A Kid's Place couple goes from house parents to parents

A couple who volunteered as house parents at A Kid's Place are now parents of three children who were at the facility for neglected kids.
Daniel Clare spends time with children at A Kid's Place in Brandon. Clare and his wife have adopted three children. Photo by Kelsey Sunderland
Daniel Clare spends time with children at A Kid's Place in Brandon. Clare and his wife have adopted three children.Photo by Kelsey Sunderland
Published May 28 2015

BRANDON — When Daniel and Cindy Clare began volunteering at A Kid's Place, their intentions were clear.

They wanted to connect with their community and help what they believed were the most vulnerable of society.

From the moment they walked onto the grounds of the 60-bed facility for abused, neglected, or abandoned children, their passion was apparent.

"We hadn't necessarily been exposed to any residential care facilities prior to that day," Daniel Clare said. "But honestly, the moment you walk on site here and you see the facilities and you see the level of care, it just took us."

Within a month of their first tour of the campus, the Clares signed on to become house parents, which meant they would live with, and supervise the 12 children that live in one of five houses on campus at A Kid's Place.

"The goal is to try to make as calm of an environment as possible so in trying to do that we're trying to create as familiar of an environment as possible," Daniel Clare said. "So the house parent model is trying to accomplish that by having two staff members that function as both mother and father in a home basically around the clock."

The couple never imagined that in less than a year after beginning to work at A Kid's Place, they would begin the process of opening their home and their hearts to three of the children they had cared for as house parents.

But Daniel Clare felt that the "crash course" in parenting was invaluable.

"There wasn't necessarily this immediate connection or anything like that," Daniel Clare said. "My wife and I didn't come here looking to adopt and we weren't necessarily looking to have kids at the time but it was just that natural development over time."

For their second time at A Kid's Place, the sibling group of three — only 2-, 3- and 5-years-old — went through the usual proceedings of getting acclimated and reacquainted with the environment after transitioning from a traumatic situation with their biological mother. But soon after a special bond began to develop between the kids and the Clares.

Judge Tracy Sheehan, a founding member of A Kid's Place board of directors, believed the Clares and their children were meant to be together.

"They always bonded with the children in their care and comfortably assumed their roles as loving house parents," Sheehan said. "But it was clear they had a special bond with the three children they ultimately adopted, an almost magnetic connection."

Many people who worked with the Clares during their time as house parents and their adoption process agree that the couple had important and unique skills to help their children through their time at A Kid's Place.

Daniel and Cindy Clare are no strangers to coping with trauma from a personal perspective. Both had personal experience with displacement in their youth. Between Cindy's adoption and Daniel's time in a runaway shelter and relative placement, they hope their background will help them in guiding their children through their post traumatic stress syndrome.

Diane O'Malley, who served as the children's Guardian ad Litem during their time at A Kid's Place, witnessed the progression of the Clare family and admires the perspective the Clare's are able to use to relate to their children.

"They understand and connect to children who have come through trauma, in a way so many could never begin to understand," O'Malley said. "They have a patience foreign to many people, that has guided them as they have brought their children through some rough times."

While they no longer work as house parents in order to dedicate their time to bonding with their children, Daniel still works as a youth counselor and support staff at A Kid's Place.

"Our plates are pretty full, because we are now both full-time students getting our degrees in social work," Clare said. "But we are so happy with how things turned out and those three children are our children."

Contact Kelsey Sunderland at hillsnews@tampabay.com.