The newly founded Ormond Church's first community project is focused on making a real difference in the lives of five former foster kids.
Every year, an average of 1,290 Florida children age out of foster care, many with no place to go and left vulnerable to pimps and traffickers. In fact, 60% of young people in the business of sex trafficking and prostitution were once in foster care.
High numbers like that are overwhelming and can make a problem as heavy as keeping foster kids off the street seem almost impossible to prevent. But what if we started smaller? What if we could save five?
That's the idea behind Ormond Church's Legacy House, a project dedicated to helping girls who have just aged out of foster care by providing them with housing, food and mentorship. Pastor Rich Tidwell and his wife, Brandi Tidwell, have had their
hearts set on this project for three years now, and after finally finding and purchasing a house for the girls, they made a big decision: they're moving in.
"At Ormond Church, we have several foster care or adopted families," Rich Tidwell said. "So I think as a result of that, there's a real heart for caring for orphans in our city."
The house, located on beachside in Ormond Beach, will house Rich Tidwell, his wife and their 1-year-old daughter, Rienette, four girls who just aged out of foster care, and one single mom, with foster care history, who will serve somewhat as the house mother. If you think that's too packed for one house, don't worry. There are separate buildings and large rooms so everyone has enough space to breathe.
But the Tidwells want the Legacy House to serve as more than just a roof over their heads — as important as that may be.
The girls who are selected have to go through an interview process and agree to things like keeping their rooms clean, having no men over, following a curfew and going to college, which is free under the Florida Department of Children and Families' Independent Living Program.
"We want to mentor the girls directly and be family for them," Rich Tidwell said. "We want to teach them life development skills, like how to buy groceries and pay their own bills. We want to have family dinners and do fun stuff together. The biggest thing to us to keep them off the street so they can better their futures."
A lot of children who age out of foster care, need these kinds of opportunities. According to Mark Jones, CEO of Community Partnership for Children, the lack of a family safety net that most children grow up with, can result in some terrifying circumstances. Thankfully with the Independent Living Program, foster kids have a much better chance at not falling prey to sex traffickers, drugs and homelessness.
"They're always one crisis away from being on the street," Jones said. "When a lot of foster kids turn 18, they're out of there and say 'I don’t need you guys.' Then two weeks later, they're calling back. We become their safety net."
The Tidwells hope to move the girls in as soon as March, and said that the immense amount of community support has made this venture possible. They hope it continues, as their bigger vision is to duplicate this process, and have houses for girls all over the country.
"Biblically, God views the future of children before they will be born," Rich Tidwell said. "He views the legacy that someone is going to leave behind. We want not only their life to be improved, but their potential future children's lives to be better too."