KEY LARGO -- The efforts of a local charity will soon bring two foster houses to Atlantic Drive, near mile marker 100.2, oceanside.
The group, Voices for Florida Keys Children, has been raising funds for several years to secure a permanent facility to prevent foster children from being separated from their schools and friends.
While raising money for the houses, the charity has continued its daily operation of providing assistance to foster and dependent children. When the children are placed in a home through court order, the Florida Department of Children and Families provides some financial help. The goal of Voices for Florida Keys Children is to close the monetary gap left by the state.
Financial help often takes the form of money for orthodontic work or summer camp. The group also issues scholarships for secondary education.
"We have very active volunteers and a very active board," said Tom Woods, a local attorney who is one of 25 who serve on the board of directors. The group has about 200 volunteers spread throughout the county.
The property where the two future foster facilities sit was donated by the group's president, Kathy Lasseter.
"What we need down here is more foster parents to step up," she said.
Lasseter's group works closely with the court-appointed Guardian ad Litem program that helps manage the well-being of the roughly 200 foster children in the Florida Keys. Volunteers in the program serve as advocates for the children.
After many Monroe County foster children were being forced to go to Miami to find a permanent home, Lasseter said Voices for Florida Keys Children shifted gears and began raising funds for local facilities.
The first house is slated to open later this month after finally resolving permitting issues with the county's building department, Woods said.
Once the home is open, four children and a foster parent will be able to move in. The family will be charged a reasonable rental rate, Lasseter said.
The group is selling personalized bricks for $50 to raise money for the foster homes. The bricks will be laid at the home sites.
For more information, visit www.voicesflkeyschilren.org.