By Suzy Kridner
About 75 children from newborn to age 18 are in need of toys, clothing, school supplies and other items to have a merry Christmas.
Melanie Kirkman, dependency case manager for Neighbor to Family in Volusia County, said the children are in foster care or living at home where the parent or guardian is receiving intensive in-home services, such as parenting and substance abuse counseling, how to maintain their home and keep their children from going to foster care.
Ms. Kirkman said the agency only takes siblings and works to keep them together if they have to go to foster care.
"Once parents are reunited with their children, we assist them with food, rent, utilities, clothing for the kids and furniture," she said.
"The deadline for getting gifts or monetary donations to Neighbor to Family is Wednesday, Dec. 19, so we can get gifts out to the families," Ms. Kirkman said.
This is Ms. Kirkman's first year with the agency and she wants all the children they serve in Volusia and Flagler counties to have a great Christmas.
The sibling bond is unique, Ms. Kirkman said. It may be the longest-lasting relationship in a lifetime. There are strong indicators that siblings who are placed together in foster care experience higher rates of stability, a decreased length of stay in foster care, and suffer fewer traumas.
Neighbor to Family has three programs internally consisting of sibling foster care, FIRST diversion and START substance abuse counseling. We have more than 100 children in the three programs, Ms. Kirkman said.
The average age range of children in the program is from 1 to 14 years old. They are in need of clothes, school supplies, toiletries and recreational games/activities. Families also are in need of beds, dressers and other furniture so they can rebuild their homes. Gift cards also are great, she said.
Gifts and/or monetary donations for the children and families may be sent to Neighbor To Family, 122 S. Segrave St., Suite 120, Daytona Beach, FL 32114.