PORT ST. LUCIE — Several changes are in store for Florida’s foster-care system, including systems to improve access to resources among caregivers and a centralized hot-line number to make it easier for prospective foster parents to get information.
Those systems will be available from an online hub set up on the state’s MyFloridaMyFamily website. The hub was established in partnership with Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’s Faith and Community Based Initiative, the Department of Children and Families and local community-based care agencies, like Communities Connected for Kids.
They include Aunt Bertha, a 211-type program that makes it easier for families to access mental health and other services, and CarePortal, that will connect families being served through the child-welfare system to a network of faith-based donors in the community.
Most recently, the website began directing interested visitors and prospective caregivers to the newly-established Florida’s Foster Information Center, a hotline staffed with current or former foster parents who answer callers’ questions based on their own experiences and provide information about fostering.
CCKids’ Licensing and Caregiver Support Coordinator Jerra Wisecup is the local contact for hotline calls and has received four calls this week from people interested in learning more about foster care.
“Instead of being left to surf the Internet alone — and trying to find the correct local agency to begin the process — prospective foster parents are given one central telephone number,” Wisecup said. “They make a human connection with someone who knows the road they’re about to travel, and they are directly connected to an agency point of contact assigned to help them begin the journey.”
Wisecup, like most child-welfare professionals, hope the centralized hotline and a more organized network of community resources and services will help draw more people into foster care and adoption.
There are 22,781 children in Florida’s foster-care system. About 250 of them live in Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast. If you are interested in learning more about foster parenting, call Florida’s Foster Information Center toll-free at 833-678-3735, or 83-FosterFL.