Q. What is the agency focus of Embrace Florida Kids (EFK)?
We provide homes, healing, and hope to families, children, and youth impacted by abuse and neglect. We provide homes for children and youth in need through our foster care program and teen group home. Our family preservation program provides targeted, specific interventions for families who are at risk for having their children removed as well as with families working toward reunifying with their children.
Q. What communities are eligible for services from EFK?
EFK has program offices and staffing in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties. Our parent ministry (United Methodist Children’s Home/UMCH) also has homes and programs that span the state of Alabama.
Q. How do children and families receive services from EFK?
We receive referrals from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Families First Network (FFN). We are licensed through DCF and contracted through FFN to provide our programs.
Q. How is EFK funded?
Income and expense vary greatly from program to program, and some are 100% donor funded. Collectively, contract dollars pay about 60% of what it costs to run the programs, and funding is always shifting and fluctuating. The remainder of our income is from donors and churches in Northwest Florida.
Q. How can I contribute to EFK programs and kids?
We have a variety of methods to accept your tax-exempt donation. Our secure payment processing link has instructions for your credit card. Visit EmbraceFLKids.org/Donate for more information.
Q. How is the money designated?
All funds are considered unrestricted and will be used for the greatest ministry needs unless the donor provides other instructions to restrict the gift for a specific location or program.
Q. What kind of impact do you have?
In 2021, Embrace Alabama Kids and Embrace Florida Kids:
Ministered to 2,050 babies, children, teens, young adults, and families
Delivered 33,854 days of care to 304 individuals in residential homes, providing food, clothing, counseling, nurturing, and guidance
Provided 21,061 days of foster care for 137 children and youth while training and supporting 108 foster families
Impacted 1,083 individuals in 270 families that remained together through intensive in-home treatment
Q. How is EFK staffed?
Locally, an average of 25 staff members are living and serving Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton counties. We expect that number to grow in the coming years as need for services increases. All Florida program staff members are managed by Director of Programs Charlotte Thomas.
Program Managers: Each program location has a program manager with a background in social service and experience working with youth. The program manager is responsible for making sure the needs of the youth are met, advocating for youth in their care, providing counseling and guidance, securing appropriate training for staff, and ensuring safe homes where children receive the care they need.
Youth Care Workers work in the Milton Girls Home for several days at a time. Our youth care workers teach our teens the skills needed to become independent adults. They also transport youth to school, church, appointments, work, and other activities. Youth care workers cook healthy meals, lead devotions, help with homework, bandage cuts and bruises, administer medication, attend sporting events to cheer for our youth, assist youth in discovering abilities, encourage youth, assist in problem solving, show love, and help each teen deal with the challenges of being a kid in foster care.
Foster Care Staff are responsible for training foster parents, providing support and feedback, arranging for foster parents to have much-needed breaks (respite), ensuring foster families abide by licensing standards, matching youth to foster families, advocating for the needs of the youth, and recruiting new foster homes.
Q. How can I inquire about employment with EFK?
You can view current employment opportunities on our Careers webpage. However, employment inquiries may be directed to our Human Resources staff located at our UMCH Program Support Center. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 334-387-2169.
Q. Do you need volunteers? How can I help?
Volunteers are limited at our program locations due to sensitivity, privacy, and safety issues. We do have many community advocates and supporters in our schools and churches who raise funds, collect necessary donations (for our foster families and our teens), and provide tutoring, fellowship, social opportunities, and more. Monetary donations and estate gifts ensure our programs will continue long-term. We are always in need of grocery and retail gift cards.
Additionally, we love to get an invitation to speak at your civic clubs, church groups, etc. Every invitation to speak is an opportunity to gain support from a new segment of the community. Contact us at 1-833-EFK-KIDS or info@EmbraceFLKids.org to learn more about getting involved!
Q. Is EFK a new agency in Florida? How long have you been serving kids in foster care?
Our parent ministry (UMCH) was established in 1890 to provide services to abused, neglected, and abandoned children. What started out as an orphanage in Summerfield, AL, has grown to include a wide spectrum of family preservation and foster parent programs in both Alabama and Florida. Our history here in Florida started in the 1970s with both foster care services and a group home for teen girls in Pensacola (now located in Milton). Our timeline of Florida activity shows our continued growth and impact below.
1974: Our Embrace Milton Girls Home, located in Milton, has five staff members who live and provide care 24/7 to six teenaged girls, ages 12-17. Group homes are a placement option for many teens. Some teens stay in a group setting until another placement opportunity (relative care, family foster care) is available. Others prefer staying in a group setting until they can return to their parents or until they turn 18.
2005: Our Embrace Foster Care office in Pace contracted with Families First Network (FFN). This program has grown to include the recruitment, training, and licensing of families and homes in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties.
⦁ 2014: The Embrace Teen Center operated in Crestview until 2022. This program was developed to provide access to services to ensure stability of placements and enrichment activities. As these services became integrated into the training and ongoing management of each program, demand decreased for this center; therefore, resources have been reallocated to the Higher Education program now in development for Northwest Florida.
2016: Our Embrace Family Preservation program started serving Florida families referred to EFK from the Department of Children and Families First Network. Currently, our program serves up to 28 families at a time. Services last between 3 and 4 months. This program yields a 95% success rate of keeping families intact safely with no recurrence of abuse.
Q. Do you receive funding from the United Way?
Yes, our Milton Girls Home and Family Preservation program in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are funded in part by the United Way of West Florida. Our Family Preservation program in Okaloosa and Walton Counties are funded in part by United Way Emerald Coast.
Embrace Florida Children, Youth & Teen FAQs
Q. How many kids and family members are in each program?
Six teens at a time live 24/7 at our residential/group home location. Our foster care program serves 30-50 children and youth each month. Our family preservation program currently works with 28 families at a time (new families enter every 90-120 days).
Q. How do the kids leave programs?
Kids leave or graduate from our programs in different ways. Some kids are only with us briefly while arrangements are made for them to move on to placements with friends or family members. Other youth are reunited with their parents once parents demonstrate their ability to safely parent again. Some of our kids in foster care are adopted by their foster parents. Many teens remain with EFK through high school then progress to live independent lives. It is our goal, no matter how long a youth is with us, to do as much as possible to prepare youth for independence.
Q. Do you stay in touch with kids after they leave the program?
Yes! Our kids call to let us know how they are doing, what is new in their lives, and when major life events occur. We are sometimes able to assist financially when our youth experience an unexpected crisis or life event. We also track children for one year after discharge to identify any follow-up needs or issues.
Q. Does family reunification happen often?
Family reunification happens frequently within the child welfare system. Sometimes reunification occurs with extended family members rather than with parents. We are supportive of reunification when it occurs. Our programs work with the child/youth and the biological family to help the child/youth during this transition.
Q. Do kids visit with their family members?
Family visitation is conditional. Everyone involved must abide by all court orders. The court mandates what type of visitation is appropriate for each family. Some kids are able to visit their family members with few limitations, other kids may only see their family when a court-approved supervisor is in place to oversee the visit, and some kids are not allowed contact with their parents for safety reasons. As much as possible, siblings are placed together. When they cannot be placed together, sibling visitation is encouraged as frequently as possible.
Q. Do the kids participate in after-school programs?
Our kids are encouraged to participate in after-school programs such as athletic teams, band, clubs, and other interests. EFK desires to help our youth find their passion and to experience new things. However, the cost of these activities is not funded by local or state agencies and is only possible through the generous donations from the community.
Q. Are the kids involved in a church?
Unless they request to attend a church of another denomination, kids in group care worship in a United Methodist church near their group home. They are encouraged to participate in age-appropriate activities such as small groups, UMYF meetings, recreational activities, and service projects. Kids in family foster homes usually attend church with their foster parents.
Q. How do you provide spiritual care?
Spiritual care is provided in a variety of ways. When any child comes into a program, he or she is presented with a new, age-appropriate study Bible. As EFK staff members interact with kids, they have many opportunities to discuss spiritual matters. Though EFK does not require kids to attend church, they are encouraged to attend. Each Sunday, EFK staff members at our Milton Girls Home take the kids to their local “home church,” a congregation in the community that welcomes these girls into the life of the church. In the home church, kids participate in age-appropriate activities. An annual mission trip also provides our staff and kids with powerful spiritual formation experiences.
Potential Foster Parents FAQs
Q. What is foster parenting?
Licensed foster parents provide temporary care for children who have been removed from their biological family due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment until those children can safely return home or achieve another permanent outcome.
Q. How do I become an EFK foster parent in Florida?
Our Foster Care office, located in Pace, licenses homes in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties. The first step required is a 7-10 week foster parent training class. The licensing process includes an application process, intensive background checks, and a home safety assessment. A licensing worker makes a minimum of two visits to your home to complete family interviews, health inspections, and a fire inspection. All foster homes must comply with the minimum standards for foster homes as mandated by Department of Children and Families (DCF). Interested applicants should send an email to programs@EmbraceFLKids.org.
Q. How long does it take to become a licensed foster care home?
A variety of factors and circumstances determine the length of the licensing process. Licensure can take three months or longer, depending on completion of background checks, medical clearances and required certifications, the availability of training, and location of the foster home.
Q. What is respite care and how do I get licensed?
A respite care home allows foster parents a break from caregiving responsibilities by providing short-term care of children who are already placed in a foster home. Duration of respite care varies from one day to two weeks. A respite care home must be a fully licensed foster home.
Q. What are disqualifying factors?
Although this list is not all-inclusive, some of the factors that disqualify an individual from being a foster parent include violent crimes, drug-related crimes, felony thefts, a recent DUI, verified findings of child abuse, currently serving probation, and having his or her own children adjudicated dependent (under supervision by the court).
Q. What is the role of a foster parent?
Help children cope with separation and loss
Build healthy relationships
Use age-appropriate discipline
Build self-esteem and give positive guidance
Support cultural identity and religious practices
Transport children to medical, dental, and counseling appointments
Enroll children in school/daycare
Attend meetings pertaining to the children
Work with service providers (caseworkers, therapists, medical personnel)
Additionally, foster parents have varying participation in the following:
Transporting children to and from visitations
Notifying parents of medical appointments and school activities
Sending pictures, schoolwork, artwork to parents
Notifying parents of special events (ball games, plays, etc.)
Q. What about daycare/after school care?
A referral is made to Early Learning Coalition when the child is placed in your home. Participation is dependent on funding through Early Learning Coalition; however, childcare is currently available for children through age 8.
Q. What about board payment or a stipend for foster care parents?
Foster parents receive a monthly payment for care of the children (approx. $15/day). This payment is a reimbursement, not a salary. The payment is nontaxable and is not considered a source of income for income tax purposes.
Q. What about clothing expenses?
This is an additional payment distributed twice a year (April & August). Children ages 0-4 receive $100; children ages 5-17 receive $150.
Q. Are the children eligible for medical and other assistance while in my care?
Medical/dental and counseling are covered by Medicaid. The children are eligible for WIC assistance.