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Wanted: At Least 1,000 New Foster Parents

Andrew Gustafson

Welcome to Foster care in Florida where kids need forever homes and parents are sought on….talk shows? Officials are working to recruit new foster parents with a mock talk show that looks into life in Florida’s foster care system.  

Karen Condry, the President of Tallahassee’s Area Foster and Adoptive Association was Host Chris Lolley’s first guest interview for a talk show like chat at a foster care even in Tallahassee. She said being a foster parent is hard work. But she said it's also very rewarding and there’s also a big community where she and other foster parents can find support.

“All it requires is just a few of your most precious commodities and that’s your time and your love for the kids. And I think all of us have that,” Condry said.

Condry said churches, religious groups, schools, state organizations and other parents are all good groups to rely on. The mock talk show is part of an outreach effort to attract more and better qualified foster parents. Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins said the foster care system is only as good as the quality of the parents who get involved.  

“Because unfortunately these parents have been abused and neglected. They’ve been removed from their homes, but usually they’re just small children and they have a whole stage of their development they need to go through. So, foster parents cannot just be the guys providing room and board for these kids. But, they have to provide them the educational opportunities, the social interaction opportunities, and the extracurricular opportunities,” Wilkins said.

Right now there are about 20,000 children in foster care in Florida. And Wilkins said about 5,000 of those are living in group homes. He said the goal is to get those kids into homes where they can live more “normal” lives

“Our goal is to move about half of those kids who are in group homes is to move about half of those kids who are in group homes to individual foster families—the mom and dad type of nuclear family model. But do to that we need to have a lot more foster parents. You can do the math right there, so this year we need another 1,200 foster parents to try to make that work,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins said he wants those kids to have a family to have dinner with, and parents who will take them to soccer practice and support them at games. That’s something that’s especially hard to find for teens in Florida’s foster care system. And the last guest in Tallahassee’s interview line up knows a little something about. Cole Carritz, a former foster youth entered the foster care system when he was 15-years-old.

“That’s an age many foster parents don’t want. That’s an age when you’ve already made up your mind. You already know how you’re going to be. Well, I received one of the most wonderful women I ever met. Her name was Christine Renow. She welcomed me into her house where she already had two younger sons – six and eight-years-old,” Carritz said.

Carritz played football, swam at the beach, taught his new brothers to swim and spent plenty of time fishing. And now, he is attending classes at Tallahassee Community college. Officials are putting on similar programs across the state in an effort both find foster parents and grow the foster family community of support.

For more news updates, follow @regan_mccarthy on twitter!

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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