Children’s Home Society of Florida
Vero Beach, Florida
"Happy birthday! You’re 18, and now you’re homeless." That’s the bleak message that children in Florida who "age out" of the foster care system receive, says Marta Schneider of Vero Beach, who for 10 years has served on the Indian River Advisory Board of Florida’s Children’s Home Society (CHS), headquartered in Winter Park.
"Many of these children have been abused or neglected," she says, "have one or both parents in jail or dead, or don’t know where their parents are. In many cases, they have been in and out of foster homes, have understandably chosen wrong paths, and don’t have GEDs, let alone high school diplomas. Their chances of making it on their own are one in a million, if that. Growing up is hard enough, even if you have two caring parents."
Marta knows about that firsthand. She and her husband had challenges raising their own three children, all of whom had serious problems but are now thriving adults. That experience drew her to CHS, where she was instrumental in opening a Girls’ Group Home for girls ages 12 to 18 who have fallen through the cracks of the foster care and adoption systems. Marta also used her interior design skills to guide the decorating and furnishing of its bedrooms with fun, youthful themes like Jungle Boogie and Magical Mermaid.
Now she’s cajoling donors for $5 million to establsh a transitional home for young adults 18 - 23. (She’s already halfway there!) Residents will be required to go to school, work, participate in a mentoring program, and pay graduated rent. "I don’t really like asking people for money," she admits. But when she sees a former girls’ home resident graduate and plan a career in sports therapy for overweight teens, it’s worth the effort. "If we care about where our country is going," Marta says determinedly, "we have to break this cycle."