There is currently crisis-level need for nurturing, supportive foster parents in Northwest Florida. Department of Children and Families online statistics report that 43 children in Walton County have been moved to out-of-home care in 2017.

With few foster homes available there are several outcomes that can cause challenges for the child: they can be separated from siblings, in a home that can't meet therapeutic or medical needs, moved out of town and away from community support, or in group homes when they most need a family environment.

Foster parents are a vital resource for these children as they wait between a painful past and an uncertain future. Foster children have an extraordinary capacity to overcome many challenges, if only they have support from a caring adult in their lives. Foster parents have an ability to love a foster child like their own, regardless of whether the child lives with them for a month or for more than a year. We do not need perfect parents or parents who say “yes” to every child, but we need people willing to be an option.

National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP) trains, licenses and manages foster homes for youth involved in the child welfare system in Walton County. We have been running this program with tremendous success in other parts of the state for 10 years. Our program serves our most at-risk children in the Gulf Coast through unparalleled support for our foster families. Our goal is that there is no such thing as a “throwaway” child in our community.

Jamilyn Ruckman, Pensacola