Panama City - A local man is getting statewide recognition for his work at Bay County's only group home for youth. As the residential supervisor at Clair's House, Bryan Meeder is responsible for the safety of the foster children who live there. After years of housing kids, teen girls now reside at Clair's.
Meeder won the "Innovator of the Year" award at the Fifth Annual Innovation Symposium in Orlando for his work to make the lives of these foster teens as normal as possible. His colleagues say the teens have a great respect for him and appreciate the family-like atmosphere he tries to create. "Bryan has implemented new policies that have created more normalcy for the kids, allowing them to participate in school activities, go to friend's houses, spend the night with friends, go to the prom, things every teenager wants to do," said Shelly Bear, the Director of Program Operations for Children's Home Society, the Emerald Coast Division.
It's tough being a teenager under normal circumstances. Meeder says the children he and his staff work with have the additional stigma of being in foster care. That's why he says it's so important to give them as normal a home-life as possible. "I want to make a difference in these kids lives," said Meeder. "I was fortunate to grow up in a very stable home and I believe I can use my experiences and the way my parents brought me up to help these kids have a better shot at being successful," said Meeder.