In 1997, something significant happened in our cities. Florida’s foster care brutality made national news headlines as children endured even greater trauma in the foster care system, making South Florida a dark place to be a child in foster care. Kids were starving, suffering abuse, and even disappearing or dying in the homes that were supposed to be safe — if they even got a home at all. Many kids were sent to group homes, shelters, institutions, and state-run facilities instead of a home with a family.
Out of this dark place a movement began. Across our community matches were being struck and little lights were beginning to form. One of those first lights was a woman named Irene. As a child-advocate, she saw the injustices of a broken system up close every day. Irene knocked on door after door, pleading the cause of the modern-day orphan. In 1997, one of the fastest growing churches in Broward County, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, listened and changed the course of the foster care crisis forever. Irene’s little light ignited a movement. Calvary put plans for a school on hold and instead charged their church to invest in the city’s most vulnerable population.
Project TeamWork 4KIDS
Out of that movement, Calvary formed Child SHARE, a ministry to recruit and support Christian foster families. In 1999, more lights were shining as Rick and Joan Englert began Project TeamWork 4KIDS as a part of their non-profit organization, Project TeamWork. With their own history as foster parents starting in Michigan in 1971, with the support of the Stacy Foundation, the Englerts and their team worked hard to make Project TeamWork 4KIDS one of the first Christian foster care agencies in Broward County. Their very first foster parent training classes were held at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Christ Church, and many others.
The passionate team at Child SHARE later expanded with a family-style home called Kids Place. With Kids Place, loving, Christian foster parents could live in the home dedicated to serving kids who would otherwise be difficult to place in traditional foster homes. This included teens and large sibling groups who would typically never have the chance to experience a home with a real family.
Project TeamWork 4KIDS grew as well, with over 150 families licensed in the first three years and over 700 kids served. They also piloted an innovative program called SafePlace, an emergency intake center for children while they waited for a more permanent home. In 2003, these two bright lights came together to create a beacon of hope for thousands—4KIDS of South Florida, a non-profit 501(c)(3) with the vision of a home for every child.
As 4KIDS pursued the vision, hundreds, and even thousands of others joined the journey. Thanks to a partnership of individuals, foundations, churches, and businesses, 4KIDS has been able to widen its reach and expand its plans to provide HOPE and HOMES. In 2005, 4KIDS created the Spirit of Success Institute (SOSI), with transitional independent living homes specifically designed for young adults aging out of foster care. Each home is uniquely equipped with resident advisors, with the goal to mentor and guide the young adults living in their home.
His Caring Place
4KIDS continued to develop their continuum of care by merging with His Caring Place. With a rich history as a crisis maternity home, His Caring Place allowed 4KIDS to care for moms and babies who could be separated in the foster care system. By equipping these young moms, 4KIDS His Caring Place is breaking cycles and saving thousands of lives two at a time.
In 2005, 4KIDS made the move north and began licensing foster families in Palm Beach County. This move allowed 4KIDS to serve thousands of more children in the following years. 4KIDS later opened SafePlace Palm Beach to meet the immediate needs of kids when they are first removed from their home.
The 4KIDS team is continuing to find new ways to build the very best families for children in our community. In recent years, that has included training parents and staff in the 4KIDS EPIC Therapeutic Approach. With a dedicated family therapist leading the way in this unique model, 4KIDS is positioning their entire team and families to better serve kids who come from hard places.
In the last two years 4KIDS extended their reach yet again, this time by establishing 4KIDS Treasure Coast. In the two years since its inception the Treasure Coast team has opened 71 foster homes and served 201 kids.
Today, 4KIDS serves newborns to young adults across six Florida Counties. In the last 20 years 4KIDS has impacted the lives of 20,000 kids and teens — but even greater, 4KIDS has shared eternal hope with an entire generation of children. Part of the history of 4KIDS includes embracing tension. 4KIDS lives in the balance between ministry and agency striving to deliver an excellent quality of care tempered with love that comes only from the Lord. God has called 4KIDS to do ministry in a land of agencies.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” – John 1:5
To celebrate 20 years 4KIDS is shining forward…until every child has a home. 4KIDS has illuminated hope for thousands but the passion for tomorrow is to reach the next 20,000 and beyond. 4KIDS, and their dedicated community of advocates and supporters, will keep shining until every child waiting in the darkness is welcomed home.
To learn more, visit www.4kidsofsfl.org.