In an effort to increase adoptions, Florida lawmakers are pushing a measure that would give state employees an incentive to add foster kids to their families. Under a bill moving through the senate, state workers would get $10,000 for taking home a child with special needs and $5,000 for taking home a child with no special needs. Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) is sponsoring the measure. He says the money will help families who might otherwise hesitate to adopt while also helping the state.
“Right now it costs about $35,000 per year to keep a child in a group home. It costs over $6,000 to keep a child in foster care with a foster care family. By having these children be adopted because they’re adoptable, we’ll be able to save money and also I think do a good thing,” Gaetz says.
Adoptive parent Karen Burns says a similar program existed when she and her husband – a state employee adopted four older children from foster care a few years ago, but she says the program had run out of money. She says having the support Gaetz’s bill offered would have been a big help for her family.
“We doubled up some things. We had to get the ugliest 14 passenger van you’ve ever seen. We didn’t have the money to buy an 8 passenger – I think Honda Odyssey is the only one that’s made—so we got this really ugly van that the kids hated, but we could all go somewhere together. They needed clothes, because they come with very little," Burns says.
Gaetz’s bill would apply to state employees along with school district and university and college employees. It includes additional provisions like one that would establish an award for families or organizations that help get kids adopted. Another would let homeschoolers serve as foster care families. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee amended the bill so it could take effect earlier, then passed it unanimously.