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Lawmakers: Pay State Workers To Adopt

Florida House of Representatives

State workers could get between $5,000 and $10,000 for adopting children under a bill that passed a House panel Tuesday. Lawmakers also want scorecards for adoption providers.

When Arie Sailor saw three-year-old Betty, she didn’t see a child with Down Syndrome and other challenges. She saw an irresistible baby who needed an adoptive home. Sailor opened hers.

“My belief is that there is a family for every child out there," she says.

Thirty years later, Sailor is executive director of One Church One Child of Tallahassee, which steers potentially adoptive parents to the right agencies. Sailor welcomes any move to promote adoption.

“I think that that’s important because we’re talking about the children here.”

House Health and Human Services chair Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, wants to do just that. His bill would give state workers a $5,000 incentive for adopting children caught in the foster care system, and $10,000 for those with special needs.

Here’s Brodeur before a House committee.

“In 2014, we had 670 children who were available for adoption but did not have an adoptive family identified for them despite actively seeking one,” he said.

His bill passed unanimously, but not without turbulence. Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, tried unsuccessfully to use a parliamentary procedure to block an amendment allowing foster and adoptive parents to home school their children.

In the adoption arena, special needs children include those older than eight, minorities, those who come with a brother or sister, or have emotional or developmental disabilities.

A companion measure by former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would go a step further than the House. It carves $3.4 million out of the general revenue fund to pay for the incentives. Gaetz told a social services committee last month it could be a money saver.

“Right now it costs about $35,000 a year to keep a child in a group home, it costs over $6,000 a year to keep a child in foster care with a foster family," he said.

His bill also would give the Department of Children and Families $6.5 million in extra money once it comes with ways for measuring the programs’ performance.

Last summer, 3,031 Florida children were available for adoption, Senate experts say. In 2013, 93 percent of children adopted from the child welfare system in Florida had special needs.