Bay News 9
By Josh Gauntt, Reporter
TAMPA, FL (July 16, 2012) – A new program aimed at creating better foster families could help thousands of children find forever homes.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Children and Families launched a new campaign to find those forever homes. The agency is teaming up with Eckerd Community Alternatives, a local agency that deals with thousands of foster children.
DCF Secretary David Wilkins spent his morning in Tampa talking about the program “Fostering Florida’s Future.”
“What we’re trying to do is really reduce a lot of the oversight that we have really created over the years that is somewhat bureaucratic,” he said. “In terms of the amount of paperwork that has to be completed, the amount of relicensing that has to be done, some of the unnecessary training that has to be done, so that parents can spend a lot more time parenting rather than responding to Tallahassee.”
Aaron Bender is one of the children whose life has changed once he found a foster family. He has been in and out of foster care for seven years. He said life at home wasn’t easy.
“There was just a lot of bad things going on,” Bender said. “We weren’t in school.”
That changed when Bender met his foster mother Amy Bartles.
“He is an amazing young man,” Bartles said. “He had been back home and came back into care, so he’s looking for a forever home.”
Bartles said she’s looking forward to this new initiative.
“[The children] need to be able to be spontaneous if they want to have a sleepover at a friend’s house or go do something,” she said. “They need to be able to do that without requesting permission or paperwork or going through the courts.”
The new program will also focus on education and finding more foster families for kids like Bender, who is also a member of the Big Game James Club, which was founded by Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields for children who are fostered through Eckerd.
“Fostering parenting is to help kids,” he said. “Give them a childhood that earlier in their life they never got to really have.”
For more on “Fostering Florida’s Future”, visit http://www.fosteringflorida.com/.