after they leave our home, we have stayed in contact with many of our children. We are still a support system for them. I feel like we are making a difference in their lives."