The sounds of “oohs” and “ahhs” fill the air as 12 very excited, wide-eyed children enter the cat play area of the Orlando Cat Café. Mesmerized by fuzzy tails and whiskers, the children eagerly approach the cats and gently toss toy mice across the floor. At any given time, the Orlando Cat Café is home to 15-20 cats seeking their forever home; however, today’s visitors are different. They also long for a loving, forever home.
The children are current residents at the Florida Baptist Children’s Home located in Leesburg, an emergency shelter for children who have been removed from their families and homes for various reasons. “I figured the cats and the children were in the need of love and comfort and they would help each other,” says Jamie Scher, Shelter Supervisor. “I believe animals serve as a great tool of comfort and recovery and I am excited to see how the children and the cats bond with one another.”
Scher heard about the Orland Cat Café while he was adopting a cat of his own. “It sounded like a fun place for the children to visit and I thought I would reach out,” Scher states. “Many of the children had pets of their own before coming to the shelter so I really thought this would be a great experience for them.” The Children’s Shelter was established in 1985 as an emergency shelter for abused, neglected and abandoned children and is a children’s shelter licensed through the Florida Department of Children and Families. Children between the ages of six and 13 are placed in the shelter by the Florida Department of Children and Families after being removed from the custody of their current caretakers, frequently with only the clothes on their backs. It was originally licensed for only five children. It currently serves up to 12 children at any given time. The program has shifted over the years to accommodate children for longer periods of time with a staff trained to help those with elevated behavioral issues.
The shelter can also house larger sibling groups, allowing them to stay together and feel more at ease in difficult times. A group of four siblings residing together in the shelter came along for the visit to the cat café. The only visitation they had was from their grandmother who, sadly, passed away earlier this year. They have been in the shelter for three years and currently do not have family members willing to take all four children together. A shelter caregiver states, “We don’t like to split up the siblings. Sometimes all they have is each other and keeping them together helps them cope with what they are going through.” Other children have lived in the shelter longer and it is estimated there are more than 10,000 children throughout Florida who need loving and stable homes.
“The work that the Florida Baptist Children’s Home does is absolutely amazing. We were honored to provide an exciting outing to these great kids,” says Jessica Whitehouse, Director of Community Relations. “We have successfully adopted 65 cats to new homes since opening in September. We want to remind the community that there are plenty of ways to get involved in helping the children and animals in your own backyard and we hope people will be inspired to step up and help in whatever capacity they can. The need it there.
ABOUT FLORIDA BAPTIST CHILDREN’S HOME
Florida Baptist Children’s Homes is a nonprofit organization on a mission to bring love and compassion to one more child. Thanks to your help, we were able to serve 106,278 children and families last year. Join the cause! Together, we can give hope to one more child.