The more than eight hundred children awaiting adoption within the state’s child welfare system will have a better chance of finding families under legislation proposed by Senator Don Gaetz.
Senate Bill 320 will provide financial help to qualified families who agree to adopt children who are often hard to place because of disabilities, age or illness. If the legislation passes, full or part-time employees of school districts, universities, colleges or state government would receive a lump sum benefit for adopting children now in foster care.
“Sadly, in our state there are too many children in the foster care system because their own biological homes were filled with cruelty, abuse and crime,” said Gaetz (R-Niceville). “Once the courts have determined that they are adoptable, these innocent young Floridians deserve the chance to be part of stable, loving families.”
This bill continues a pattern of legislation sponsored and supported by Gaetz to reform the state’s child welfare system, prevent child abuse and care for its victims and support children advocacy centers and guardian ad litem programs.
Gaetz said he was inspired to propose the legislation after his wife, Vicky, visited group foster homes and met with children who are eligible for adoption, but the state can’t find enough adoptive families.
Under SB 320, a public employee who adopts a special needs child will receive a $10,000 benefit. Gaetz says this is because these children often come with complicated medical conditions and represent significant demands on families’ resources. An employee adopting a child without special needs would benefit from a $5,000 state grant.
The legislation is not only designed to meet what the senator calls “a moral imperative to protect and cherish vulnerable children,” but it’s also a money-saver for taxpayers. On average, it costs the state $8,368 a year to maintain a child in foster care and $36,120 to pay all the annual per person costs of a group foster home.
Gaetz’s bill also creates an incentive program for community-based care agencies and their subcontractors to promote adoptions and establishes a state award to recognize faith-based and other organizations who make significant contributions to helping foster children find permanent homes.
SB 320 is a part of the Joint Legislative Workplan supported by both Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.
“I am very grateful to the President and the Speaker for making the promotion of adoption a high priority for both chambers,” Gaetz said. “These two thoughtful, compassionate leaders are both fathers of young children and know well the value of warm, loving families.”
For more information about this or any other issue, please contact Senator Don Gaetz, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by letter, 4300 Legendary Drive, Suite 230, Destin, FL 32541 or call 1-866-450-4DON toll free from anywhere in Florida.