Heart of Florida Youth Ranch, Citra, FL (30 + Children)


Meet Director Dr. John Sweet, DMin, Executive Director

Dr. John Sweet has served as Executive Director of Heart of Florida Youth Ranch since 2014 and as a field consultant to orphanages and children’s ministries for Church of God World Missions. His experience working with troubled children and the caregiving parents provides a unique perspective of experience and competence for parental training and counsel. Sweet is married to Alice, founder of Haven of Hope International. Alice’s passion for moving an orphanage from just surviving to thriving provides an amazing partnership in life and ministry.

In 2014, Dr. Sweet came to The Heart of Florida Youth Ranch. The Ranch grew to serve record numbers of children. In 2018, Sweet became part of an awareness initiative regarding Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Florida. The need for caring for At-Risk children became staggering. The traumatic challenges in caring for these children is heartbreaking. With the needs and numbers of hurting children growing ever larger, the need for training and support regarding the traumatic impact of abuse and loss has become vital.

Sweet received his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tenn., where his graduate project focused on care ministry for the 21st century. He has authored several books and has served as a pastor, foster parent, law enforcement chaplain, crisis intervention specialist with children and families, and has taught courses in the sociology department of Lee University.

Hope Begins Here

For children who have nowhere to go and have suffered loss of parenting due to abandonment, abuse, neglect, and death, Hope Begins Here is more than just a cliché.  The words represent the beginning of a journey toward healing and wholeness.  Situated among the horse and cattle ranches of Marion County Florida; The Ranch provides a rural atmosphere that is conducive to nurture and growth.

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When it is necessary for a child to live apart from his or her family, we provide quality, compassionate care, and remain focused on getting the child and family reunited. When reunification is not an option, our focus becomes the best option for permanency for the child.

We are fully licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families as a private 501c3 and accredited by the Council of Accreditation.

Our Mission

Equipping children and families at risk to live more effective, healthy, and fulfilling lives.


Called, committed, and competent caregivers will provide prevention, intervention, restoration, and empowerment to at-risk children and families through a functioning model and training center in Citra, Florida. From this location, we will partner with select organizations to develop training and support for children’s ministries in the United States and around the world.


To honor God by helping heal hurting children and families.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

About Citra Florida

Citra, Florida, nestled within Marion County, boasts picturesque landscapes and orange groves, making it an emblem of rural serenity. Yet, beneath this tranquil façade, there's a pressing issue: the escalating number of orphaned and displaced youth. In comparison to urban areas with more extensive resources, rural settings like Citra are often at a disadvantage.

Recent statistics indicate a disturbing rise in children without stable homes in Marion County, with Citra bearing a significant brunt of this trend. The challenges here are unique:

limited transportation options can hinder access to essential services, fewer specialized social programs cater to the needs of these children, and the close-knit nature of smaller communities like Citra can sometimes inadvertently suppress the reporting of issues like neglect or abuse. Given the foundational role of community in towns like Citra, addressing the problem of orphaned youth is crucial not only for the children themselves but for the community's future vitality.