By Victoria Ostrosky
When she heard the authoritative knock on her front door, she quickly ran to her baby brother and grabbed his hand. Her eyes were great pools of fear and, with a trembling voice, she begged to not be separated from her little brother. Their home, such as it was, was home no longer, and she didn’t know what would happen next.
The vision for Children in Crisis, a non-profit 501(c)(3), began in 2002 in a living room of concerned citizens who worked in school systems and foster care. They were concerned about how many times children, removed from their abusive and unsafe homes, were shuffled from one foster home to another because of the severe shortage of foster parents. More often than not, siblings were separated, further traumatizing the children. This core group wanted a better way to meet the needs of these vulnerable children, with a vision of opening a foster care neighborhood.
Children in Crisis and their Children’s Neighborhood is now a reality, sitting on 20 acres of beautiful land in Fort Walton Beach, through a charity land lease by Northwest Florida State College. They serve Circuit 1, comprising the counties of Walton, Okaloosa, Escambia, and Santa Rosa. On this land, Children in Crisis has an emergency shelter for children removed from abusive environments on short notice, where they can stay temporarily. Then there are five family-style foster homes where foster parents live on site, and eight studio apartments for young adults who have aged out of foster care but aren’t ready to be on their own yet.
Children in Crisis’ mission is to keep brothers and sisters together. They’ve worked diligently to obtain the funding to build the neighborhood and have placed foster parents in each home to watch over and care for children, keeping brothers and sisters together, greatly mitigating the need to move them from one home to another; thereby giving them a better chance to heal and grow strong.
Every adult who works at The Children’s Neighborhood lets the children know they are in a safe environment. Many of the kids that are removed from homes arrive with only a Walmart bag of a few items. Many don’t even know how to use a shower. And because many have lived not knowing when they would eat again, hide food in their rooms. These are just some of the behaviors these abused children need help with overcoming.
Children in Crisis has seen lives transformed and children able to trust adults again and flourish at school because of the unique setting at The Children’s Neighborhood.
Their greatest need right now are foster parents. They have two empty homes waiting to accept and house children, but no foster parents to receive them. Fostering is a calling, and though it’s not an easy job, God equips those who are prepared to do the work.
The Bible doesn’t directly instruct us to be foster parents, but it does speak of taking care of the fatherless and the widow and loving each other sacrificially. We are told to take in strangers and be like the Good Samaritan who stopped and got involved, giving his time and money to care for another.
Who is our neighbor? The person in need who God puts in front of us.
To get involved, please check out www.childrenincrisisfl.org. You can fill out their application online, or call 850-864-4242, come visit the neighborhood, and find a way to be part of rescuing children in great need right in your backyard.
You can hear the entire story about Children in Crisis and listen to many other incredible interviews on the weekly Road to Redemption radio show and podcast at www.roadtoredemptionpodcast.com.