Better Together, a nonprofit dedicated to helping families in crisis and preventing the need for foster care, has expanded its programs to the Jacksonville area, set to serve the three-county region of Nassau, Duval and Clay counties by late 2021.

Better Together is made up of two programs – Better Families and Better Jobs – that help parents who are going through a hard time to keep their kids out of foster care, find work and address the root causes of their struggle so that they can reunite as a family with the tools and support system to thrive. To date, the program has served over 3,102 children and kept 98% of families together, while helping nearly 34,000 job seekers across 21 states find employment.

Circuit 4 of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which serves Duval, Nassau and Clay counties, reported an average of over 75 removals per month to foster care in 2019-20. As the Jacksonville-area population continues to grow, so does the need for efforts to reduce the number of children entering the foster care system. Better Together’s Prevention Partnership with DCF and other community partners is designed to allow the nonprofit to step in before foster care becomes necessary.

“When parents fall into crisis, fully screened and trained volunteers host children in their homes while mentoring parents toward stability. This includes help with finding a job, securing housing, childcare, treatment and more,” said Megan Rose, CEO of Better Together. “We have hosted several job fairs through our Better Jobs program in the Jacksonville area, and have seen great demand among families and single-parent households who are affected by homelessness, joblessness and more. The need is great, and we are excited to come alongside local partners to help change the trajectory for the Jacksonville community and its people.”

Better Together’s Better Families program is voluntary, and parents never lose legal custody of their children.

The nonprofit’s Better Jobs program was created to address the 76% of families that come to Better Together because of economic hardship tied to unemployment. The program offers support through job fairs and job coaching services, as well as guidance and encouragement through local church and community partners.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers and church communities, Better Together builds lasting support systems that help families cope with hardships – such as job loss, substance abuse, homelessness and jail time – and ensures that children are cared for in a safe home until the family can be reunited.

“We are excited to partner with Better Together and are looking forward to seeing what God will do,” said Andrew Roberts, pastor for Awaken Church. “When you read the scripture, God has such heart for the poor, for the needy, for the orphans, for those families who truly are struggling. Why would we not want to partner with an organization like this to love kids, love families and turn the whole foster care system around in our state via love and the church?”

“To hear the impact that Better Together has had in other cities – the families they’ve been able to help, and how not only did they impact the city but also strengthen the church – it just makes perfect sense to have them in our city,” said Jason Masters, lead pastor for Bold City Church. “To be able to make sure that they get established here and that they exist here is huge to us.”

The nonprofit is partnering with 21 Jacksonville-area churches to date. Churches interested in becoming a Better Together partner are encouraged to email mellissa@bettertogetherus.org for more information.

To learn more about Better Together, its programs and how to get involved, visit BetterTogetherUS.org.

ABOUT BETTER TOGETHER

Better Together is a nonprofit organization that helps parents going through a hard time keep their kids out of foster care, find work and address the root causes of their struggle so that they can reunite as a family with the tools and support system to thrive. A privately funded and professionally supported organization, Better Together is made up of volunteers who believe helping people help themselves is the best way to restore dignity and bring families together. Through the Better Families program, families in crisis receive the community and resources they need to get back on their feet, and a volunteer family is available to host the children while the parents work toward their goals. To date, the program has kept 98% of children served out of foster care. The Better Jobs program was created to address the 76% of families that come to Better Together because of economic hardship tied to unemployment. In addition to community job fairs, the program offers job seekers coaching, guidance, support and encouragement through local church partners. For more information, visit BetterTogetherUS.org.