It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child. Safe Children Coalition (SCC) believes in the power of the community to help their kids dream, believe, and achieve.
SCC – a community-based care agency - is a public/private partnership that worked with nearly 10,000 children across Sarasota, DeSoto and Manatee counties last year. The record number of kids includes an increase in difficult cases. “We have definitely seen children with significant mental health issues, significant criminal history and significant substance abuse issues,” says President and CEO Brena Slater.
On the positive side, SCC has also achieved a reduction in the number of children removed from their families, which means case workers have fewer children in their caseloads. “When caseloads are lower, staff have more time to spend with kids and make sure all their needs are met, whether it’s medical, dental, scholastic,” Slater says.
While SCC has full-time staff members and receives funding from state and local governments, it also relies on volunteers and donations to ensure that it can serve all the children who require assistance.
Two programs that are not a part of the child-welfare system are the Achievers program for first-generation middle and high school students who aspire to go to college or pursue a trade career, and the HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) program, which focuses on in-home literacy instruction for preschoolers and their parents. SCC also supplements the state funding to completely cover high-cost expenses for foster families, like daycare and extracurricular activities.
“SCC really strives to provide comprehensive care for kids that are coming into the child welfare system,” says Jacqueline House, Vice President of Communications and Community Engagement.
Another way the organization helps children is through its youth shelter, which is currently located in a smaller, temporary structure while raising funds for a new building. “Our shelter is for the community,” Slater says. “We want the children safe there as opposed to someplace else.”
House says that “the community has embraced the need for the youth shelter and come along side us for support so we will be able to serve more children.”
Local citizens are also helping on a more personal level. Whether tutoring a struggling teen or fostering a kindergartener who has just begun to thrive, community involvement is paramount for the success of SCC and the children under their care.
House encourages anybody who might have interest in fostering to look into the process. “We need foster parents, especially for siblings and teens,” says House. She emphasizes that anyone can be a foster parent, regardless of marital status, homeownership, or other factors.
SCC also partners with many community organizations to create a safety net for families - for such needs as daycare or parenting skills. “No matter the issue, we’re building bridges to make sure we’re all a village,” Slater says. “The goal is to help the children grow up in a safe, healthy environment and, in return, that helps our community.”
If you want to contribute to SCC’s mission, you can make donations at www.sccfl.org/donate. The organization’s second annual Giving Breakfast, set for March 14, 2024, at Michael’s on East is also still seeking sponsors.
“We want to thank the community for supporting SCC,” Slater says.
1500 Independence Blvd., Suite #210
Sarasota, FL 34234