DCF Adds a Little Cheer to 1,500 Children in Foster Care
By Sending Them Home for the Holidays
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Brianna is 16 and living in a group home in Panama City for children in foster care. But this month, she has visions of snow and sugarplums dancing in her head. During the holidays, she will visit her grandmother who lives 1,500 miles away in Minnesota.
Spreading cheer throughout the holiday season, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) will help more than 1,500 children and youth in foster care like Brianna travel within Florida and out of state to be with relatives during this time to strengthen bonds and celebrate traditions with family and friends.
Despite the challenge of being placed in out of home care, Brianna has a bright future ahead of her. Her most recent report card was full of A’s and B’s. She worked over the summer in a realty office where supervisors raved about how well she did. Brianna plans to attend college and possibly join the military. She is scheduled to join her grandmother December 22 and stay until January 4.
"While Santa Claus has reindeer, toys and a sleigh, our state will make more than 1,500 children and youth in foster care happy by sending them home for the holidays. What better gift is there for kids who certainly deserve it?" DCF Secretary George Sheldon said. "I appreciate the tremendous support from so many people over the past four years that allows this joyous holiday reunion of children in foster care with their families. I applaud the dedication of all of our partners who go the extra mile to make the holidays bright for all children."
DCF’s annual Home for the Holidays initiative began in 2007. Along with family visits during the holiday season, the program has also served to expedite the permanent placement with relatives or reunification of children both in-state and out-of-state.
Case managers, Children’s Legal Services attorneys, guardians ad litem, judges and magistrates began working as early as August to identify safe, appropriate homes for foster children to visit during the holidays. Travel arrangements were made and judicial hearings were held to approve the visits. Florida’s 20 community-based care agencies frequently pick up the cost of the children’s travel if the family is unable to absorb the expense.