“Every child deserves a new beginning and we can be the one – along with our community – to make that happen,” says Jacqueline House, Director of Philanthropy for Safe Children Coalition.
“Our major goal is really to keep all children in our community from being abused, neglected or abandoned,” adds CEO Brena Slater.
The nonprofit is unique in that it takes a holistic approach to caring for the children of Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, collaborating with several local organizations, including the sheriff’s offices, to look after the whole child.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into working with our community partners,” Slater says. “We make sure we have a team of people to wrap support around those families.”
To serve their mission, Safe Children Coalition has developed a variety of programs that touch every aspect of children’s lives and those of their guardians, whether they’re relatives, foster parents, or biological parents.
These programs run the gamut from prevention services like their youth shelter to in-home and out-of-home case management including adoption. In fiscal year 2021, they helped nearly 8,000 kids through several programs.
While reunification with a child’s family is Safe Children Coalition’s ultimate goal when the child has to be removed from the home, foster care and adoption play a large role in what the organization does.
“Some of our favorite adoptions are our teens,” Slater says.
Recently, a young man who had a lot of issues was placed in a foster home by Safe Children Coalition. In the few months since he joined the family, his attitude and behavior greatly improved, and he has become open to being adopted.
Many teens in foster care are fearful. “They don’t want to be rejected again,” Slater says. The young man’s foster family, who hadn’t considered adoption previously, also expressed interest in permanently becoming his parents, making the situation a remarkable success all around, thanks to the work of Safe Children Coalition.
Last year there were nearly 1,700 children in foster and out-of-home care. Right now, there are 1,100 children in out-of- home care under the jurisdiction of Safe Children Coalition. More foster homes are needed. Slater says factors like marital status, sexual orientation and age are not barriers to becoming a foster parent. In fact, she says empty-nesters have been some of their best foster parents.
Another program, HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), focuses on getting 2- to 5-year-olds ready for school by educating them and their parents or guardians in the home. Currently all home visitors are former HIPPY participants. A previous home visitor was a formerly illiterate-turnedcollege-graduate mother whose life and those of her children were forever changed by the program. She also convinced her neighborhood’s parents to enroll in HIPPY.
It’s a perfect depiction of one of House’s goals - to help the community rally around our children. “We all have a responsibility to care and support them because it makes our lives better,” House says.
You can contribute to Safe Children Coalition’s efforts to help children thrive by offering a financial donation, volunteering, or becoming a foster parent.
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