Any parent will tell you it takes a village to support the healthy growth of their children. From grandparents and aunts and uncles to cousins and friends that are family, it’s those bonds of love and care that carry through in celebrations and crises. For foster children, those hero helpers may look a bit different. While foster parents open their homes to children, providing comfort and a sense of stability, there are still many holes that need to be filled to effectively provide for the complete needs of a child in foster care. We’ve found some local organizations who give it their all to support these children and their families and to help them get essentials and feel the warmth of home.

In Florida, foster care is privatized, operated by an organization in the county, usually a nonprofit. St. Johns is the only county in the state where operations are handled by the county, which has perks and disadvantages. One downside is the inability to fundraise, notes Aubrie Simpson-Gotham, founder and CEO of Fostering Connections, a non-profit that serves St. Johns, Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties.

During her teaching career, Simpson-Gotham noticed huge gaps in the system for children, especially kids in foster care. After working for a non-profit, she was determined to find a way to fill the voids. “There weren’t a lot of services in the area [where I was teaching] and the students needed more,” she says. In 2019, with the support of her own friends, she decided to fill those gaps herself through Fostering Connections.

Although resources and supplies, like laptops and school supplies, are part of the programming offered by Fostering Connections, they strive to provide access to items that aren’t covered by stipends and Medicaid. “There are a lot of potholes in the services for kids. Things like contact lenses aren’t provided for, or braces,” notes Simpson-Gotham.

In addition to offering grants for these needs, Simpson-Gotham says it’s access to education and mentorship that are the most crucial needs she sees. To fill that void, Fostering Connections has a program called Career Readiness Academy. It is the cornerstone of the nonprofit’s mission. “It’s heartbreaking to see what these kids are going through. But it’s inspiring to open doors and open life for them and show them opportunities. It’s rewarding.”

One recent effort to acquire permanent transportation for a young man to get to work is particularly memorable for Simpson-Gotham. “It totally changed what was available to him.”

There are numerous options to build the mission of Fostering Connections, from monetary donations to in-kind new items, as well as volunteering opportunities. For education and career development, individuals can also act as a job coach or mentor to assist in a foster child’s long-term success.

But Fostering Connection isn’t the only local organization supporting foster families.

In Volusia County, Kidd’s Are First endeavors to benefit children–fostered, orphaned, or disadvantaged–in the surrounding area. Marie Bonham saw a need to bring essential items to children in the foster care system that state, local and federal governments did not provide. It was founded in 2002 and operates on a 100% volunteer basis. Clothing donations often stock the unique KRFashions boutique. The store, which opened in 2010, is a completely free resource where children can “shop” for outfits and accessories, as well as school supplies, toys, uniforms and sports equipment.

Kidds Are First is always looking for volunteers and donations to support their efforts and grow their impact. For more information, review their website ( or social page (

Kids First Florida is a nonprofit organization that supports children who have or are experiencing abuse or neglect, specifically in Clay County. According to their website, the organization is responsible for finding and funding safe and appropriate housing when returning home is not an option. Information for this entity can be found at

Intervention Before Separation

Founded in 1902 as an orphanage, Children’s Home Society (CHS) has served Florida for nearly 120 years. With support throughout the state, their core mission, “Building bridges of success for children” is a pivotal cornerstone of an overarching goal: intervention before separation.

Regional Director of Northeast Florida, Ernie Hamilton, has been serving families in various capacities for 29 years. Though he acknowledges separation of families may be required at times, “Our long-term goal is to keep that family together, that unit together, because we know that children thrive when they have the security of their family.”

To drive the mission, CHS employs multiple programs to mitigate family separation. Programs range from the Healthy Start initiative, which provides prenatal information, to the Healthy Family program, which supports parents with newborns, and continues to the Community Partnership School program, providing a range of interventions and resources to meet the needs of each family and adapt as those requirements shift. Additionally, they connect families to mental health and counseling support in the local area. With the goal of keeping the nuclear unit intact, introducing a foster family placement is a final method, with the intention of reunification whenever possible.

“We are more of a support service to the child, we have our clinical programs, we have therapy throughout the schools, within the family unit. There are just all types of things. It’s fascinating. We really get to see the turn or the evolution of the child,” says Hamilton.

But he also knows the organization cannot do their work and be successful operating as an independent agency. “It definitely takes a community collaboration,” he says, noting that most of all, children require love and care, whether they are in a foster home or not.

Foster parenting may not be accessible to every household, but there are countless ways to support children and families in care. Whether it’s donating money, offering a skills or trade class, or even supplying a family with a complimentary service, like haircuts or mechanic work, the possibilities to uplift the local foster families and children are as plentiful as the talents amongst community members.

For more information on foster care in Florida: or to learn how to become a child advocate visit: