Garden marks victory over abuse for Viera children


On what was formerly known as Country Acres, Devereux Titusville Campus regional administrator Roy Meeks said Viera-campus children will soon grow and eat their own food from a community garden and follow other healthy pursuits.

Some of the children at the Devereux residential facility in Viera will be living off the land. 

Call it a health spa, call it a retreat or a camp, the new facility in Titusville is intended as a transition back to the community for adolescents through age 17 who have successfully graduated from more intense treatment at Viera.

The facility? The once Brevard County-run foster care group home formerly known as Country Acres. The property will continue to be owned by the county but the grounds and a larger and a smaller building will be operated under contract by Devereux, which provides or coordinates much of the foster care services in the county for Brevard Family Partnership, a nonprofit care management coordinator under contract to the Department of Children and Families.

“We are super excited about this concept to have young people live in healing harmony with nature, growing their own foods and learning how to eat nutritiously and care for their bodies,” said Roy Meeks, regional administrator over what will now be called the Devereux Titusville Campus. He also oversees the Aurora Group Home for up to 12 girls.

A smaller facility on the premises was once geared for independent living for young women aging out of foster care from age 18 to as old as 21 to 23. It will now house six younger females, some of whom are rescued victims of human trafficking once forced into prostitution. It will continue to be called The Cottage.

“This is a new approach. It’s a homey environment, but it’s almost got a camp flavor going for it,” Meeks said.

Up to 18 boys will live in what was the main facility traditionally known as Country Acres. Its commercial kitchen can handle a much greater volume of food preparation, but the emphasis is on housing fewer boys, with most of them in a room to themselves rather than multiple individuals per room in bunks. The larger facility will now be known as The Lodge, in keeping with the camping/spa theme.

The children will tend a large garden and grow produce to use and trade under the tutelage of a certified Florida Master Gardener. The nutritionist under contract will then teach them how to get the food from the ground to the table.

The children will also have volunteer positions in the community and otherwise interact in ways that will prepare them to be citizens who fit in well for their benefit and others, Meeks said.

“We will still teach them to respect rules, but these are children who either were never a behavioral threat or have successfully transitioned through treatment services and are ready to integrate into the community,” Meeks said.

The Titusville campus will be restraint-free, meaning staff will not act to restrain youth physically if they act out, as they do on the Viera campus where behavioral and mental health issues can be severe.

The children will attend either Jackson Middle or Titusville High schools. The Cottage is ready for use and awaiting approval for a business license, and it is hoped that The Lodge will be in operation by January.

“Nature is a soothing agent for youth,” said Meeks, adding that they youngsters will take yoga and other healthy classes at the nearby YMCA. “If this is as effective as we believe it will be, this may mean great advancements in our ability to prepare children to join a forever family of their own, return to their home of origin or start a healthy independent life on their own.”

For more information, call 321-474-2089.