Skip to main content

Bonita & Estero Magazine

Hosting with Heart: Better Together host families provide impactful care to families in crisis

Jan 24, 2023 08:00AM ● By Emily Benson

When families are faced with life’s challenges, Better Together provides a safe place to turn. Photo courtesy of Better Together.

Picture this—a single mom is in labor with no one to care for her other young children while she receives medical care. Another parent is living out of their car while trying to secure employment.

There are countless factors that may impact a parent’s ability to provide a safe home for their child, but without reliable people to turn to for help, they face surrendering their children to foster care.

Local nonprofit Better Together helps parents who are going through a challenging time to keep their kids out of the foster care system, 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.

When Tristan and Robyn Starbird heard of Better Together, the couple was immediately drawn to the nonprofit’s mission.

Robyn Starbird was no stranger to foster care. As a child, her family fostered several children. She saw firsthand the challenging impacts of the foster care system, so finding a program that kept families whole was very important to her.

Robyn and Tristan Starbird approach hosting as a family, serving alongside their four children to help Better Together provide a loving temporary home for families in crisis. Photo courtesy of the Starbird family.

With Better Together, when parents fall into crisis, fully screened and trained volunteers host children in their homes while mentoring parents toward stability. Parents can focus on getting their lives back on track with peace of mind in knowing their children have safe places to sleep and food to eat.

“When you’re in crisis, it’s hard to think clearly, it’s hard to act in the best interest of everybody involved, it’s sink or swim survival,” Tristan Starbird said. “It’s a brave decision to accept help.”

Since moving to Southwest Florida, the Starbirds have hosted several children through the nonprofit’s Better Families program. The family recently cared for four-year-old twin girls who quickly became part of their family.

“Our experience hosting these girls was such a blessing,” said Robyn Starbird. “We all treated them like one of the crew, and they participated in all family events with us like birthdays, play dates and church.”

Throughout their two times hosting the twins, the Starbirds stayed in touch with their mother to communicate updates, offer support and build a relationship. The children have since returned to their mother’s care and the Starbirds continue to be a lasting support system for this mom’s journey forward, standing by to provide encouragement and lend a helping hand.

“It made my momma heart happy to be able to ease some of the anxiety of the situation for both the girls and their mom,” says Starbird.

Host children can enjoy moments of lighthearted fun under the care of host families while parents remain focused on building a stable future together. Photo courtesy of the Starbird family.

As parents of four children under the age of 12, the Starbirds can tell you that taking a child into your family is never convenient. Schedules are busy and life can get complicated. But the rewards are invaluable.

“We just knew that there is nothing more important than to provide a hand up when you’re able and the people are working at getting themselves better. I don’t know if there’s a higher calling than that,” Tristan Starbird said. “Doing it the way Better Together does it is empowering to the individual.”

Better Together CEO Megan Rose – who has hosted a total of 19 children alongside her husband and four children – sees the direct impact on families and the community.

“Parenting is hard, even in the best of times. But these challenges can be overcome—while keeping children safe—with the right support system in place,” Rose said. “When you host a child, you help a family build a foundation for their children to thrive. You help a child avoid the trauma of foster care. And you strengthen your community.”

More and more moms and dads like Robyn and Tristan Starbird are making room for love in their homes as Better Together host families. With the support of thousands of volunteers and a growing church community, the nonprofit has served over 4,000 children and kept 98% of families together.

Established just over five years ago, Better Together’s programming has rapidly expanded to reach families in 15 counties across the state with a purposeful goal of serving all of Florida in the next five years.

While hosting isn’t a feasible option for all, there are many ways to make a lasting impact. Families and individuals can consider serving as a family mentor or job coach, or making a monetary contribution to help Better Together keep a child out of foster care.

With the support of thousands of volunteers and a growing church community, Better Together has served over 4,000 children across the state, helping keep 98% of families together. Photo courtesy of Better Together.

With the support of thousands of volunteers and a growing church community, Better Together has served over 4,000 children across the state, helping keep 98% of families together. Photo courtesy of Better Together.

“There is a growing need for volunteers to come together to help strengthen families in crisis, and for the first time we now have a waitlist of parents seeking support,” Rose said. “Together, we can make sure parents have the skills and support needed to give children the homes they deserve.”

Emily Benson is a native Southwest Floridian and enjoys writing about the people and organizations who call this region home.