If You Want to Adopt, There’s Help. If Not, Lend a Hand to Those Who Do
By Alexsa Leto, Guardian ad Litem Director for the 16th Judicial Circuit, serving Monroe County
Given the increased rates of abused and neglected children coming into out-of-home care, Americans are rightly concerned. So we are learning to be more thoughtful and creative in helping vulnerable children find safe, loving, permanent families.
That’s especially crucial in the 16th Judicial Circuit, which was so hard-hit by natural disaster last year. We have 98 maltreated children in out-of-home care as of September 2018 – and such numbers make finding good homes for them a challenge.
That’s part of why we at the Guardian ad Litem Program – who advocate in court for so many of these children – need your support.
It’s in every citizen’s interest to step up and here’s why: There are more than 400,000 American children in foster care, roughly 24,000 of them in Florida. Their average length of stay is 25.3 months, according to the Ackerman Institute for the Family – and they have rates of post traumatic stress disorder similar to veterans of war. What’s more, children who age out of foster care without a family are four times likelier to enter the criminal justice system as adults and 17 times likelier to be homeless at age 21.
While not everyone can take in a child, everyone can help reduce the number of abused and neglected children without families.
“You can do something as simple as make dinner for a foster family,” says Mary K. Wimsett, an attorney in northeast Florida who has finalized more than 3,000 adoptions. “We had a foster mom recently who donated a kidney to one of the children in her foster home – and the community came together and provided meals to them for, I think, 3 or 4 months.”
Of course, you can also support vulnerable children by volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem. Children with an advocate are twice as likely to be adopted as those without – and they stay in foster care for shorter periods of time.
To learn more about volunteering, please call (305) 292-3485.
And you can donate to non-profits that support children in foster care with everything from school supplies to scholarships. Our non-profit partner, Voices for Florida Keys Children, Inc., helps local children who are served by the Guardian ad Litem Program. And we are looking for a foster family to move into a home in Key Largo that Voices just built. Please contact Alexsa Leto at 305-619-1631 for details.