Delisa Turner is breaking down barriers for FSS families every day.
From helping new foster parents sign up for WIC benefits to providing daycare referrals to preserving foster child placements, Turner has them covered.
“I empower these first-time foster families to learn to do things on their own the second time around,” she said. “I give them the tools and resources they need throughout the community.”
Turner has held the position of Family Resource Advocate with FSS for just over a year, but she’s no stranger to this type of work. The 20-year Jacksonville resident began as a kindergarten teacher before moving into the non-profit realm.
She ran educational and after-school programs for the Bridge of Northeast Florida before managing the Head Start/Early Head Start program in Baker County through Episcopal Children’s Services. She initially joined FSS as an Independent Living Services Specialist and still mentors three of the young adults she met through her work in that position.
Then last year, FSS created the role of Family Resource Advocate in an effort to better equip and prepare first-time foster parents with the tools they need to preserve their placements.
“The position really interested me because I like working with foster families and I have so much experience connecting families with resources and working with children, so I applied and got the job.”
A year later, she just hit 100 cases and has found great success in strengthening and supporting families who are new to the foster care journey.
As soon as the FSS Placement Department assigns a child to a first-time foster family, Turner gets a referral to begin supports and services.
“Even though they learn how to sign up for WIC, Early Learning Coalition and other support systems when they go through [foster parent] training,” she explained, “it can be a little overwhelming once they actually have a child placed with them.”
That’s where Turner comes in. In the past year, the majority of her cases have asked for assistance completing a Foster Closet referral, getting linked to community resources for additional formula, diapers and clothing, child behavior resources, WIC registration and after-school/tutoring services and enrichment, to name a few.
But her work doesn’t stop there. Turner primarily serves first-time foster placements but also gets referrals for behavioral issues. She goes to the home, meets with the family, identifies the issues and designs a plan to ensure placement stability and to support the foster parent.
“I also create a behavior contract with the youth and follow up with the foster parent and child weekly to monitor their behavior. I do what I can to support the home and to preserve the placements.”
Most recently, Turner started working with Meg*, a 16-year-old girl in foster care. Meg is a human trafficking victim adjusting back to the life of a normal high schooler, and she’s been having trouble expressing herself when she gets angry or frustrated.
So she stepped in to help. Meg now has a behavior contract, and Turner is getting to know her better to help determine what resources she needs to deal with her emotions better. Meg likes yoga, so Turner helped her apply for a YMCA scholarship so she can take yoga classes for free whenever she’s stressed or overwhelmed and not sure how to deal with it.
The kids tug on her heartstrings, she says, which is why she mentors so many. And she has ideas for ways the position can expand its reach and serve even more families in the future.
“So that’s my job,” said Turner with a smile, “and I love it!”
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the young woman