E-Update Summer 2015 E-Update Summer 2015


Heart Gallery Newsletter -The Face of foster Care-

www.ChildNet.us                                                                                                      Summer 2015  


Message from Emilio

The Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott have wholeheartedly approved a generous child welfare allocation package that will go a long way to address some of the budgeting challenges faced by Community-Based Care (CBC) lead agencies, like ChildNet, across the state. While all the funds have not yet been distributed, the state-wide allocation includes a budget increase of $16.1 million for the Department of Children & Families (DCF) to disperse to all lead agencies, $13 million for the risk pool to address future deficits and unforeseen circumstances that place strains on lead agencies' budgets, and $10 million for DCF to issue to those lead agencies that have experienced significant deficits due to dramatic spikes in the number of children in care. ChildNet will likely benefit from each of these sources of funding.

However, with the continued rise in the number of children being brought into the child welfare system and with those increases expected to continue across the state due a more rigorous investigation into child abuse and neglect allegations, more funding is required to hire the case managers needed to care for these additional children. Case managers oversee children's safety and stability until a permanent home can be achieved. Without the support of additional case managers, more child removals will further burden an already over-extended case management services. ChildNet is grateful for the strides that have already been made but encourages legislators to finance the child welfare system at the appropriate level.

During the upcoming legislative session, we need the community to continue to champion our most vulnerable children and demand adequate funding for child welfare case management services. We can and we must make the child welfare system stronger to ensure that our children are safe, stable and thriving.

Emilio Benitez, President & CEO, ChildNet, Inc.


Congratulations Class of 2015! 

Graduation is a time of new beginnings but for youth in foster care, it is also a time to reflect on their resiliency in facing long odds against attaining this accomplishment.  This summer, ChildNet and its partners commemorated the achievements of youth in foster care who graduated from middle school, high school, college or obtained their GED.  Will Clervil and LilCrystal Dernier were among this year's youth who received their degrees.

Will Clervil graduated from Jupiter Christian High School with honors.  This fall, he plans on attending Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida on a partial football scholarship, majoring in psychology and social work.  Six years ago, graduaing from high school and going to college was not even a dream for Will.  He was homeless, living in motels, staying in the homes of friends and eventually staying in abandoned houses.  'You can come from the ghetto or the streets and become something more than what the statistics say about you,' said Will.

This August in Palm Beach County, ChildNet partnered with Children's Home Society, Vita Nova, Guardian ad Litem, Legal Aid Society, Friends of Foster Children and Place of Hope to host a graduation reception for the 26 youth in care who have achieved their high school diploma, GED or a college degree. Twelve of these youth received a laptop from AT&T, and they all received gift cards from Guardian ad Litem and a certificate from ChildNet.

Twenty-three-year old LilCrystal Dernier graduated from Florida A&M University with a Bachelor in Criminal Justice and Psychology and a Minor in Business Administration. She has plans to pursue her Masters and Doctorate in Criminology and Non-Profit Management. LilCrystal's life did not start with so much promise. Her mother passed when she was one year old and she was placed in foster care at age ten. LilCrystal shared that her "aspiration is to be a philanthropist by giving back to communities and creating innovative programs to assist children and young adults in reaching their fullest potential."

More than 100 youth celebrated their matriculation at the annual Transitional Independent Living "Build on Your Dreams" event at Broward College in June. ChildNet partnered with Camelot Community Care, Children's Services Council, FLITE Center, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, HANDY, Memorial Healthcare System, Henderson Behavioral Health and SOS Children's Village to coordinate the heart-warming and inspirational graduation ceremony. Young adults, like LilCrystal, who was formerly in foster care shared their stories of perseverance and academic achievement. 


Foster Parents of the Year  

Day in and day out, foster parents take a gamble and open their hearts and homes to children brought into care. These everyday heroes, who nurture and love children in foster care, were recognized in May at Foster Parent Appreciation events in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Foster Home Management agencies in Palm Beach honored the following as Foster Parents of the Year: Lisa Bourassa and Gary Giamboi – Camelot Community Care; Erika deMier Gonzalez – National Youth Advocate Program; Ben and Anne Cooper – 4Kids of South Florida; Alberta Freeman – Choices; Miguel and Moudeline Suarez – Camelot Community Care; Christina and Eric Wood – KID, Inc.; and in Broward County: Diane Lake – National Youth Advocate Program; Karen LaSure – 4Kids of South Florida; and Sondra Ragin – National Mentor Healthcare, Inc. Kudos to these amazing foster parents and to all the families who touch the lives of our children in care.

Learn more about becoming a foster parent. Call the Foster Recruitment Hotline in Broward County at 954.414.6001 and in Palm Beach County at 561.352.2501. 


Sponsor Spotlight:  Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital at Memorial  

Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, a leading pediatric hospital in the region, has announced that it will once again sponsor ChildNet's Care for Kids Luncheons in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. The 224-bed, free-standing children's hospital will be the presenting sponsor for the Palm Beach event and an advocate sponsor for the Broward event. Proceeds from the luncheons, which will be held in April and May 2016, benefit children in foster care.

"Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, under the umbrella of Memorial Healthcare Services, believes children should grow up with the benefits of good educations and safe childhoods," said Melida Akiti, Vice President of South Broward Community Health Services at Memorial and Vice Chair of ChildNet's Board of Directors. "ChildNet is a natural fit for Joe DiMaggio's community outreach activities as we extend our services across Broward and into Palm Beach County."

In addition to its partnership with ChildNet, Joe DiMaggio and Memorial support Broward County Public Schools Partners in Education program, Safe Kids Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and the Buckle Up, Walk to School and Bike Safety Day campaigns, as well as offer safety equipment in underserved communities.

"Both ChildNet and Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital are in the business of keeping kids healthy and safe, and we are delighted that Joe DiMaggio will continue its affiliation with ChildNet," said Emilio Benitez, President and CEO at ChildNet.

Joe DiMaggio provides a comprehensive scope of healthcare services, from minor illnesses and trauma-related accidents to some of the most complex medical conditions, in an ecological, child-friendly atmosphere. For the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital among the top in its Best Children's Hospitals rankings, this year in the top 50 in the nation for pediatric orthopedic surgery, pediatric urology and pediatric cardiology and heart surgery.

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for ChildNet's Care for Kids Luncheons, contact Gillian Moxey in Palm Beach County by phone at 561.352.2500 ext. 2459 or by e-mail at gmoxey@childnet.us and Bibi Deen in Broward by phone at 954.414.6000 ext. 8043 or by e-mail at bdeen@childnet.us.


Emilio Benitez Recognized as Administrator of the Year at FCC 2015 Annual Conference 

ChildNet President & CEO Emilio Benitez was named Administrator of the Year at the Florida Coalition for Children's (FCC) 2015 Annual Conference this summer. The award is given annually to a candidate that has advanced the effectiveness and relevance of their agency's mission and programs in meeting the needs of the children, youth and families they serve.

"This award is about the ChildNet team," says Emilio. "It reflects the commitment and passion of the people who come to work at ChildNet every day to care for abused, abandoned and neglected children in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. I'm proud of all we have accomplished."

Under Emilio's guidance, ChildNet utilizes and implements innovative technology, quality initiatives and new programs to promote great advancements and outcomes in the field of child welfare. "ChildNet continues to move the needle forward in leading children towards safety, stability and permanence," said Emilio.

ChildNet's Executive Director Monica King accepted the award on Emilio's behalf at the conference reception, which was attended by several hundred child welfare providers and advocates. The reception culminated the FCC conference, which was a celebration not only of exceptional leaders, but also of the vast achievements Florida has made since privatizing child welfare and transitioning to a Community-Based Care system more than a decade ago. 


Bella's Bags Offers Dignity to Foster Kids  

For the 5th year this summer, Bella's Bags partnered with the Pantry of Broward County to donate to ChildNet's SafePlace program more than 50 backpacks filled with cuddly stuffed animals, books and toiletries. Bella's Bags is a program of Bella's Kinship Group, a nonprofit organization that supports children who are being raised by grandparents and other relatives.

"Not many kids are lucky enough to have great grandparents like I do," shares Bella's Bags co-founder, 14-year old Isabella Glazer. Isabella has been living with her sister Gabriella and her grandparents Drs. Ira and Marietta Glazer since she was 3 years old and her parents were unable to take care of her. Isabella and Gabriella wanted to meet other kids living with their grandparents and give back to the community so they created Bella's Bags. "I wanted to bring a little dignity to kids in foster care," said Isabella.

To learn how you can help children in foster care, click HERE to visit ChildNet's website.


ChildNet Naming Opportunities

ChildNet offers one-time opportunities for individuals and companies to show their support of the community's most vulnerable children by naming a room at ChildNet's new facilities. "Contributions let people know that you care about children in foster care and will help ChildNet create warm, happy places for children and their families, as well as staff and community members who visit our offices," said ChildNet's Executive Director Monica King.

On May 29th, BB&T not only committed to naming a room but also sent nearly 40 volunteers, including South Florida's Regional President Mike Oster and Broward County's Market President Jason Aube, to paint murals in the seven visitation rooms at ChildNet's new facilities as part of BB&T's Lighthouse Project. The six-year BB&T Lighthouse Project is an all-hands-on-deck community service effort when BB&T associates volunteer time away from work to lend a hand to those in need. "We want to provide our associates with an opportunity to enhance the quality of life for residents in community and make a difference while having fun," said BB&T's Senior Vice President Nanci Campbell, who coordinated the project. "I am personally committed to helping children in foster care and creating child-friendly spaces at ChildNet was a perfect match for BB&T."

"ChildNet appreciates community partners like BB&T who are working with us to provide an ideal office space where we can serve the children in our care," adds Monica.

Naming opportunities range from visitation rooms, meeting rooms, the lobby and the building and are still available. To learn more, contact Bibi Deen by phone at 954.414.6000 ext. 8043 or by e-mail at bdeen@childnet.us. 


Event Dollars Help ChildNet Say 'Yes' to Foster Kids

Dollars from ChildNet Care for Kids Luncheons in Palm Beach and Broward Counties will enable ChildNet to say "yes" to enrichment activities so foster children can join sports teams, participate in summer camps, go on field trips, and take dance classes, to create happy childhood memories.

In April, the second annual luncheon in Palm Beach County was held at Frenchman's Reserve and was attended by nearly 200 guests. The exclusive event featured Liz Quirantes, CBS 12 anchor and ChildNet Board Member as the mistress of ceremonies and foster parent Becky Woodbridge who shared her inspirational story. Commissioner Melissa McKinlay was presented with ChildNet's Champion for Children Award.

Luncheon sponsors included: Home Sponsor: Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital; Heart Sponsors: Florida Power & Light Company and Palm Beach Kennel Club; Hope Sponsors: BB&T, Clara's Secret Shepherd, Curate, El Dorado Furniture, Florida Community Bank, Grandma's Place; Place of Hope, Quantum Foundation, Senator Jack Latvala; Sunshine Health; Help Sponsors: Boys Town South Florida, Junior League of the Palm Beaches, Heidi Schaeffer, M.D. Charitable Foundation.

In May, more than 220 guests kicked-off the inaugural luncheon in Broward County, which was held at Pier Top Lounge Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six. Local 10 News anchor and reporter Eric Yutzy was the master of ceremonies and adopted youth, Gabriella Stroup, inspired guests with her story and a song. I. Lorraine Thomas of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption received a standing ovation for her deep commitment to foster children when she was presented with ChildNet's Champion for Children Award.

Luncheon sponsors included: Presenting Sponsor: Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP; Guardian Sponsors: I. Lorraine Thomas, JM Family Enterprises, Inc., Marsh & McLennan Agency; Advocate Sponsors: BB&T, Dex Imaging, Greenberg Traurig, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital at Memorial, Stiles, Tripp Scott, Attorneys at Law; Mentor Sponsors: Baptist Health South Florida, Cherry Bekaert, Chris Evert Children's Hospital, Florida Community Bank, Gray-Robinson Attorneys at Law, Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Dwyer PA, Sunshine Health; Supporting Sponsors: Emilio Benitez, Humana. 


Event Calendar

August 28       ChildNet Open House - Broward County
October 7       Circle of Supporters Networking Mixer
November 20  National Adoption Day, Palm Beach County


Support ChildNet by Shopping at AmazonSmile 

When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon will donate to ChildNet.  Simply click HERE to go directly to the smile.amazon.com page in support of ChildNet.  You can also save the link (http://smile.amazon.com/ch/65-1149351) in your browser for easy access everytime you are ready to shop on Amazon.  


Fall into the Net

Join ChildNet on the net and help cast the safety net for children in foster care. Visit, like and follow ChildNet on the web, Facebook and Twitter to comment on the latest news, events, photos and more!   




ChildNet Broward County
1100 West McNab Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309 
Phone: 954-414-6000
Fax: 954-414-6019 

ChildNet Palm Beach County 
4100 Okeechobee Boulevard
West Palm Beach, FL 33409  
Phone: 561-352-2500
Fax: 561-352-2480                

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