Yesterday I met Alexya, a bright and bubbly young woman working with Childhelp to raise money for kids forced to bounce between foster homes. We chatted outside of Starbucks on Main Street in Dunedin, where she'll be all week between 7:30 AM and 3:30 PM.
Alexya told me about the items children frequently leave behind when they move to a new foster family or group home, leaving them without their favorite toys, school supplies, and other comfort items. Honestly, it's something I had never thought about before.
While our interaction was brief, it got me thinking more about what kids go through in foster care. The more research I did, the clearer it became how so many kids come out of the system traumatized.
A Brief Look At The Numbers
Since 2013, the number of Florida children placed in foster homes or taken in by relatives has risen by 40 percent. More than 24,000 kids are being raised by those who aren't their biological parents, many of who frequently bounce between foster and group homes.
While some kids are lucky enough to find long-term placements, most get shuffled around quite a bit. In 2018, Tampa Bay Times reporters investigated the placements of 280,000 foster children under Florida's care between 2000 and 2017.
The results were shocking, showing that many kids were moved between foster families and group homes every few nights. This is especially the case for older kids who've developed behavioral issues due to being in the system their whole lives.
These were the key findings of the investigation:
- 1,500 kids were placed in 12 different homes in one year
- 7,500 kids moved an average of once a month within a six-month period
- 2,000 kids were placed in six different homes in just one month
How Childhelp Gets Involved
To help alleviate some of the stress on kids during each move, Childhelp runs Backpack Drives to collect donations used to supply kids with some of the items that get left behind. This is just one of the many things they do though.
Childhelp is one of the largest and oldest nonprofit organizations in the United States, dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect, at-risk children, and families experiencing financial hardship. They raise awareness through programs like "Speak up be Safe", "End FiveTooMany", and "Childhelp Backpack Drives", which raises money for thousands of backpacks for kids.
If you're interested in helping, Alexya will be outside of the Starbucks located at 1785 Main Street in Dunedin every day this week between 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM, sometimes later. A $20 donation supplies one child with a backpack and can make a huge difference to kids during this transition.
Sidenote: I am in no way affiliated with the Chilheld organization, but I think what they're doing is awesome!