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Tampa-area five-sibling group in foster care finds forever home — together

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In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, One Hope United is highlighting the work it is doing to prevent child abuse, strengthen families and create healthy communities.

One Hope United helps families like the Morris* siblings.

The five siblings, ages 4 to 14, were living in Hillsborough County with their mother, who had a severe substance abuse problem and was unable to maintain their home. She did not consistently pay utility bills or keep up with housework. Their father was not involved with the family.

The Florida Department of Children and Families removed the children from the home. Because it is difficult to find one home to accommodate five siblings, they were separated for more than a month before finding a foster home to care for all of them.

Being apart from siblings can add to the trauma children experience when being moved from their homes.

 “Our ultimate goal is to keep siblings together because it continues to form that bond,” said Lasonja Houston, director of programs at One Hope United in Tampa. “It helps them grow as individuals to maintain their identity and their family.”

However, safety also is imperative. “We make sure we are doing all we can do to make sure that child is safe,” Houston said.

The Morris children were then moved for a short-term placement with the Harre family – which ultimately became a perfect fit.

 “We were babysitting for a week and fell in love with them,” said Tampa Bay-area resident Tammy Harre. She and her husband, Brian, live on a four-acre farm and have four biological children, two adopted children and one foster child.

All of the children urged their parents to keep them together. “Our biological kids and the oldest foster child wrote us a note asking if the Morris children could stay with us permanently,” Tammy Harre said.

The Harres easily fit the children into their family, giving them chores to do around the farm and enrolling them in classes such as gymnastics, dance and piano.

“If there’s someone in a child’s corner, they have the potential to do so much more,” Tammy Harre said.

Studies show that a supportive adult is key in a child’s ability to thrive as it aids in emotional and social competence.

Plans for reunifying the children with their parents fell through when the mother did not follow through with services and their father did not show up for court.Studies

The Harre family officially adopted the children in January.

“Now the children are secure in their family identity as they recognize that God has a plan for each of their lives,” Tammy Harre said.

One Hope United launched a digital Blue Ribbon Month campaign (www.BlueRibbonMonth.org) aimed at raising awareness and funds to support child abuse prevention programs and services. The website gives people a place to go to help raise awareness and financial support for One Hope United’s programs that prevent child abuse and prepare children for a prosperous future.  There are many ways to get involved: host a fundraiser at your school, church or work; spread the word on social media or by forwarding articles through email; and make a donation.

Follow One Hope United on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/1hopeunitedflorida and Twitter @1hopeunited. Use #1hope4kids when tweeting.

*Name changed for privacy.

About One Hope United: One Hope United is a private human-service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs. The agency serves thousands of children and families with a vision of ensuring the successful transition of our children to healthy and productive adults. For more information, visit www.onehopeunited.wpengine.com.