Two more hands reach out to help foster kids

Family Resources has projects to aid teens and to help kids transition from foster care.

Published June 27, 2007

CLEARWATER - Family Resources, a nonprofit agency that has helped troubled young people and their families since 1970, is expanding its services through two local initiatives.

This afternoon, the agency is holding an open house for its SafePlace2B and Family Counseling Center at 1615 Union St.

"We are hoping to get the community in to see what the facility offers, " said Pam Miller, Family Resources' vice president of development.

The SafePlace2B center features a shelter with a dozen beds for teenagers who might need a place to stay temporarily.

It also has counseling offices and work space for case workers who work with truants and other students.

And last week, Family Services broke ground for a new facility on Turner Street that will house older teenagers in foster care.

The goal of the "transitional living program" will be to help teens 15 to 18 acquire the skills they will need once they turn 18 and leave the foster care system.

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Based in Pinellas Park, Family Resources has a yearly budget of $7-million. Along with its Clearwater operations, it runs two counseling facilities in St. Petersburg and Manatee.

In Clearwater, Family Resources had a shelter for teens in a single-family house at 1622 Turner St. since 1985.

Three years ago, the agency began looking for a spot for a newer shelter and expanded programs. The search led to the location on Union Street.

The SafePlace2B center cost $1.1-million. The agency paid for it with grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Pinellas County, Largo, Clearwater and the Edwards Family and Doyle foundations.

The facility has a $2.3-million yearly budget. Since opening last summer, SafePlace2B has served almost 3, 000 kids, Miller said.

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The transitional living program is being built at the site of Family Resources' old shelter on Turner Street.

There, the program will house 12 foster kids ages 15 to 18. Family Resources operates a similar program for 12 boys and girls in St. Petersburg.

Transitional living programs focus on teaching foster children life skills such as how to get jobs and balance checkbooks when they turn 18.

Child welfare advocates welcome the program because they say Pinellas County badly needs services to help teens in foster care adapt as they become adults. The Eckerd Family Foundation is leading a movement to develop more services for foster children after they turn 18.

"The timing of this is good, " said Ed McBride, senior program manager for the Safe Children Coalition, the agency that supervises foster care programs in Pinellas. "A program like this would offer a much better continuum of services."

The Turner Street program will be for kids whose placements with foster families have not worked out.

"These kids are basically homeless, " Miller said.

They could be put in group homes, McBride said. But a transitional living program offers the opportunity to focus on life skills.

"There's nobody they are going home to" when they turn 18, McBride said. "So we want to use whatever opportunity we have ... to orient them" toward what it's like to live in the community.

The transitional living facility will cost $900, 000 to build, Miller said.

The agency has raised just over $700, 000 of that through grants from the Homeless Housing Coalition of Pinellas County and a Pinellas County Community Development block grant.

Because of the urgent need, Miller said the agency hopes to finish the project by the end of the summer.

Some local foster kids who need this kind of program are sent to other counties, Miller said.

"There's a movement to bring kids that are needing this kind of program back to their county, " she said. "We are trying to hurry up and get our facility built so we can serve them."

Jose Cardenas can be reached at jcardenas@sptimes.com or 445-4224.



Open house

Family Resources' SafePlace2B and Family Counseling Center at 1615 Union St., Clearwater, will hold an open house 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. today