Like most mothers, Alison Stripling loves her children. She beams with pride at school award ceremonies; she enjoys taking them to the beach on the weekends; and even the simple joy of an “I love you” or a hug can brighten her day. But Stripling’s own children are grown. These days, she spends most of her time with her four foster children.
As a full-time, live-in caregiver for Everyday Blessings, Stripling is one of three caregivers who devotes her time to the non-profit foster-care organization, which specializes in keeping sibling groups together.
“This kind of foster care is something that’s really needed,” she says. “It feels like a calling for me. These kids need a parent figure, and we become like a little family — I call them my girls.”
For children in need of foster care, being separated from their siblings can be even more difficult. Everyday Blessings’ mission is to make the process as comfortable as possible for the children.
“Moving into foster care can be traumatic for the kids,” says Trish Adams, residential coordinator at Everyday Blessings. “So, if they can at least have their sibling there with them, that connection is comforting.”
Started in 2012, the Sarasota branch operates out of property leased from the Frank G. Berlin Sr. YMCA and is funded by private donations as well as in-kind services. Everyday Blessings offers a home for as many as 12 children who come from abusive or neglectful families, and it partners with community agencies, such as the Safe Children Coalition and religious groups, such as Temple Beth Sholom and Harvest Tabernacle, as well as the children’s families to help transition them back into a safe, permanent home.
Children stay in the program for a minimum of one year, until they can be placed into a permanent home. The ultimate goal is to reunite the siblings with their parents.
For Adams, as well as the caregivers, the biggest reward comes when children are successfully reunited with their parents.
“I love seeing the big smiles on their faces when they’re going home,” says Adams. “A lot of them say they don’t want to come back, and that’s great. It means they’re connecting, and we hope to see those relationships thrive.”
IF YOU GO
Everyday Blessings Fundraiser: WINE, FOOD AND FRIENDS
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23
Where: Michael’s On East, 1212 East Ave.
Cost: $50; call 813-982-9226, Ext. 227