DCF Press Release

State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Charlie Crist

Robert A. Butterworth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:  Sarrah Troncoso
July 23, 2008 (850) 488-4855

Children and Families Exceeds Goal to Hire Former Foster Children
~ Nearly 150 former foster youth offer insight to Department through employment ~

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth announced today the Department has successfully hired more than 100 former foster children as part of Operation Full Employment. Earlier this year, Secretary Butterworth launched the operation by challenging leadership throughout the Department and partners in community-based care to offer employment opportunities to young adults aging out of the foster care system. The goal of the operation is to provide former foster children with employment experience in a professional environment and a steady paycheck in light of the slowing economy. Currently, 101 former foster children are working for the Department and the community-based care partners statewide have employed 45.

“Earlier last year I began meeting with foster youth to find what issues are most important to them,” said Secretary Butterworth. “Many of these young adults are ready to be independent but their greatest concern is how to sustain that independence. Understanding today’s job market is tougher now than ever before, we decided to set the tone and show employers around the state these young adults are ready and eager to be gainfully employed.”

Since January, the Department’s Regional staff and community-based care personnel have worked to recruit and employ former foster youth. Some regions have targeted recruitment campaigns, while others have specific training programs to prepare foster youth for employment with the Department.

“Going through many hardships growing up, I strive every day to overcome my past and assure myself that I will have a future,” said Christina Fisher, a former foster youth and current employee from Palm Beach County. “My current position at the Department is allowing me to experience the working world and make a difference in my community by helping others.”

Florida’s Southern Region, which consists of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, has seen the greatest results with the hiring of 38 foster youth thanks to a campaign initiated to recruit young adults in the Road to Independence program. The Central Region has hired 36 former foster youth and is working with the hospitality industry locally to promote hiring youth aging out of the system.

“The goal of this partnership is to provide professional opportunities for kids who may not otherwise have the chance,” said Greg Kurth, Chief Executive Officer of Family Support Services of Metro Orlando. “DCF is a valuable partner in our efforts to help youth coming out of foster care and develop the skills necessary to thrive in the career of their choice and succeed in living independently.”

“Foster youth are amazing; many times they just need opportunities and guidance, as does any teen, to get on the right track,” says DCF Central Region Director John K. Cooper.

In the Department’s Jacksonville area offices Lakena Presley, age 21, and Ciarra Allen, age 23, have been assisting individuals and families applying for public assistance through the Department’s ACCESS program. Their duties include assisting clients in filling out applications for economic assistance, serving as greeters at service centers, and helping clients who are having problems with the computers in these centers. Additionally, to prepare them for future career opportunities with the Department’s ACCESS Florida program, both Ciarra and Lakena are getting training in techniques to interview people applying for economic assistance.

“This job has been helpful by providing experience in an office environment and helping me develop computer skills. I’m also learning to deal with customer service issues,” said Lakena, who has worked for the Department for the last three months. “I enjoy working with the Department. I’m interested in learning more about the Family Safety program. I plan on making this a lifetime career. Working with the Department is great.”

“I learn something new every day. I’m getting more face to face experience in working with people,” said Ciarra, who has been with the Department the past two months. “I think more companies should consider hiring teenagers who have been in the foster care system. They deserve to learn the skills that will help them become productive adults and advance in the workplace. When I was a teenager, no one gave me a chance. I’m very thankful to have this opportunity.”

The Department, through the Independent Living program, places a strong emphasis on services and support for foster youth aging out of care. In 2007, nearly 7,000 youth were surveyed on topics such as education, employment, and housing. This survey revealed that youth in the foster care system are at a greater risk of unemployment and more likely to experience homelessness.

For more information about the Department of Children and Families Independent Living Program, visit http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/indliving/.


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