"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
- Thomas A. Edison 
Monthly Update - March 2017  
Fostering Connections Teaches FFCR Volunteers about Programs for Older Youth

For Florida Foster Care Review volunteers, giving back requires continual learning. To serve on one of FFCR's  Citizen Review Panels - the teams that help ensure the safety and well-being of children, youth and young adults in foster care - volunteers must complete 25 hours of pre-service training and 10 hours of in-service education each year. Our monthly Fostering Connections training sessions are led by FFCR staff and often by our community partners.

On February 8th we hosted a Fostering Connections session, "Independent Living Programs and Opportunities for Older Foster Youth and Young Adults," which provided essential information about three programs. First was the  First Star University of Miami Academy, through which 30 rising 9th graders in foster care receive academic support, life skills training and help in building stable adult supports.  Next, OurKids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc. provided information about Florida's Independent Living Laws, including   The Regis Little Act , PESS Road to Independence , and Extended Foster Care , all of which aim to give additional support to young adults about to leave or recently out of foster care.

Volunteers also learned about   Keys to Independence , which reimburses youth in licensed foster care and their caregivers for costs associated with getting a learner's permit and driver's license. Keys to Independence, signed into law in 2014 as a three-year pilot project, has been a huge success: over 1,000 foster youth are currently enrolled in the program and 132 driver's licenses have been issued, increasing youth's independence and ability to get to work and/or school.  Florida  Senate Bill 60 and House Bill 217 , which would make Keys to Independence permanent, are currently moving through the Legislature.

See our links section for more info on Keys to Independences, and then contact your legislators to register your support!

Happy 80th Birthday to FFCR Volunteer Mike Samway!
Mike Samway (left), after a multi-generational skydive with grandson Keenen and son Michael.

Mike bites into his birthday cake decorated with his favorite team colors!
Mike Samway, featured in our  May 2016 Volunteer Spotlight , has been a valued Florida Foster Care Review volunteer for nearly 10 years. Mike's son, Michael, was an FFCR Board Chair in the 1990s and referred his dad as a volunteer. On March 22, 2017, Mike celebrated his 80th birthday. Dedicated volunteer that he is, Mike dutifully showed up for his Permanency Roundtable session. We were sure to have a surprise celebration ready to go! To mark this milestone, Mike will take to the air for a skydiving adventure accompanied by his granddaughter when she turns 18 this Fall. At 80 years young, Mike continues to show incredible passion for helping children in our community and is an inspiration to us all. Happy Birthday Mike!

FFCR Volunteers Observe Judges in Action

Judge Fine (far right) with FFCR volunteers and staff.

Per state statute, Citizen Review Panels (CRPs) are authorized to conduct the judicial review hearings required at least every six months for children and youth in foster care. To be most effective, it is critical for CRP volunteers to understand their work in the context of the legal process. CRP volunteers pour over every detail of the cases of children and youth in foster care and then produce recommendations that, once signed by the judge, become binding court orders promoting children's safety, well-being and permanency.

Volunteers observed hearings conducted by three dependency judges: the Honorable Alan Fine, the Honorable Mavel Ruiz and the Honorable Jeri B. Cohen. Volunteers provided feedback such as, "Loved hearing the judge discuss cases. Made a huge difference in [my] understanding.... Almost wished we could have stayed longer." Another participant noted, "It was helpful to observe the judge's interaction with the parents." Yet another added, "[It was] a good opportunity to see the cases 'live' and further apply our knowledge to understand the process."

We are delighted that our volunteers were able to see the dependency court process in action, and are grateful to our dependency court judges for their ongoing support and partnership.
Florida Foster Care Review Welcomes New Board Members

(left to right) Bily Fernandez, Melanie P. Merriman, David McWilliams

Florida Foster Care Review has added three new board members to the team. Bily Fernandez, an associate attorney in GrayRobinson's Miami office, focuses on litigation. She has also served as a judicial intern for the Honorable R. Fred Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court and the Honorable Adalberto Jordan of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. 

Melanie P. Merriman is founder and president of Touchstone Consulting. Following a career as a research scientist, Dr. Merriman completed an MBA and worked for VITAS Healthcare Corporation as Director of Quality and Compliance. She is nationally recognized for her work in quality assessment and performance improvement with hospice and palliative care providers. 

David McWilliams is a 38-year veteran of two financial services firms. He is also a founding trustee of Camillus House and sits on the board of Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove. He was also a 10-year trustee of his alma mater, Rhodes College. 

"We are excited to have three fantastic additions to our Board of Directors," said FFCR Executive Director Candice Maze. "Each member will bring great knowledge and experience from their respective areas of expertise."
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In the community

Foster Youth Weekly, FFCR's Online Newspaper 

Like being in the know? FFCR curates Foster Youth Weekly, an online paper focusing on resources useful to and supportive of youth in foster care and young adults recently in care. Check it out for employment info and more. To receive it in your inbox, be sure to subscribe!