By Brandi Thomas

For all of us, family is where our story begins. 

However, that family story isn’t always a fairy tale.  

Sometimes the story includes disruptions resulting in children and youth needing to be separated from their parents, other times family members may have to step in and care for a child or youth when a parent cannot care for them appropriately. All of these are challenging situations that often require additional assistance and support beyond a family’s capabilities.  

That’s where community resources play a vital role in helping families get back on the right track.  

Currently, there are more than 20,000 children in Florida’s foster care system. Each of their stories have had a rocky start. Coming into the custody of the state has most likely meant that a parent or primary caregiver was not able to properly care for them as a result of abuse, neglect, addiction, incarceration or series of traumatic events.  

The month of May is National Foster Care Month and is a time to acknowledge families and professionals who help children and youth in foster care find permanent, loving homes. 

The concept of ‘family’ and its evolution over the last several years has always fascinated me. It’s what drew me to practice family law. I have watched the way the law has reconfigured its parameters for the inclusion and proper representation of modern families and these opportunities have provided me, and my colleagues, countless opportunities to help families in crisis.  

When a family is facing challenging times - or even transitioning to becoming a new family unit in instances of step-parent adoptions, paternity issues, seeking timesharing and fostering - there is a need for various systems and resources to help navigate some of the most challenging mental, emotional, and financial strains associated with these types of family situations. 

These are sensitive matters that extend far beyond legal proceedings and bureaucratic processes and programs because these are people’s lives, chapters in our complex life stories.  

This month as we focus on National Foster Care month and bringing awareness to the 20,000 children and youth in need of safe, permanent homes, I hope that our community will continue to find ways to support families in need and come together to ensure more children have the happily ever after and the new beginnings they deserve.  

Brandi Thomas Esq. is an attorney with the Akbar Law Firm, where she serves as a family law, personal injury and bankruptcy attorney.