For six Palm Beach County girls from the foster care system, “home” has been at best a temporary refuge; at worst, a place of violence and dysfunction.
But starting Monday, home will be a big, bright house with happy, flower-covered walls and cool, girly bedrooms, thanks to 15 South Florida interior designers who donated their designs and all the furnishings.
“The designers have been extremely generous,” said KidSanctuary President Connie Frankino.
Called the Dodero Cottage, the brand-new group home these girls, ages 8 to 17, are moving into on the KidSanctuary Campus in suburban West Palm Beach will be the first permanent sanctuary of their young lives.
Most of the girls have been shuttled among multiple foster homes, said Frankino.
“Some have been lost in the system,” she said.
Others need more guidance than foster families are equipped to offer.
“Some of these kids have behavioral and emotional issues that are more than the typical foster would be able to handle. This is more of a therapeutic home,” said house father Gary Kitchings, who will live in a two-bedroom suite in the house with his wife, Odalys, and their 17-year-old daughter.
The Kitchings have been house parents at various organizations for 17 years, beginning at Father Flanigan’s Boys’ Town.
The home is the second of four planned group homes on the KidSanctuary Campus, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter for abused, abandoned and neglected Florida children. The first opened last year.
The $650,000 Dodero Cottage contains six bedrooms, 5,500 square feet, and is both pretty and sophisticated enough to suit girls ranging from grade school to high school age. The cottage is named for significant donors Lorraine and Bill Dodero, of Naples and Cleveland.
Led by Joseph Fava of Fava Design Group in Miami, the design teams donated all the furnishings, including furniture, draperies, rugs and paint.
In one room, white picket-fence beds are entered through garden “gates.” The teenage girls’ bedrooms are sleek with upholstered headboards and modern graphic prints. Framed inspirational messages are attached to walls or propped up on shelving units.
According to Kitchings, attractive surroundings show kids from poverty and neglect that there’s another world beyond the one they know.
“Kids live up to the quality of their environment,” said Kitchings. “If they go into a home that’s run-down with holes in the wall, they tend to tear more holes in the wall. But if you demonstrate there are nice things in life, you show them those things are achievable.”