Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the date circled each year on the May calendar when all Americans pay homage to our country’s bravest and brightest heroes, those men and women of the military whose dedication to our country has resulted in the ultimate sacrifice.  These warrior giants deserve our respect and our gratitude each and every day.

The month of May also spotlights another group of America’s everyday heroes, who too deserve recognition and praise. These are our individual community’s foster parents, whose day-in and day-out commitment to provide sanctuary to our nation’s precious foster care children is medal-of-honor worthy.  May is National Foster Care Month.

As we stand at attention this Memorial Day in honor of America’s military’s heroes, let us also acknowledge the service to country of our various community’s foster parents, without whom our nation’s most valuable resource, our children, would be imperiled.

While on a macro level, statistics regarding foster care can seem, in a word, daunting, closer inspection demonstrates hopefulness.  For example, even though currently there are 107,000 foster care children available for adoption in America, on just one single November day over the past eleven (11) years (National Adoption Day), more than 35,000 foster care children have been adopted.

It was the iconic Winston Churchill who said, “we make a living by what we make. We make a life by what we give.” The brilliance of Churchill’s words is their simplicity and this statement should be a clarion call-especially this month-for us all to pay tribute to our nation’s military heroes and to our nation’s foster parent heroes.

This Memorial day, and every other blessed day of the year, God bless America.

Connecting with Hillsborough County’s Homeless Youth

Did you know that last year we had 118 foster youth age out of our foster care system in Hillsborough County without an identified family? Through February of this year (most recent data available), we have seen an additional 67 youth age out of our system. These numbers are alarming and call for community action! Research shows that youth who fail to reach a permanent status with parents or other relatives/non-relatives by their 18th birthday are more likely to face poor economic and social circumstances as they enter adulthood. What we know is that youth aging out of foster care are underemployed, are more likely to become young parents, be involved in the criminal justice system, and are also at risk of homelessness. Although there are several wraparound supports available to youth aging out of foster care to include financial incentives, we still have a long road ahead of us to address this concerning problem. Eckerd had an opportunity to meet with representatives from the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County and will be working with them, and others, to identify better solutions to this problem. Based on a count completed by the Homeless Coalition in 2011, there were over 200 unaccompanied homeless youth in Hillsborough County. How Can You Get Involved? The Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County will be hosting their first homeless youth forum on June 13, 2012 from 9:30am to 11:00am at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. This event will be co-moderated by Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and Homeless Coalition CEO, Rayme L. Nuckles. On any given day there are hundreds of young people in our community who find themselves without a place to call home and this event promises to provide great insight to how our community can address this crisis. The Homeless Youth Forum will include a guest panel of homeless and formerly homeless youth who will tell their stories and answer audience questions about their experiences and how they are addressing the challenges they have faced. This event is free and open to the public. Space has been generously donated by the Straz Center for the Performing Arts at 1010 North W.C. Mac Innes Pl, Tampa, FL 33602. Seating is limited and advance registration is strongly recommended. If you wish to attend please contact Jeremiah Kerr at the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County at (813) 223-6115 or jeremiah@homelessofhc.org