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Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Herald-Tribune. Danielle Wright is the Florida area director for CarePortal. Danny and Ann Marie Jones are co-founders of Bridge a Life in Sarasota.

After years of working in the child welfare system, we know that a child’s life can change with just four simple words: “Nice to meet you.”

We see it firsthand thanks to the compassionate people who work tirelessly to support children who can’t remain safely in their homes. We see it firsthand thanks to the social workers doing heroic work to meet the growing demand. And we see it firsthand thanks to the foster parents and volunteers who care for these kids.

With more than 1,400 children in the foster care system across Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, it is no secret that things are not perfect. But what we also know is that well-supported families are successful families.

That’s why a coalition of agencies across our region have been collaborating to provide services and training opportunities to help biological, foster and adoptive parents maximize the love they provide. This work is strengthened by a network of individuals, organizations and churches that volunteer time and treasure to provide things like hot meals, laundry assistance and necessities for these families.

These small gestures may seem trivial, but we see the tears in the eyes of foster parents freed from having to stress about what to have for dinner. We see the joy in the eyes of foster children when they receive their first bicycle or toy – something they can call their own.

Historically we have relied on word-of-mouth and relationships with churches and synagogues to identify the needs of foster families. But thanks to leadership and funding from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and the Manatee Community Foundation, we are bringing our referral network into the 21st century.

Bridge a Life, a local foster care nonprofit, has been designated to spearhead regional efforts to implement a national initiative that is designed to provide a digital hub that connects the faith community with child welfare.

A platform of The Global Orphan Project, this system – known as CarePortal – brings together at-risk children and families with those who care in their communities to create a holistic approach that can transform lives. Child-serving agencies can sign up online to request help, and network partners can volunteer to meet tangible needs and provide relational support.

In some situations that will mean simply delivering a crib; in other situations it will mean developing friendships that provide the support that struggling families really need. After all, we know that if someone needs a crib, they probably have need for so much more.

When families receive this type of support, it can provide the stability needed to keep them intact – which in turn can help reduce the potential pressure of a foster care system on a community.

While CarePortal has had a Florida presence for less than a year, our efforts have already helped 1,177 foster children get the necessary resources for better lives. While we are showing success across the state, our goal is to also promote local community involvement to ensure every child across our region receives the care they need.

Local support can come in many forms; it can include everything from organizing a meal train or sponsoring a family to allowing parents to have a fun night out or just joining the CarePortal network. If you are part of a civic group or church – or just someone who wants to help children – you can learn more about our efforts at

We can rally around and help every child in our region – and it all starts with four simple words: “Nice to meet you.”

About Barancik Foundation

The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida.

1515 Ringling Boulevard, Suite 500, Sarasota FL 34236
The Barancik Foundation does not accept unsolicited requests for funding.

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