When Patrick and Keri Kruse started running out of room in their home about three years ago, they decided that they wanted to help even more foster children.
“I just remember thinking we are going to be here,” Patrick Kruse said of when he first saw the homes in the Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida Manasota Campus. “I just felt it was right. Ever since we’ve been here, it has been.”
For almost a year, the Kruses have lived in one of the three homes in the Manasota Campus of Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida, a “non-denominational Christian organization that exists to provide hope and faith-based homes for abused, abandoned or neglected children in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties,” according to a brochure. The Kruses currently have five foster children, including one sibling group, and a biological child in the six-bedroom house in Palmetto. They are now looking into adopting one of the foster children.
“We didn’t get into fostering to adopt at all,” Patrick Kruse said. “Our hearts were never thinking of adopting. ... I’ve learned that fostering is different for everyone. Every situation is completely different.”
As Manatee County faces a shortage of foster care homes, in part because of the heroin epidemic, Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida, which works in partnership with Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, is looking to expand to be able to serve more children. The nonprofit, which also has 24 traditional foster homes, is currently working with the county on the final site plan to be able to have a total of nine homes on the 9-acre campus in Palmetto.
“The goal is to build it out as soon as possible,” said Bobbie Price, president of the board of Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida. “We are continuously fund-raising to meet the needs.”
While Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida has a model that works especially to keep siblings together, they don’t start building the homes until they have the funds in place. Funding to build more homes is the No. 1 obstacle for the nonprofit.
“The main goals of these homes is to keep sibling groups together,” Price said. “That is so important.”
The countywide need for more foster homes has prompted Sarasota YMCA Safe Children Coalition, Department of Children and Families and Manatee County government to host a town hall meeting from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Dream Center, 922 24th St. E., Bradenton.
“We’ve got this huge need,” Price said. “Our goal is to help meet this crisis by providing foster parents and homes. The community is what it takes.”
With the drug epidemic among other issues, the children in need of foster homes are piling up, Patrick Kruse said.
“The entire county needs to change their outlook,” he said. “It should affect everyone. I looked at foster parents like policemen, firemen and military. They are saving lives.”