Connecting Open Arms and Homes to Children in Need

Increased Need for Foster Homes for Teens, Sibling Groups

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

Opening your arms to a child who has experienced abuse or neglect should come naturally to all of us. Opening your home takes another level of commitment.

Charlotte County needs more families willing to open their homes and their hearts to children in foster care. The most recent data indicates that Charlotte County has the 2nd highest rate of child abuse for children ages 5 to 11 in the State of Florida. This is not the kind of ranking where you want to be at the top, but unfortunately that is where we are. Our families are in crisis and our children need a haven while their families receive support to help them flourish.

Child abuse, neglect and well-being topped the priority list for the 2020 Charlotte County Community Health & Needs Assessment. It is the vision of United Way of Charlotte County to have a community where all citizens achieve their potential through education, financial stability, and healthy lives. This vision must begin with our children and their well-being. Camelot Community Care, in partnership with Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, envisions the same bright future for Charlotte County and is seeking to license new foster homes to meet the demand and prioritize the well-being of our youngest residents.

As a foster parent, you decide what level of commitment makes sense for your home. You can choose to be a traditional foster home with long-term placements, or you can choose to provide respite care, emergency, short-term placements. You can designate a preferred age range, a preferred gender and the number of children you can accommodate.

There are many options available for a potential foster parent to choose from. For the children who are placed in care, however, they do not get to choose if they are an only child or if they have siblings. They do not get to choose what age they enter care. They do not get to choose how much trauma they have experienced or how it has impacted them. And they certainly do not get to choose what medical conditions they may be dealing with.

Camelot Community Care is actively seeking new foster homes in Charlotte County that are willing to provide more options for placements. Options that are more difficult to find are those that will take a sibling group, teenagers, children with severe trauma (and may need to be the only child in the home) and those children who are medically needy.

It takes more than open arms to meet these children where they are and offer them a loving home, whether short- or long-term. It requires commitment, patience and acceptance.

Camelot will provide the initial training needed to prepare you for this journey. For one night a week over six consecutive weeks you will gain understanding in how trauma can impact a child’s development and how you can provide trauma-informed care to a child or sibling group. (Trainings are currently being held virtually.) They will also provide family support meetings, ongoing trainings, case management, and service referrals. Stipends are offered for foster families and childcare subsidies can be made available, if needed.   

Countless studies have shown that one stable, caring and supportive relationship between a child and an adult caregiver can make all the difference in developing resilience in the child. Your home could be that haven that is so desperately needed in Charlotte County. Yours could be the hands that tuck a child into bed at night, letting them know that there are better days ahead for them and a brighter future on the horizon for their community.  

For more information and the dates of the next foster care training series, call (855) 933-KIDS (5437) or visit You can also contact Jillian Bell at Camelot Community Care with questions by calling (941) 613-3922.

For more information, please call the United Way of Charlotte County at 941-627-3539. Mission: Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty. Angie Matthiessen is the Executive Director of United Way of Charlotte County. She can be reached at