Foster homes needed for teens in Central Florida

Pandemic limited support available to foster teens, experts say

Foster homes needed for teens in Central Florida
Foster homes needed for teens in Central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. – The lead nonprofit agency overseeing foster care, adoption, and child welfare services is asking families to consider opening up their homes to foster teens.

Embrace Families works with more than 1700 kids in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties. Kyraneshia Coleman is a recruitment manager for the organization.

“I think the biggest thing we’re seeing especially with our foster kids is they’re exhausted,” Coleman said.

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During the pandemic, Coleman said the support many foster kids needed was limited. Teenagers, specifically teen boys, were having the most trouble finding places to stay. Coleman said trauma played a large role.

“They have things that they’ve gone through, but they are the most resilient awesome, determined group of people who truly just need people to give them a chance,” Coleman said.

Amanda Reineck is a trauma and teen specialist with Embrace Families. She said trauma is affecting all families following the pandemic.

“It’s going beyond just the trauma that children experience when they’re abused or neglected, everyone is experiencing some sort of ongoing trauma with the things that have happened with the pandemic,” Reineck said.

Christina Wilson and her husband became foster parents about five and a half years ago. Their focus has been with teenagers.

“When the COVID infections really started hitting inside the group homes you know and they were having to lock down because kids were testing positive — if you run away the kids were not coming back in,” Wilson said.

Her goal throughout the pandemic was to provide overnight or emergency placement for kids, something she said she understood may have been difficult for some families during lockdown. Wilson said her experience over the past year has made her a better foster parent.

“COVID is impacting me just as hard as it is for you, and so I’m glad that I went through that struggle because now I can kind of level with them more,” Wilson said.

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