Keeping at-risk children, families intact takes a community

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Resolve to make a meaningful impact on your community through Better Together


By Megan Rose


Megan Rose

After a decade of work inside Florida’s child welfare system, I could see there had to be a better way. Foster care is a traumatic experience for children, even in the best of circumstances. Families are simply better together.

Keeping families intact while providing parents with both community support and resources is at the core of Better Together, a nonprofit founded eight years ago that now works in 24 Florida counties and has served more than 9,000 children. Over 98% of families we’ve served through hosting and mentoring remain together.

Our work along Florida’s Gulf Coast is among the most impactful — and the most needed.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, the agency’s Suncoast region (its designation for Southwest Florida, from Pasco to Collier counties) had the highest number of children placed in out-of-home care, including foster care and group homes, as of July 31.

Nearly 2,500 children in this region were in foster care, group homes and other settings. That’s nearly 35% higher than the next highest region.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers and church communities, Better Together builds lasting support systems that help families cope with job loss, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration and other hurdles, while ensuring that children are cared for in a safe home until the family can be reunited.

Our families-focused initiative is wholly voluntary, and parents never lose legal custody of their children. Through our workforce initiative, Better Together also partners with churches and employers in 22 states to help at-risk parents and other job seekers find steady employment — a key factor to family stability considering that three-quarters of our families can trace their struggles to job loss. That program has served thousands of job seekers across the country — 70% of whom find jobs within six weeks.

Among our success stories is Lindsey Taylor, who several years ago faced the possibility of losing custody of her 5-week-old son. She had already been dealing with an 18-month DCF case with an older, behaviorally challenged child who faced an emergency hospitalization.

“I was ready to let him go, because I did not have the fight left in me to fight that journey again,” Taylor said. “I was ready to let my son go, but because of this organization, my son is 4 ½ now (living at home) and doing exceptionally well.”

As a nonprofit, Better Together is 100% privately funded. Our continued success in keeping kids out of foster care and lifting families out of poverty depends on robust community support and engagement.

Our approach also revolves around a critically important truth that tends to be overlooked by most government policies and social programs designed to address hunger, homelessness, neglect and poverty: Societies are made up of individuals, and no two people or families are the same.

At Better Together, we are building a community of people willing to help those who are hurting, one person and one family at a time. The kind of community that takes years of time and trust to build, with the kind of people who are in it for the long haul.

The cost savings are profound. A child in foster care costs Florida taxpayers roughly $30,000 each year, with the average stay around a year and a half.

At Better Together, our family-based program costs just $1,300 a year per child — with the typical child staying with their host family for just 45 days before family reunification.

More than 20,000 calls are made to the state’s abuse hotline each month. The vast majority of those children don’t need foster care. What they do need are healthy parents, a safe and secure home and community support. Our program keeps children safe, and out of the system, by empowering parents to help themselves.

Our goals are ambitious: to end the foster care crisis, starting with a targeted 20% reduction in the number of children in foster care over the next five years.

Big social problems don’t need one answer — they need millions of small ones. That’s how we grow our impact, one person at a time.

Megan Rose is CEO of Better Together, a nonprofit organization that helps parents and families. To help families in your community, get help or donate, visit or call 239-470-2733.


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