Children’s Needs Program
Voices served 4,520 children by fulfilling individual requests in the 2022-2023 year. Here are some of their stories! All names and personal information have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Suncoast Voices seeks to prevent children from entering foster care in the first place. While it is sometimes necessary for safety reasons to remove children from their parents due to abuse or neglect, the disruption to children’s lives is immeasurable. Placement in foster care often takes children away from their schools, friends, sports, and extracurricular activities. Safe, protective extended family members do not often have the resources to get a bed and childcare supplies on an emergency basis. As the only non-profit organization in the Sheriff’s Office, Suncoast Voices for Children can quickly provide these families with supplies to safely keep children out of foster care.
According to the Pinellas County Medical Examiner, in the past 4 years, there have been over 30 sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County due to unsafe sleep environments. Infants are 40 times more likely to die in adult beds than in their own cribs, and nearly 74% of deaths in babies younger than 4 months happened in a bed-sharing situation. In July 2013, Florida passed legislation requiring parents to have safe sleep arrangements when they are discharged from the hospital with a newborn. Since this much-needed legislative change, Suncoast Voices for Children provides more beds each year, with about 1,000 in 2018. In addition to safe bedding, we supplied car seats and other safety equipment to over 500 children in 2018.
Children in foster care want more than anything to have a “normal” childhood. The state provides the essentials of food and shelter, but there is no funding for experiences, hobbies, and developing skills. We don’t want any child to miss out on anything that every child should get to enjoy! Suncoast Voices wants them to make friends, have experiences, find hobbies, develop skills, and just be a kid, as much as they can. We provide everything from private tutoring to dance lessons, summer camp tuition to laptops, shoes to school uniforms, sports fees to music lessons, birthday cakes to eyeglasses, and more; when children have so little, even the smallest intervention can profoundly impact their lives!
Andy is 15 and 6’3”. His family was living in a tent, and Andy became embarrassed to go to school because the other kids knew his living situation and he always smelled bad. Suncoast Voices provided Andy with food, shirts, pants, underwear, socks and shoes, laundry detergent, and personal hygiene items, as well as help with laundering clothes, so he could go to school without feeling ashamed about his life situation that he can’t control.
When Santa Doesn’t Make It
Jenny is four-years-old and living with a non-relative friend who took her in when she was removed from parents that neglected her. She asked Santa for a tricycle, but it never arrived, and she wants to play with her cousins, but their bikes are too big her. Suncoast Voices used donations from people just like you to give Jenny a Frozen tricycle of her own.
Keeping Babies Safe
One grandma took in three children when one of their fathers was found in a hotel room with the sleeping baby next to a gun and a bag of drugs. The second father broke into Grandma’s home and tried to take the infant, and the other also broke in by busting down the door. Suncoast Voices bought door and window alarms to protect the safety of everyone in the house.
Helping Single Dads Stay Afloat
Suncoast Voices, through generous contributions from our donors, was able to provide a crib and a baby swing for a newborn girl who was placed in the custody of her father when her mother was rendered unable to care for her because of severe mental health issues. The loving dad is renting a room and trying to work more to be able to financially support his child, but he can’t afford everything she needs, so the items from Suncoast Voices were invaluable to her well-being and his peace of mind.
Bella is four and has been neglected most of her life. Before entering foster care, she never saw a dentist or had medical attention, and she possibly had never had a toothbrush in her mouth. When she entered foster care, the extent of her dental problems was discovered. A pediatric dentist determined she needed six teeth extracted, three teeth filled, and two spacers fixed, as well as surgery to remove a painful abscess in her mouth that was making it difficult for her to eat. Sunshine Medicaid would not cover the cost of the surgery because it required anesthesia, so Suncoast Voices, with the help of our generous donors, stepped up and covered the entire cost so Bella could have relief.
A few days before Thanksgiving, Benjamin, and Brian, ten-year-old twins, were abandoned suddenly by their parents, who did not attempt to contact them. They have been placed with an aunt who only had camping cots for them to sleep on and no funds to purchase beds. Suncoast Voices gave them a set of twin beds and comfortable bedding to provide them with some small sense of normalcy in the transition.
Filling Hearts And Holes
Four-year-old Didi was found the day before her 5th birthday by a Child Protection Investigator, living with her homeless mother on her mother’s friend’s couch. She had only one dress, that was full of holes, and one toy. Her first question to the CPI was if she knew how to sew. Because of donations we receive from people just like you, Suncoast Voices was able to give Didi a birthday party, with a real cake, new toys, and new shoes and clothes – without holes.
James, who is transgender, was abused by his family. He experienced extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which led to sleep disturbances, panic attacks, anger issues, unrestricted crying, anxiety, paranoia, and depleted self-esteem. He was homeless for some time and didn’t attempt to communicate with his parents. James persevered, and is now headed for a college education! He has his place to live, but he has no furniture. Because of the generosity of our donors and our community partner New2UThriftStore, Suncoast Voices was able to provide $400 towards furniture and appliances, so James can create his own home that is safe from hate.
Fourteen-year-old Anthony was abandoned by his mother and is unable to be cared for by his homeless father. He lives in a group home where many abused children go when they are older than prospective adoptive parents will generally take in. He wanted to join the track team but had no one to pay for his running shoes, so Suncoast Voices provided what he needed through the support of donors like you!
Keeping Siblings Together
Jack, Tom, and Heather (ages eight, ten, and twelve) were removed from their mother because she left them alone more than eight hours a day, and they were often seen outside playing unattended by bodies of water. They now live in separate group homes. Thanks to donations from donors just like you, Suncoast Voices was able to send them to summer camp together, where they will learn how to swim and play, with supervision!
A fire in one house endangered three-month-old twins, who were born prematurely and already had significant breathing issues. While the medical personnel treated them for smoke damage, Suncoast Voices was contacted by Child Protection Investigators to provide them and their two-year-old brother with new clothing and blankets (which had been destroyed in the fire). We were able to give them what they needed immediately, thanks to donors like you!
Beds Of Their Own
Three children (ages twelve, six, and seven months) were removed from their parents’ home because of substance abuse and domestic violence. These precious kids were sent to live in Grandma and Grandpa’s crowded three-bedroom house, which was inhabited by no less than seven other people at the time. They found themselves sleeping wherever they could find room (the floor, the couch, etc.). Suncoast Voices was able to give all three children beds of their own through the generous donations of caring people!
Sports And Healing
Daniel, Darlene, and Davey (ages ten, eight, and four) were abandoned by their mother after their dad was sent to prison for domestic violence and were sent to live with Grandma and three other children. Often, children who witness violence experience a form of PTSD and need to process it through positive physical activity. Thanks to Suncoast Voices and our donors, Daniel will play on a rec flag football team, while Darlene and Davey will play soccer! We purchased cleats and uniforms, and paid the team fees so that they could have fun, expend their energy, and build healthy relationships with other kids and coaches.
Five-year-old Lily was removed from her mother and now lives with her single father. She wanted to play baseball with the other kids after school but lacked cleats, and her father could not afford them. Her case worker reached out to Suncoast Voices, who was able to give her new cleats (thanks to donor support) so she could participate!
From Dissonance To Harmony
Anna Lisa was removed from her parents at age 12, and sent to live with Grandma and three other siblings. She is a talented violinist but had outgrown the instrument the school had been providing. Because of donations we received, Suncoast Voices was able to give her a violin of her own that was the right size and quality for her musical ability, so she can keep developing her talent and cope with her pain through music!
Tiffany turned 18 and is now transitioning out of the foster care system. 20% of children who age out become instantly homeless, and Suncoast Voices (along with our community partner New2UThriftStore) was able to provide items such as appliances and furniture for Tiffany’s apartment so she did not join that number.
A Night To Remember
The costly nature of senior year is something that foster kids simply can’t afford. Suncoast Voices gave two 17-year-old girls living in foster care tickets for the prom, prom dresses and shoes, and hair and makeup accessories so they could have a special evening even though their families were torn apart by trauma.
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