HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The major fallout with the child welfare system in the Bay Area has a lot of people concerned about what’s next for the children impacted the most and the families needed to care for them.
Tina Quant is one of those child advocates who wants people to do more. Her upcoming book, "Live to Fly, Learn to Soar," was motivated by her time in the system and the failures that she said are still there.
What You Need To Know
- Tina Quant is a child advocate raising awareness to encourage more people to foster children.
- Her upcoming book, "Live to Fly, Learn to Soar," was motivated by her time in the system and the failures that she said are still there.
- West Florida Foster Care Services' Empty Closet program helps foster families with necessities.
“I have a chapter on just basically letting you know why it’s important to give foster children life skills because the statistics are showing and it’s damning that most foster children who are not able to be adopted or have a long term family placement, they become either sex trafficked, they become homeless and suicidal,” Quant said.
Quant’s efforts come just as the Department of Children and Families terminated their contract with the child welfare agency, Eckerd Connects. The criminal investigation into Eckerd Connects for child neglect and child abuse is even more unsettling to advocates like Quant.
She knows firsthand how important proper foster care is for children.
“The way they were doing it with Eckerd unfortunately was wrong. But again if you don’t have people, and basically what my book is about, stepping up, speaking up and standing up for these children that means that either we need to recruit more emergency placements as well as foster parents and adoptive parents as possible because there is a definite need,” she said.
Now with a family of her own, Quant is using her book, her non-profit Quant S.O.A.R., INC. and her volunteer work as a guardian ad litem to fight for children in the system that she was once a part of 20 years ago.
“Depending upon the needs of the child then they have to determine what will be the best suitable fitting placement for them,” she said. “Like in our case, my baby brother had a hole in his heart. So they needed to accommodate accordingly. So he didn’t get to stay with us until my sister got custody of us later in life.”
She said she worries people will continue to push the issues in the child welfare system under the rug.
But programs like the Empty Closet offered by West Florida Foster Care Services gives her hope. The program offers foster families everything from diapers, to food to clothes.
WFFCS Director of Family Advocacy Janet Rinaldi said their goal is to make it easy on foster families to provide for foster children.
“It’s all about families being able to say yes. Not everybody can take foster kids into their home but everybody can do something and the families that can take these kids in, they need the rest of us to do something to take something off their plate, make it just a little bit easier for them to continue taking care of these kids in a crisis situation.” Rinaldi said.
She said the child welfare crisis in the Bay Area is much greater than people may think.
“Right now, Hillsborough County leads the state of the number of kids in care which is a crazy statistic,” Rinaldi said. “But we need good foster homes and we need good families to step up to take in these children and to be that safe place for them while they are in transition. So what we’re doing here is, we’ve got you. If you are one of those families who can step in and take in a child, we will support you 100%.”
100% is what both Rinaldi and Quant plan to keep giving to the vulnerable children of Tampa Bay, whether it’s in the form of clothes, services or a helping hand and they’re hoping others will get on board with too.