We were pleased to have Charles Bender as our speaker on Oct. 21. He is the Founding CEO of Place of Hope, Inc., a faith-based and state-licensed, family-style child welfare organization serving abused and neglected children, located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Charles earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and also studied at the University of South Florida in Tampa. An accomplished administrator, Bender provides a solid combination of strategic vision, leadership, management experience, organizational development and advancement skills. Throughout his career, Bender has made it his main objective to positively impact the lives of people in need by empowering and equipping them to help themselves. He is a 2019 OPAL award recipient.
Place of Hope is a faith-based, state licensed organization focused on providing programs and services to end the cycles of abuse, neglect, homelessness and human trafficking. They offer support to children, youth and families in need. They are the largest, most diverse, residential children and families-focused organization in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Their goal is to help those we serve find healing and restoration, which leads to a successful future.
They strive to equip our children, youth and families with the tools they need to succeed and they aim to educate and enrich the lives of those in our care, encourage them to reach their full potential, create a positive environment for healing and foster hope for the future.
Place of Hope offers a full continuum of care for those in need with programs and services specializing in: family outreach and intervention, maternity care, safety for victims of domestic minor sex trafficking, affordable transitional housing and supportive services for young adults, housing and support for homeless families, foster care recruitment, hope and healing opportunities for children, youth and families throughout our region.
Some comments by Charles during his presentation:
Place of Hope is now 20 years old and serves over 900 children a year.
Our family style foster care cottages provide stable and loving homes to children and teens who have suffered unimaginable abuse and trauma, with a priority of keeping siblings together. Family-style foster care is provided in our family cottages and emergency placement centers.
They make all their children feel like they matter. They work to put trauma behind them.
The organization started in Palm Beach Gardens but now serves foster families, children, young adults and survivors of human trafficking across six counties.
They use a family model – no more than six kids per home. This enables them to operate as a traditional family, e.g. they go on family vacations.
They initiated affordable transitional housing so when the kids age out of the foster care system, they will have a place to live.
They launched a human trafficking program which educates and equips youth to recognize the risks and dangers of human trafficking. This model also provides awareness, prevention and education for the community.
They have experienced a 40% decrease in kids coming into the Place of Hope system which they attribute to COVID, because children are not in front of teachers and other adults to recognize abuse. They expect to see it return to higher levels next year as children return to school.
They are beginning live in-person events again in November but done responsibly. These are already sold out events – they are excited about it.
Admission: The children that are removed from their homes by the state all come through a community-based care agency. This agency in Palm Beach County is called ChildNet. They refer children to openings in our organization through our foster homes, family cottages, maternity cottage and emergency shelters. Young adults over the age of 18 go through an application and interview process. Once accepted into the program they go through an onboarding process to set them up for success.
Place of Hope just opened a 18,000 SF of commercial professional office space, the Lane Center on Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens. Their Homes of Hope traditional foster care program headquarters is in this new building. The center is also home to Peninsula Executive Offices, Peninsula Social (Place of Hope membership-based meeting and event space for supporters), Wall Private Wealth, a local family foundation and more! This Center will provide much needed additional office space for their team, as well as a strategically located home for recruitment and training events for our foster families. Rental revenues from long-term tenants will also directly support the children, youth and families in their daily care.