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HomeAt Home & BeyondEvent spotlights family support resources and fostering in Hernando County

Event spotlights family support resources and fostering in Hernando County

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On Saturday, March 4th, hundreds of people showed up at the City on a Hill event sponsored by more than forty area churches. The purpose of this gathering was to create unity among the people of the community and to focus on the problem of families who need support and children in need of foster homes or adoptive homes. The all-day event included music, worship, and testimonies of people who have been involved in either fostering or adopting children. A number of agencies that advocate for families and children in various capacities had tents set up with information about their organizations.

Marion Thomson with Fostering Hope Florida, along with Gloria West-Lawson, founder of the organization, were there to talk about its purpose. They partner with another organization, Kids Central, to find foster homes for children. An individual who wants to become a foster parent goes through a screening process and takes a 30-hour course.

Along with their regular foster care program, there is also a program called “first responders.” This is for people who aren’t sure if they want to be foster parents. These individuals take the child for thirty days. After that period, if they decide they don’t want to make the long-term commitment, the child is guaranteed a permanent foster home.

For more information on Fostering Hope Florida, call (352) 701-0001 or email [email protected].

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Leslie Hosmer, Community Relations Specialist, and Lauren Abate, representing Kids Central, explained the purpose of their organization. Kids Central is the lead community-based care agency for Hernando and several other counties. They recruit, train and license foster parents and also help to find adoptive parents, so children have permanent, loving arrangements.

Ms. Hosmer stated, “We have fifty homes right now, but there is always a need for more. The greatest need is homes for teenagers and for sibling groups because it’s mandated that siblings be kept together. This is why some people take in more than one child.”

To learn more about Kids Central, email [email protected] or call 352-873-6332.

A New Generation is a woman’s crisis pregnancy center. They offer free medical services such as ultrasounds, counseling for birth mothers who have given their child up for adoption, abortion counseling, after-abortion help for men and women, and parenting classes for mothers who decide to keep their babies. They do not tell the woman what to do, but they provide the woman with information so she can make an informed decision. Last year they saw 367 new clients.

Cheryl Bennett, Executive Director of A New Generation, commented, “Our primary goal is to give them truth and love and show them all the options regarding their pregnancy and help them make a decision they can live with long term.”

For further details on A New Generation, call 352-544-0911 or email [email protected].

A Door of Hope is a Christian-based organization that works with other agencies in the area to help find homes for foster children. They also work with churches to share their needs with their members and hopefully get those people involved in fostering children. Call 727-322-7640 or go to www.adoorofhope.com for more information.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) is the state agency that investigates reports of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Its goal is to keep families together, if possible, through counseling and other services. If that isn’t possible, then they network with Kids Central to get the children into foster care. Afterward, DCF tries to get them out of the system and back into the family when there is a stable environment.

Erica Nurse, Program Administrator for Hernando County, remarked, “When a child needs to be removed from the home, we attempt to find family or friends who will take the child in. If that isn’t possible, then we find a foster home for the child.”

To contact the local DCF office, call 352) 754-6640 or email [email protected].

Better Together is an organization whose mission is to keep families together by offering support and preventive services. Their goal is to keep children out of the foster care system. They step in when families are in some sort of crisis, such as homelessness, substance abuse, or medical emergencies. They find people who will temporarily “host” these children while the parents get through these crises. Host families take children into their homes for an average of fewer than two months.

Kayla Palacios, who works with the organization, stated, “The parents never lose custody of their children. We also connect the families with a mentor who helps them through this crisis, job coaches, and community resources.”

One of their success stories is Heather Stotler. She was on the brink of homelessness, so while she was getting help, her son, Brayden, was “hosted” by a family. She found a job and temporary housing and was able to get her son back.

For more information on Better Together, call 352-665-1884 or email [email protected]

Safe Families for Children is another organization that works to prevent children from going into foster care. They partner with local churches to develop volunteers who can give relational and practical support to families in need. This could be something as simple as giving a parent a ride to a job interview.

Jewel Photopulos, Chapter Director for Hernando and four other area counties, commented, “We’ve averaged helping about twenty-five families per month throughout the Bay area. In the three years that the local chapter has been operating, we’ve only had one child who’s been removed from their parent.

For more details on Safe Families for Children, call 913-703-0075 or email [email protected]

Amanda and Omar DePablo spoke about their experience being foster parents and then adoptive parents. The DePablos already had a 14-year-old daughter and 11- an year-old son when they decided to foster not just one child but three children. They were siblings−two newborns and a toddler. Their own children were all in on the decision when the DePablos eventually decided to adopt in 2016. It was challenging starting all over with diapers, formula, etc., but the couple is enthusiastic in their role as adoptive parents.

“The most gratifying thing is to know that these children are taken care of and are flourishing and confident,” Omar commented.

According to Javen Mirabella, one of the organizers of the event, more than fifty families, so far, have signed up to foster or adopt or to become involved with pre-foster support.

“The numbers are still coming in,” Mirabella remarked.

The City on a Hill event is a stellar example of what can happen when people unite in a common mission.

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