He Fights the War Against Children: Floyd McPhee

Approximately nine children in 1,000 has been either abused or neglected in the United States. In 2013, the number of victims was estimated at 679,000 children.

Guardian ad Litem Floyd McPhee

Guardian ad Litem Floyd McPhee

“1,250 children were reported to have died from abuse or neglect. More than 27% of victims were younger than 3 years.” (Administration for Children and Families)

“More than 91% of all victims were abused or neglected by one or both of their parents.” (ACF)

The child has no choice. He or she was born into that family. “They were the parents I was given,” states a former foster child, now an adult.

Childhelp reports that there are 3 million reports of child abuse yearly, involving “more than 6 million children.”

In the United States there is help for children. Each year 3 million children are “subject to an investigated report and 6.3 million children are referred to state child protective services.” (Childhelp.org)

Childhelp.org states that this affliction within our society is a hidden epidemic or a war against our children.

ChildWelfare.gov states that physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect are recognized by all 50 states.

Child abuse and neglect cause negative effects in a child’s day-to-day living and during the remainder of his or her life, such as: developmental disabilities, socializing problems, poor school performance, depression and suicide attempts, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and adult criminality. (ChildWelfare.gov)

When children are living in unstable families, they are often removed by a state’s Department for Children and Families (DCF) for their own well-being. Though for their benefit, children do not like the separation and this traumatizes them. Yet, their removal is necessary. The separation prevents further abuse, neglect, and abandonment, and will even prevent their deaths.

Approximately four to seven children die daily due to their bad home lives, according to Childhelp.org.

After the child has been removed, he or she is placed in a protective environment, most often a foster home. Additionally, the child is assigned a Guardian ad Litem to assist him or her throughout the fostering process until a resolution occurs.

A Guardian ad Litem is a person appointed by the court to act as a friend for a child; he or she will also investigate matters regarding the child’s well-being (talk to his teacher, request school records, recommend tutoring, request medical evaluations, etc..)

In 1975, the Guardian ad Litem program went into action in Florida. Volunteers were recruited and trained. 40 years later, in 2015, there are 9,973 certified case volunteers in the state. Though a significant number, there is still a shortage. In St. Lucie County alone, 100 more volunteers are still needed--in the State of Florida, about 14,000 children reside in foster care. (AdoptUSKids)

Guardian ad Litem is still a volunteer program. Those who give their time and gas do so because they care about children, and their outcome.

Floyd McPhee was Guardian Ad Litem of the Year in 2012. A full-time employee of the State of Florida Transportation Department, he has given volunteer service for the needs of foster children for the last five years. He enjoys seeing the positive change in the children. “I love them like they’re my own blood,” Floyd adds. He checks on his children at least every two weeks. ‘Are they safe?’ ‘Do they have special needs that are being met?’ Floyd asks himself. “Every child needs emotional nurture for healthy brain development. They need love, attention, to feel wanted, and when possible, have time with their biological parents,” Mr. McPhee relates.

Floyd McPhee has supervised parent visits, written reports for the court about his observations, and when necessary, has spoken for the child in the courtroom. His joy is seeing a child reunited with their own biological family or witnessing their legal adoption.

As the hidden epidemic of child abuse in all its forms, neglect and abandonment continues, it is important to remember Floyd McPhee’s words, “There are children who need your help; they are lonely and looking for love; they need to know that they’re wanted.”

The Guardian ad Litem is in a supportive role — one that nurtures and provides hope to the child. “One thing I’ve learned,” Mr. McPhee adds, “never give up on anyone, especially a child. They can change and turn around in even a short time.”

Floyd McPhee is the father of five and grandfather of seven. He is also one of 10 children born to his parents in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. When Floyd was 10 years old, the McPhee family immigrated to the United States. Mr. McPhee grew up in Fort Pierce, Florida, graduating from Fort Pierce Central High School. He knows the city, the people, and many of the children. Floyd McPhee is also an author; he has written the first installment of a romantic fiction series--Just Friends, which takes place in his native Bahamas.

Floyd McPhee is certified by the State of Florida as a Guardian ad Litem and has spent 30 hours in training, in addition to continuing education each year. For each child he represents, he estimates that he spends seven to eight hours a month as the eyes and ears on the ground for the Department of Children and Families.

It is people like Floyd McPhee who take the time to change a life, which breaks the cycle of abuse. Each and every child is an important part of the United States. These children are a part of the fabric of American culture; their future is also our future. Floyd McPhee is “For the Child.” As Americans, we must all be “For the Child.”

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© 2015 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon

Veteran Homeschool Parent Stacy Efinger: Keeping Her Rights

Stacy Efinger and her Children

Stacy Efinger and her Children

Approximately 1.77 million children in the United States were educated at home during the 2011-2012 school year.  In 2007, the number was 1.5 million.  Home school education is on the rise. (U.S. Dept of Education)

In the State of Florida the homeschool movement is growing.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the State of Florida had 75,801 children registered in home education programs. (Kids Count Date Center)

On Florida’s Treasure Coast, 495 children were registered in Martin County and 1,369 in St. Lucie County.  Since 2013, the number in Martin County has risen to 646 and 1,430 in St. Lucie County (August, 2015).

Why is this?

Stacy Efinger, a trained teacher and veteran homeschool mother has spent 15 years overseeing and teaching her children’s education.  She is a modern pioneer in the Florida home school movement.

It wasn’t until Stacy began attending church at Stuart Nazarene (now New Hope Fellowship ) 20 years ago, that she even heard about homeschooling as an option.  Approximately 30 percent of the church’s families were educating their children themselves.

Stacy was intrigued.  During her college internship teaching kindergarten, first and second grades, she began to think to herself, “I could do this with my own children.”

The next year, Stacy attended an annual home school convention in Orlando and then shortly afterward, her first child, Jonas, was born.

In the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, homeschool education was considered radical and illegal; homeschool parents, considered by almost every state as criminals, had to go to court to fight for their civil rights.  (Home School Legal Defense Association)

Dr. Jolene Oswald, former Spring Arbor University professor of elementary education was part of the home school education defense.  She regularly attended court hearings, speaking on the need for and value of children being educated at home.

In 1985, the homeschool movement began to boom around the country.

Originally, homeschool education was a pioneer effort during the development of the United States, beginning at Plymouth Colony with the Pilgrims

Parents schooled their children in sod homes, log cabins and beside campfires as the Federal government encouraged families to move west and settle the lands.  Often, the only books used were a beginning reader and a family Bible. Made famous in her Little House books, was Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose younger years were under her mother, Caroline’s tutelage.  Other famous home-educated individuals include 10 former Presidents (John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt) writers (Pearl Buck, Louisa May Alcott, J.R.R. Tolkien) and most recently football’s Tim Tebow.

The history of homeschool education has shown that it has benefited not just individuals, but also the building of the United States of America.   It is no wonder that homeschool education is no longer considered illegal, but a fundamental right of the country’s citizens.

Homeschool education has many benefits:

·         No wasted time disciplining unruly children

·         Students may work at their own pace—often moving ahead of their peer group.

·         No teaching to the test—home school students study a broader range of subjects and are required to remember all that they study because their testing (Terranova) is a more rigorous general knowledge test.

·         Religious or moral instruction can be included in the curriculum.

·         Children with special needs

·         Parents are not comfortable with some school subjects being taught, ie. sex education.

·         Phonics, spelling and handwriting or cursive are still taught in homeschool education, whereas they are not taught in public schools any longer

Stacy Efinger’s son, Jonas, now 18 years old, works two jobs and has been dual-enrolled with homeschool education and at Indian River State College.  He states that home-education gives parents flexibility with curriculum and he may go as fast or as slowly as he wishes.  For example, Jonas finished one year of algebra in less than two months. 

Jonas is a typical young man; he enjoys hunting and robotics, and went to an international championship competition in St. Louis, Missouri with a local SPAM Robotics club.   He also volunteers, and has given seven years to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary.  Jonas plans to attend the University of Western Florida and pursue a degree in artifact preservation. He is a fan of history, much like his father, Kurt Efinger, who is a professor of history at Indian River State College.

To the children, Jonas adds this:  “Homeschooling was worth it.  I had more opportunities to try things; I got to go out and see different people every day.  My range of experiences has been much broader.”  Jonas has even traveled to Israel in the Middle East, seeing the ancient sites firsthand.

Though homeschooling is no longer illegal and the State of Florida has become friendly toward the movement, it is still a challenge and a commitment.  Stacy considers the opportunity to teach her own three children a privilege.  She loves being with them and they enjoy being with each other.  The Efinger home is a family-oriented home that has produced a lifetime love of learning. 

At a time when American schools are reacting with society’s change, their daily events filling evening newscasts with violence, homeschool parents are continuing to help build and rebuild our country, producing highly educated and happy young adults who seek to add positively to the Treasure Coast, Florida and even the United States. 

It is important that the rights of Americans to educate their children continue within their counties and states.  This is historically, a fundamental and necessary right that has been time-tested more than 400 years.

In eight more years, Stacy Efinger’s youngest child will graduate high school; Stacy though, expects to remain in the movement as a teacher who trains other parents to do what she has done.

HAVE A HERO TIP? Send your Hometown Hero tip to Kelly Jadon:  kfjadon@gmail.com

© 2015 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon