TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Department of Environmental Protection is joining with state child welfare officials to give thousands of foster kids free passes to state parks this year.

The agencies donated 15,000 state park passes for foster families to use in Florida’s 171 state parks and trails in 2013.

Officials said learning about nature is a great way to strengthen families.

Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins said he wants foster children to have the same experiences as other children including enjoying sports and other outdoor activities.

Last year, DCF created the “Fostering Florida’s Future” initiative aimed at better recruiting foster parents. Part of the initiative provides normal activities to children in care so they can have the same experiences as any child.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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