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Children’s Needs Program Accomplishments

Toys in the Comfort Closet at VFC office

Direct Financial Assistance and More

In 2022-2023, a total of 1,151 unduplicated children received direct financial support for basic needs and dignity items including toiletries, toys, school supplies and bicycles from Voices’ new Comfort Closet plus a variety of learning opportunities, all provided through the Children’s Needs Program. These were provided to ensure the children’s essential and other needs were met, including the need to feel like a "normal" kid and have fun, and to experience exciting activities that give them hope for a better future as documented by Voices Children’s Needs (CN) Program Request & Disbursement Forms.

In 2022-2023, Voices was able to build upon the direct financial assistance provided through its Children’s Need Program with a special allocation from the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office, as approved by the Board of County Commissioners in Fall 2022. Received by Voices in January 2023, in the six months through June 30, 2023, this funding enabled Voices to provide many more essential and fun items for children and youth through Voices new Comfort Closet to provide children and youth with access to whatever they need at no cost to them or their caregivers. This includes pillows; clothing; toiletries; baby needs including diapers, formula, wipes, clothing and more; school supplies; various other items; and a myriad of toys, including children’s books, playthings and bicycles. As of September 2023, more than 500 unduplicated children and youth received more than 2,000 items from Voices Comfort Closet.

The Comfort Closet is housed within Voices’ centrally located offices, where all items are carefully inventoried, stored and given out. Voices CN Program staff safely manage the Comfort Closet so that all GAL staff advocates can "shop" there before making home visits so they can bring the children, youth and their caregivers served needed items or "care Packages." GAL advocates make an appointment to visit the Comfort Closet during regular business hours.

Experiential Learning

Voices also provided potentially life-changing experiential learning opportunities never provided for Miami- Dade County dependent children and youth served by the GAL Office. These impactful experiences included:

  1. In collaboration with Educate Tomorrow and with the GAL independent living specialist among the adult chaperones, 40 dependent youth participated in a week-long King’s College Tour during Spring Break Week in March. Visiting the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida A&M University, Florida State University and several other Florida colleges, this tour provided students with opportunities to discover college life and learn what it takes to succeed in college, culminating in a fun day at Universal Studios.
  2. The Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center: This was created as an opportunity for inner-city foster children to travel to the mountains of North Carolina and experience the power of being immersed in the natural world. The mission is to create a physically and emotionally safe learning environment where individuals can find harmony and empowerment through self-understanding, self-confidence, simple living, friendships and fun. One week of camping in North Carolina in June introduced 10 dependent children and youth served by the GAL Office with opportunities to explore the Southern Appalachian mountains, learn earth and nature skills, and develop a greater sense of self-confidence and community awareness.
  3. Building Love and Uniting Everyone (BLUE) Missions Group: This provided 20 youth with the most potentially life-changing experience: traveling to the Dominican Republic in July 2023 to help bring clean water to rural communities. This nonprofit organization provides youth ages 15+ years with an 8-day experience (worth 120 community service hours) in the Dominican Republic (DR). Youth live with and help local people construct water and sanitation systems for impoverished families as they learn about global citizenship and sustainable development. This experience benefited the health and overall quality of life of the families served in DR as it impacted Voices’ youth by helping them discover their power to affect positive change.

This was a life-changing experience for many of Voices’ 20 youth participants, as expressed by Voices’ Intern Gabriela Sepulveda that participated in the BLUE Missions trip:

“For me, it was a life-changing experience to witness all 19 of our children rising to the challenge of living in “el campo” (the field) and opening their hearts to help others... Throughout this trip, our group got to learn what it means to serve others. For eight days, we braved the elements while helping to provide comfort and sanitation to members of the community.”