Helping at-risk children

At Risk Children, featured

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — As one of the country’s largest nonprofit child and family services organization, Eckerd Community Alternatives has been helping give at-risk children a second chance at life since 1968. Founded by Jack and Ruth Eckerd, the organization provides life changing child welfare, juvenile justice, work force development and behavioral health programs to over 18,000 children and families a year.

Brian Bostick, Executive Director

Brian Bostick, Executive Director

“I don’t really think that the community is aware of the number of children that are being abused, abandoned or neglected in our area,” said Brian Bostick, executive director for Eckerd Community Alternatives Pasco and Pinellas, who believes it is paramount to provide these children with forever families.

Eckerd offers a variety of programs, including prevention services, community-based services, transitional services and residential services. Prevention promotes healthy child development by intervening early in children’s lives to promote lifelong success, while community-based services help children and families involved in child welfare, juvenile justice or both.

Transitional services aid families in a youth’s return from a residential placement, when a child has been away from home for an extended period of time. Residential services provide therapeutic treatment for youngsters who have behavioral and emotional issues.

At-Risk_Ad, featuredBostick said when a child is removed from his or her home or they come to Eckerd’s attention, the organization tries to discern what services the children need.

“Trying to find a permanency option for these kids, that’s the main thing,” he said. “They’re being able to have a normal life.”

Bostick, who has been with Eckerd Community Alternatives since 2008, started his career in child welfare in the early 1990s. He has held various supervisory positions within the Florida Department of Children and Families. Under his leadership, a new record was set in 2013 when over 300 children in the Pinellas/Pasco foster care system were adopted by forever families.

“I think it’s very important work that we’re doing, trying to get children to families,” he noted. “Just trying to impact and change the trajectory of these kids and these families so that they can be successful.”

In Pasco and Pinellas counties, Eckerd Community Alternatives is the lead agency providing child welfare and foster care services to approximately 2,600 children and teens each day.

For more information, please visit Eckerd.org.

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