PORT ST. LUCIE – CarePortal, a wish-request system supported by a network of local churches, has been fully implemented in Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast for three years and is proving itself an effective tool for those working directly with families in the dependency system.
In fact, dependency case managers and protective investigators who use CarePortal give the tool a nearly perfect rating - 4.9 out of 5.
“That’s better than the iPhone 14,” said Derek Albinson, CarePortal coordinator for 4Kids, the nonprofit organization hosting the tool in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.
Nearly 800 local children have been served through CarePortal since it was unveiled in St. Lucie County in December of 2020.
And more are served every day, Albinson said.
From July through September of this year, 72 percent of all local requests made to the CarePortal from July through September of this year were fulfilled. The outlook was even better in Okeechobee, which saw 100 percent of its requests fulfilled.
That’s up from the previous three months, when 57 percent of requests throughout the four counties were fulfilled, Albinson said.
The total number of requests and the number of children served have also been increasing, generating a total in-kind value of $46,000 during the most recent quarter.
“CarePortal provides a lifeline when the needs of a client don’t align with the priorities of the community,” said Kolena Powell, a Hope Navigator for the state Department of Children and Families’ Pathways to Prosperity program.
Hope Navigators Like Powell guide Floridians on an path to economic self-sufficiency by focusing on community collaboration between the private sector, faith-based community, nonprofits and government entities.
Some of the needs specially met through CarePortal include payments for storage and specialized baby formula. Powell said the CarePortal even helped her provide a sturdy tent to a homeless woman while she was working on more permanent housing.
CCKids - the organization that oversees the local child-welfare system - also has found CarePortal to be a significant help in serving families, said Christina Kaiser, CCKids community relations director and agency CarePortal liaison.
“CarePortal has been significant in improving the experience of children and families in our foster-care community,” she said. In many instances, it helps to stabilize a placement in foster care or with a relative, and it sometimes helps in the process to reunite children with their families.
And its been an effective tool for dependency case managers who previously had to run from county to county to find resources for their families.
“Not only does CarePortal provide needed resources, it does it in a way that is highly efficient for case managers,” Kaiser said. “The churches connect directly with families and take care of everything, including delivery.”
In return, the responding church has an opportunity to embrace the family spiritually and to continue to be a presence in their lives if asked.
St. Lucie County was the first to roll out the program in late November of 2020, followed by Martin County a few months later and then Indian River and Okeechobee counties during the summer of 2021. The total economic impact of those fulfilled requests over all four counties is $332,000, Kaiser said.