TAMPA, Fla. — We have seen it far too many times. A tragedy, for some reason, occurs.
Children lose their parents. And then siblings are traumatized again as they’re separated by the foster care system.
Now, a new housing development in Hillsborough County is aimed at keeping those foster kids together.
Thanks to $1 million from this year’s state budget, something priceless is about to happen at the New Life Village community in Tampa.
Entire families of foster kids - siblings - who would have otherwise split up by the system, won’t be.
“We are hoping to attract families that do want to help these children get to permanency - that are larger groups,” said New Life Village Executive Director Mariah Hayden.
The issue, Hayden said, is that foster parents are willing, but often can’t afford or lack the space to foster a full family of siblings.
“Couldn’t afford the housing because there’s an affordable housing crisis,” she said.
State Representative Jackie Toledo (R) Tampa helped secure the funding for 16 affordable housing units at New Life Village.
In the past, the development had mostly served extended family members who took in kids.
Now, it's available for foster parents too.
“They have wraparound services for these families. So, you have mental health assistance. You have so many activities that are provided within the community,” said Toledo. “I think they’re going to do amazing things.”
Antonia Robles knows how important it is to keep brothers and sisters together. Eight years ago, she and her husband were suddenly faced with raising their four grandchildren or watching them become separated in the foster care system.
“Oh, for them it would have been devastating,” said Robles.
New Life Village provided them the space they needed and could afford.
“They are all straight-A students. I honestly have to say that,” Robles said proudly. “They are very good.”
“It changes a lot of negative statistics that are probable for these youth,” said Hayden, “But more importantly it helps them heal and it helps them dream.”
With the $1 million in funding now secure, New Life Village intends to break ground sometime in July, with hopes of wrapping up construction in about nine months.
The money from the state budget will cover about a quarter of the overall cost. The remaining 75 percent, which took about five years to raise, is a combination of matching local government funds and private donations.
“Keeping siblings together is shown to save lives and to keep the trauma out of their lives. And that’s what we want to do,” said Toledo.
“These children that are in need - and family to take them under their wing - it’s just amazing,” said Robles. “They will be successful; they will be successful.”
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