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Foster Families are needed for Unaccompanied Children in Florida


Due to the increase of unaccompanied minors entering the country, the Department of Health and Human Services is looking at Virginia, Texas and Florida for potential locations for building a permanent shelter for them. A location already exists in Homestead in the south of Florida and has been met with criticisms. Some, like State Representative Anna Eskamani, believe that placing children in foster families is the best option for these children.

90.7's Danielle Prieur spoke to Laurie Stern, the executive director of Bethany Christian Services of Florida, to learn more about the organization's approach to foster care for the minors.

Bethany Christian Services of Florida is a branch of a national organization that works with and helps unaccompanied minors find some stability and care.

"Since 2018, we've provided local, in Orlando, the temporary foster homes for our youth as well. We continue to want to increase and provide that capacity because the kids need love, they need care and they need that family stability."

According to Stern, the Department of Health and Office of Refugee Resettlement who has 72 hours from when a youth crosses the border to decide where the youth will be placed. The office then calls an organization like Bethany Christian Services to help find a foster family in which to place a child while legal processing occurs. Bethany also allows for children in their care to remain in contact with their families over the phone when possible.

While it remains to be seen whether central Florida will be the next location of a permanent shelter, Bethany Christian Services and other organizations will continue to work on reunification of families and keeping the youth as safe and healthy as possible. To attend to the needs of the children, the program has a location where the youths will go every day for legal help and learning skills.

"That's kind of the benefit of Bethany Christian Services having a local program. Even if the kids are staying overnight in foster homes, they come to a program every day and they're receiving education services, recreation, computer skills. We have a nurse on staff that's able to tend to their medical needs. We also have a clinician  that's providing individual and group therapy as well. And then we have a case manager that are working on their reunification status as well."

Reunification is the goal of the organization and therefore don't permit foster parents to adopt the kids they are looking after. They have looked after 21 youths in total, 12 have been reunified and 9 are currently in care. They are hoping to expand their families up to 18 youths at a time. Their traditional length of stay with foster families, according to Stern, is about 15 to 30 days.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you can check out Bethany Christian Serviceswebsite.