PALMETTO -- It's just a construction site now, but a local nonprofit hopes that in less than a year two houses will be built near Ellenton-Gillete Road to welcome at least 12 foster children from Manatee, Sarasota andDeSoto counties.
"We want to provide a stable loving home for displaced children," said Bobbie Price, president of Guardian Angels of S.W. Fl., Inc, a Bradenton nonprofit providing construction funding.
"They've come from such a dysfunctional path that we would really like to give them some stability and sense of hope, that there's a future."
There are 7,945 children living in foster care inFlorida, 121 of them in Manatee County, saidErin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the Florida Depart-ment of Children and Families.
"In the last several years we have substantially decreased the number of children in foster care," Gillespie said.
In August 2011, there were 137 children in foster care in Manatee County, she said.
Guardian Angels bought 7.3 acres of land in Palmetto where they can build up to seven foster homes, said Floyd Price, a board member for the nonprofit. Phase 1 groundbreaking occurred earlier this month, and the foundations and part of the plumbing for the homes are already in place, he said.
Each house will have six bedrooms and six and a half bathrooms, Price said. Having houses that can accommodate up to six children will hopefully prevent siblings from being separated, he said.
"We're trying to make that a relic," Price said of the splitting of brothers and sisters when they are placed in different foster homes.
The nonprofit is partnering with Florida Baptist Children's Homes, an organization that will oversee the recruiting, training, and licensing of couples who want to become foster parents.
"We have criteria that has to be met," said Pam Whitaker, central Florida administrator for Florida Baptist Children's Homes.
The faith-based organization aims to attract couples of any denomination who are New Testament believers, who are active in church, have fairly good health, and can pass background screenings, Whitaker said. The couples won't have to pay for housing, just utilities.
"The expectations are that one parent stays home while the other works full-time," she said. "So that there's that consistency of care that children need."
The separation of siblings "adds trauma to an already difficult situation," Whitaker said. "To keep the family unit together is a high priority."
Bobbie and her husband, Floyd, sponsored a Cambodian family back in 1981 for a few months. "I think that planted the seed, it created within us an awareness of the needs of children," she said.
Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamValverde.