In Florida, it’s Adoption Year

Palm Beach Post
Opinion

November is National Adoption Month, a fitting time to recognize the strides Florida has made in turning around its foster care system and putting more children into permanent homes.

The state’s child welfare system is still in need of major improvements as illustrated this spring when 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, who was taking an anti-psychotic drug that neither his mother nor a judge had approved, killed himself at his Broward County foster home. Gabriel’s is one of several horror stories starring the Florida Department of Children and Families since the state privatized foster care and adoptions.

Still, the number of children in foster care — which has steadily decreased — and the number being adopted — which has steadily risen, tell a different story — one of success and hope.

Florida set a record this fiscal year with 3,777 adoptions through June 30. Of those foster children, 162 were in Palm Beach County, 20 in Martin County and 44 in St. Lucie County.

There have been 600 finalized adoptions since July 1, and about 200 — including 50 in Miami on Friday — will become final this month, putting those children in permanent homes in time for Christmas.

Florida also has seen a drop in the number of children in foster care. As of July 1 of this year there were 19,797 in foster care, a decline of 9,483 since the beginning of 2007.

The federal government recognized the state’s efforts by awarding Florida $9.75 million in adoption incentives, nearly one-third of the $35 million given to 38 states and Puerto Rico. The bonus money rewards states for adoptions of older children in foster care and those with special needs. In December, DCF created the “Longest Waiting Teens” initiative to encourage adoption of teenagers. Of the 103 children seeking permanent families, 26 have found one.

“Nationally, we rank at the very top as far as adoptions. We’re very proud of that accomplishment,” Jim Kallinger, Florida’s chief child advocate said in an interview. “And communities are getting involved. People are answering the call and adopting these kids despite the economy, which is quite amazing.”

These accomplishments are certainly worth lauding. What also would be amazing is for Florida’s Supreme Court to repeal the state’s ban on gay adoption. Florida is the only state to ban adoptions by all homosexuals. A case to overturn the ban is pending before the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Any decision will likely be appealed again at the Supreme Court level.

The court can take Florida to an even higher level of adoptions by allowing all loving families willing and qualified to give abused and neglected children a permanent home the right to do just that.

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