Dottie Berger MacKinnon tells stories that get community members to open their hearts and their wallets for foster children.
Berger MacKinnon, founder of A Kid’s Place, a group foster home in Brandon, need only draw upon the lives of the children she’s met for inspiration.
After one such story during a recent fundraising luncheon for the foster home, about 250 in attendance responded by donating $100,000.
With photos of children from A Kid’s Place flanking the walls of the T. Pepin Hospitality Centrein Tampa Friday, Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan, laid the ground work.
“Families who maltreat their kids just don’t have one, they have five or six,” Sheehan told those in attendance. And sometimes, she said, the only love in those children’s lives has come from their siblings. So, keeping them together is of the utmost importance.
A Kid’s Place is the only place in the county to guarantee that sibling groups won’t be separated.
Berger MacKinnon told of a family of five children who came in. Their parents had locked them all in a room and left them to their own devices. Only one was verbal. The head of the youngest, a baby, slumped to one side and a doctor said without immediate intervention, the deformity would be permanent. The child likely had little human interaction, the staff learned.
Berger MacKinnon referred to one in the sibling group as “the walking dead.” He was lethargic, and almost completely unresponsive, she said.
By the time the family left A Kid’s Place, they were all speaking and the baby was able to hold its head upright, thanks to an attentive staff that often massaged the child’s neck, Berger MacKinnon said.
For too long, foster children in this community have been treated as second-class citizens, she told the crowd. One of the missions of A Kid’s Place is to change that, to be a family within a family.
“Our mission has always been to help child welfare do a better job,” she said. “Our mission is to raise the bar.”
A Kid’s Place is a community initiative of Kids Charity of Tampa Bay, Inc. Kids Charity is a 501(c) 3 not for profit charitable organization. For more information, visit www.akidsplacetb.org.