The System Explained
The Foster Care System in Miami
The System Explained
A Safe Haven for Newborns
A Safe Haven for Newborns is a non-profit organization “dedicated to saving the precious lives of newborns from the dangers of abandonment.” It addresses infant abandonment in Florida through public-awareness campaigns, prevention services, and community outreach. Safe Haven’s Program advocates for confidentiality, where distraught parents can anonymously surrender their unharmed infant to any hospital emergency room staff or emergency services personnel without risk of prosecution. Since 2001, the organization has also served over 5,000 vulnerable women with counseling, parenting, and health-related issues; their statewide referral helpline offers support, information, and referrals for pregnant girls and women in crises. Safe Haven for Newborns presents a positive outcome for all involved: “two lives saved, the precious newborn and their mother” (Home, 2022).
A Safe Haven For Newborns. (2022, January 25). Home. asafehavenfornewborns.com
America’s Kids Belong
America’s Kids Belong envisions “a future in which every American foster child… belongs in a loving, safe, and permanent home.” This non-profit organization tackles the Foster Care/Adoption crisis with a helping hand from local leadership and on-the-ground supporters. The collective impact of government, faith-based, business, and creative leaders across twelve states has bolstered America’s Kids Belong to new heights. Their “I Belong Program” creates high-quality, individual educational recruitment videos for foster children awaiting “their forever family.” Belong University addresses trauma and loss through a biblical perspective; the eleven-module course collaborates with faith communities to bring training on foster- and adoption-related trauma and attachment struggles. Being trauma-engaged and sensitive allows church or community volunteers to support vulnerable children and teens. Additional programs, such as their “Dream Makers Project” provided financial assistance for youth aging out of the child welfare system (Home, 2022).
America’s Kids Belong. (2022, April 1). Home Page https://americaskidsbelong.org/
Be Strong International
Be Strong International has served as a non-profit organization to over 200,000 community members, students, and parents across South Florida. Since 1992, their objective has been “to end the cycle of broken individuals and family relationships.” The Be Strong Lifestyle Model inspires mindfulness through holistic, educational programs, including: after-school enrichment clubs, communication skills workshops, a financial literacy series, and more. Maintaining healthy relationships starts with “maintaining [oneself] emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually” (Holistic Educational Services Miami, 2022). With accessible and effective tools, youth and their families can expand their education to begin better decision-making in personal, professional, and social relationships.
Be Strong International. (2022, April 22). Holistic Educational Services Miami: Be Strong International. https://bestrongintl.org
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami (BBBS) has empowered youth in local communities for more than a century, giving them a future to look forward to and equipping them for success. The organization offers wraparound support not only to the child, but to the family, as well, and connects at-risk youth, ages 5-25 (Littles), to committed adult mentors (Bigs).
“As a nationwide organization, we are committed to being part of the solution toward reducing the violence and victimization children and youth face and addressing the impact of trauma in children’s lives across the hundreds of communities served by our local agencies” (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, 2020). In the fiscal year 2019-2020, BBBS mentored 3,100 youth: 2,047 through their traditional one-to-one mentoring program and the rest through group and college success mentoring. From that total, about 10% are in the foster care system. Currently, there are more than 1,700 children waiting to be matched with a Big.
BBBSMiami. (2022, June 27). Awakening Potential. Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami. https://bbbsmiami.org/
(G. Nelson, personal communication, July 17, 2020).
Casa Valentina is a non-profit that supports young adults who have aged out of the foster care system and/or at risk for homelessness . Casa Valentina’s program “focuses on safe and affordable housing and a comprehensive life skills curriculum in a supportive environment where residents can focus on achieving their education, employment and financial goals and gaining the strength and self-esteem they need to reach their full potential” (Casa Valentina, 2020). Their residential program caters to young men and women from 18-24 years of age and they have a maximum capacity to serve fourteen women and seven men. These young adults live independently and participate in the program weekly. Life Skills are central to their residential program as most youths are employed and/or in school. There are five components to their curriculum: (1) job training/employment assistance, (2) education support, (3) money management, (4) self-care, and (5) daily life skills. Their residential program is holistic in the sense that there is no “one size fits all” approach.
Casa Valentina. (2020, April 1). About Us. https://casavalentina.org/about-us/
(I. Gonzalez, personal communication, November 9, 2020)
Chapman Partnership is a private, non-profit organization serving the homeless in Downtown Miami and Homestead. Its mission aims to “empower our residents with dignity and respect” to “attain self-sufficiency and housing stability” (Home, 2021). In partnership with the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, it utilizes comprehensive programs and services for building a sustainable future. Chapman Partnership offers housing, workforce development, family enrichment opportunities, and wellness services. Their multidisciplinary care team is equipped with valued personnel, each reflecting unique specializations; case managers work collaboratively with onsite housing and employment specialists to guide residents on their path to success. A comprehensive, personalized plan allows residents to reflect upon their interests and shape their future.
Chapman Partnership. (2021, September 10). Home. chapmanpartnership.org
Educate Tomorrow targets disadvantaged youth (including foster youth) by providing highly individualized membership and coaching that targets “academics, economic stability, access to stable and affordable housing, and physical/emotional well-being.” One of the organization’s core beliefs is that poverty should not prevent youth from obtaining an education that leads to productive adult lives. Research conducted on students from foster care throughout the United States indicates that between 3% and 11% of students from foster care, depending on the program, complete any college education. These figures do not include the Educate Tomorrow program, which has seen 40% of its students obtain a degree since 2003. The organization’s continuum of support to disadvantaged youth begins with teens and extends to young adults well into their 20s.
Educate Tomorrow. (2020). Educate Tomorrow: Who We Are. https://www.educatetomorrow.org/who-we-are/who-we-are/
(Dr. Steve J. Rios, personal communication, October 1, 2020).
First Star University of Miami Academy
The First Star University of Miami Academy is a public, non-profit charity dedicated to improving the lives of foster children. It is a joint effort by First Star and Citrus Family Care Network, who strive to “provide the skills, study habits, and support foster youth need to succeed.” With a focus on academics and caregiver support, the College Prep Program welcomes rising ninth-graders into their paced, four-year curriculum. Students work alongside an education advocate to develop their personalized academic plan for high school graduation and post-secondary opportunities. First Star’s Curriculum emphasizes holistic education: by exploring budgeting, nutrition, psycho-social and self-efficacy skills, and substance abuse within general studies. Since 2017, the organization has expanded across thirteen campuses in the United States– making “a long-term investment in foster youth” through academic achievement and self-sufficiency (Foster Care Youth Support, 2022).
University of Miami School of Law. (2022). First Star University of Miami Academy – Foster Care Youth Support. https://www.law.miami.edu/academics/clinics/children-and-youth-law-clinic-first-star-academy
Florida Foster Care Review
Florida Foster Care Review (FFCR) is a 501(c)(3) organization funded by The United Way, foundations, grants, state and local governments, and private donations to lead the Citizen Review Panel (CRP). The CRP consists of volunteers who review child welfare dependency cases. Florida Statute, Chapter 39, outlines the CRP’s process of reviewing the case, discussing the case, and making recommended orders and findings to the court. In addition, FFCR administers the Permanency Roundtable (PRT) Program, which works with case managers, community partners and youth to explore all possible permanency options and assist in achieving the best permanency option for the youth.
Home. Foster Care Review. (2020, May 28). https://www.fostercarereview.org/
(M. Leichter, personal communication August 4, 2020)
Girl Power Rocks
Girl Power Rocks is a mentoring and after-school program serving at-promise girls across South Florida. Their mission promotes individual empowerment and positive behavior through “academic achievement, music and arts education, post-arrest diversion, and post-trauma counseling.” As Miami’s unique prevention and intervention social change program, Girl Power Rocks offers a nurturing environment for youth to build confidence within themselves and unlock limitless potential. Programs like Girls’ Rock Afterschool, Girls’ Choir of Miami, and Sister Circle Mentoring are equipped with “culturally competent instructors, activities and curriculums” who provide essential support, friendship, and counsel.
Since 2000, the organization has “made the world a better place, one girl at a time” (Girl Power, 2022). They are currently in process of building Mama Hattie’s House which will serve as a 24/7 residential safe haven for girls who have aged out of the foster care system, and also for abused girls who are at risk of human trafficking– with a capacity to wrap around 40 young women. Construction is set for 2023 (Personal Communication, March 25, 2022).
Girl Power Miami. (2022). Girl Power: Girls Empowerment Nonprofit Organization: Miami, FL. https://www.girlpowerrocks.org/
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a global non-profit dedicated to making home ownership a reality for families in local communities in all 50 states and in over 70 countries. The homes are sold to families at cost (interest free), usually around $175,000 Habitat’s vision is “building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage” Habitat for Humanity provides families a place to call home and builds communities. Habitat builds houses on scattered lots throughout the county, but also builds communities where there are dozens of homes together. Habitat partners with corporations, family foundations, individuals, and churches to fund its programs.
Habitat for Humanity. (2020). About. Habitati.Org. https://www.habitat.org/about
(M. Ruggiero, personal communication, July 16, 2020).
MagicWaste Youth Foundation
MagicWaste Youth Foundation (MWYF) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization assisting foster youths that have aged out of the system. Since 2017, their objective has been “driven by the belief that every human being deserves the opportunity to develop [their] full potential.” It offers housing, education, healthcare, life and work skills, nutrition, and other needs. Specialized programs, like the Excalibur Project and Miami-Dade College Scholarship Fund, raise funding for foster youth “wholeheartedly committed to building a better future for themselves” (About Us, 2022). For those who qualify, the Excalibur Grant provides one full year of housing subsidy to aged-out youth; Miami-Dade College awards an exclusive financial opportunity for those working toward higher education.
MagicWaste Youth Foundation. (2022). About Us https://www.magicwasteyouthfoundation.org/
Miami-Dade County Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (FAPA)
Miami-Dade County Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (FAPA) is a 501(c)(3) organization with a 30-year history of supporting foster, adoptive and kinship families from County Line Road to Homestead. There are over 300 families served by the organization, which offers several programs and services to its membership. MDC FAPA meets monthly in Opa-Locka and Homestead and supports children and families in tangible ways to ensure they know they are not alone.
(T. Davis & S. Jenkins, personal communication, July 17th, 2020)
The Florida Department of Children and Families contracts with Educate Tomorrow to be the lead agency operating a program called Positive Pathways. The goal of Positive Pathways is to provide focused on-campus resources for foster youth by working with on-campus “foster care liaisons” at public colleges and universities throughout Florida. Liaisons are appointed at 28 state schools and ten universities. Foster care liaisons provide valuable expertise and help students along the way so a foster youth can make the best decision for their post-secondary education. The program’s mission statement is to “connect, unite and act” on behalf of foster youth and give them the highest chance at success. Miami Dade College and Florida International University (FIU) are both active within the Positive Pathways network and provide excellent education and wraparound opportunities for foster children.
Positive Pathways. (2022). About Us. https://www.positivepathwaysflorida.org/
(Dr. Rios, personal communication, September 29, 2020).
South Florida Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (FAPA)
The South Florida Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (SF FAPA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to create triumphant outcomes for children in foster care through the support, education and empowerment of the families who care for them. SF FAPA has over 300 active foster, adoptive and kinship family members giving them a unique caregiver’s perspective while providing essential services and support to families who care for Miami Dade County’s most vulnerable children. SF FAPA’s program services aim to ensure skilled, committed, and loving foster families are available to meet the diverse needs of abused and neglected children.
(D. Beeman-Sasiain, personal communication, July 15, 2020).
Together For Children
Together For Children (TFC) is a non-profit organization working to “strengthen families, empower and protect our community’s youth.” Specifically, it addresses youth violence in Miami-Dade County through public-awareness campaigns, neighborhood work-plans, and community outreach. Together For Children’s framework advocates for systemic change, in which six Neighborhood Coalitions strive towards collective impact against cycles of youth violence. Since 2018, the organization has served over 10,500 K-8 students with attendance incentives and accountability plans. The success of Together For Children lies in its holistic approach to community action: “long-term solutions – not a quick fix, but a sustainable effort that we all believe can have the true impact” (Home, 2022).
Together For Children TFC. (2022). Home. www.togetherforchildren.org
United Way Miami
United Way Miami is a non-profit organization inspired by the power of people and partnership. Their mission focuses on “building a stronger Miami through education, financial stability, and health.” The success of these programs revolves around the collective effort of Miami-Dade neighborhoods. In union with a network of donors, volunteers, and partners– United Way Miami cultivates a thriving community through public policy advocacy, research, planning strategies, public awareness activities, and local outreach initiatives. Since 1924, the organization has flourished into “an unstoppable force for good.” The gift of time and talent begins with one: “you [can] become a powerful agent of change—helping to improve the odds for children and families throughout our community” (Volunteer, Donate, Get Help., 2022).
United Way Miami. (2022, April 6). Volunteer, Donate, Get Help. unitedwaymiami.org
Virgin Mary Foundation
We are the Virgin Mary Foundation, a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to bring aid and awareness to the foster care community and to single parent families; we advocate for their needs and facilitate growth through collaborations, fundraisers, and beautiful projects. Our aim is to make a difference and offer more opportunities to those who deserve a better quality of life, for all foster care children and teens within our reach.
VMF strongly believes in the extraordinary impact that dedicated volunteers, compassionate donors and generous sponsors have on nonprofits. Our primary focus is to create a network of charitable, tenderhearted philanthropists that will bring hope that renews the spirits of foster care adolescents.
Every program and event that we run gives our supporters a new perspective of the reality foster kids and single parent families must undergo. Our projects give others a chance to do something amazing for these kids, and to be a part of VMF’s movement of hope. Children, no matter the age, background, nor family history, should ever be forgotten, they are to be valued, and protected because they have purpose and are worthy of love.
Changing Lives. The Virgin Mary Foundation. (2022). https://thevirginmaryfoundation.org/
Voices for Children Foundation
Founded in 1984, Voices for Children Foundation, Inc., became the bridge organization to promote advocacy for foster children within the system. Along with its board and staff, Voices for Children supports the court-appointed GAL program for the Judicial Circuit 11th Court in DCF’s Southern Region for children in the foster care system. The organization currently supports over 1,700 children, with a capacity for 2,000. Voices for Children expressed that “the state can protect, but the church can love.”. Its mission statement embodies its vision to help abused, abandoned, and neglected children in the system, and give them a voice during the extensive court process . A Guardian ad Litem is a critical component of essential care for a foster child who is unable to see his or her way through the system” (Who We Are, 2019).
Voices For Children. (2019). Who We Are. beavoice.org/who-we-are
Guardian ad Litem (GAL). (2020, April). Standards of Operations. beavoice.org
(N. Hincapie, personal communication, June 16, 2020)
Not Sure How to Help? Here’s the First Step.
THE KEY PLAYERS
How They Serve Children in Miami
The Church & Parishes
Explore Foster Miami Directory
The Church &