TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist today announced that more than 12,000 Florida children in foster care have been adopted since 2007, including 3,368 children adopted in the past year. Florida’s recent success reduces the number of Florida children in foster care by nearly 36 percent since 2007.
“Florida has been recognized as the best in the nation at increasing adoptions because we believe the children in our care should have the best opportunity possible to be matched with a loving family,” said Governor Crist. “Our adoption successes are possible because Floridians are looking into their hearts and finding room for the teenagers, sibling groups and children with medical needs who typically wait longer to be adopted.”
In 2009, Florida was awarded a $9.7 million federal bonus for outpacing all other states in the number of adoptions of children from foster care. Florida set adoption records adoptions in fiscal year 2007-08 with 3,674, and in fiscal year 2008-09, with 3,777.
“Our bottom line in Florida is that no child should grow up in foster care,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon. “We have not yet fully achieved that goal, but we are making extraordinary progress through increased adoptions, safe reduction of the number of children in foster care, and more family reunifications and permanent guardianships with relatives.”
Florida’s leadership position among the states in adoption of children from foster care is a result of the combined efforts of the Explore Adoption public awareness campaign through the Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection, the Florida Department of Children and Families, 20 community-based care agencies and other local partners that include Heart Galleries across the state.
“When we started the Explore Adoption campaign to educate Floridians about the joys of adoption, 1,000 Florida children were in need of a forever family on any given day,” said Florida’s Chief Child Advocate Jim Kallinger. “Today, we have reduced that number to 850 children.”
Florida’s ongoing commitment to finding loving adoptive families for children in foster care is outlined in the recently launched Florida Child Abuse Prevention and Permanency Plan: July 2010-June 2015. More than 800 partners representing 200 agencies and organizations around the state contributed to the plan’s development. The new plan lays out cost-effective, attainable strategies for empowering communities, strengthening families to better care for their children and preventing child abuse before it occurs. Additionally, the plan promotes adoption from foster care and support of adoptive families.
A key to Florida’s success, in December 2008, the Department of Children and Families established the “Longest Waiting Teens” list, which identified 103 teenagers and their siblings awaiting a permanent home. To date, 38 teens have been adopted and 14 have transitioned out of foster care upon turning 18. Efforts continue to find loving, permanent families for 48 youth on the list who remain without an adoptive family.
The Explore Adoption campaign promotes the benefits of public adoption in Florida through public education, partnerships, Web-based outreach and a mass media campaign. Explore Adoption educates Florida’s citizens about the benefits of public adoption, including:
· Costs little or nothing. Compared to many private adoptions, which can cost $20,000 or more, virtually all costs to adopt a child from the public system – the home study, attorneys’ fees, court costs and training – are borne by the state.
· Is very secure. Children are not made available for public adoption until a judge has terminated their birth parents’ rights.
· Provides financial supports. Children adopted through the public system qualify for free health care until they turn 18, free college tuition at any state university, community college or trade school, and may qualify for monthly financial assistance, depending on the child’s needs.
· Provides an opportunity to get to know a child. Prospective parents can search for a child who matches their interests through a searchable database on http://www.adoptflorida.org. Prospective parents can then meet and get to know a child to make sure it’s a good match for all.
· Can be speedy. The entire process – from orientation, training, background checks, and home study to getting matched with a child or children – can often be accomplished in about nine months.
To learn more about the Explore Adoption campaign, please visit http://www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-96-ADOPT. Media are encouraged to visit the resources section of the website for additional fact sheets and other information.