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PRESS RELEASE

November 4, 2003

ALIA FARAJ
(850) 488-5394

Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush Unveils "No Place Like Home" Initiative
November is National Adoption Month

TALLAHASSEE — Governor Jeb Bush and Department of Children & Families Secretary Jerry Regier today announced the No Place Like Home initiative designed to increase adoptions by raising awareness throughout the state.

The No Place Like Home initiative will focus on the recruitment of families to provide safe, loving environments for children needing permanent homes. This initiative will also streamline existing adoption processes and offer innovative camps to match children with parents seeking to adopt.

"One of my top priorities is to strengthen Florida's families and we can all make a difference by opening our hearts and our homes to Florida's children," said Governor Bush. "We are committed to finding the right home for each child waiting for a family. Our 'No Place Like Home' campaign, and the new programs that will become an important part of DCF's ongoing adoption initiative will help us find permanent, loving homes for the children who need them."

Currently, there are more than 4,600 care children in foster care available for adoption. DCF has identified homes for more than 2,500 children, however, almost 2,100 children are still waiting to be matched with a family.

"Our goal is to increase the number of adoptions through tested and proven methods and, at the same time, introduce new ways of thinking and innovative techniques to help create new, healthy and permanent families for our children," said Secretary Jerry Regier. "In order to provide these homes, we have to make the public aware of the need."

Several enhancements are being introduced during National Adoption Month. These improvements will remain an integral part of DCF's mission of ensuring the safety, well being and self-sufficiency of the families and children under the agency's care. The No Place Like Home initiative will include the following:

  • Improved Adoption Process
    DCF is streamlining current adoption procedures with a goal of shortening the adoption process for foster parents and relative caregivers from a statewide average of eight months to five
    months. Foster parents and relative adoptions, currently handled individually, will be completed in a group setting for increased efficiency. This will also provide a peer support group for families long after their adoption process is final.

  • HomeFinder Teams
    Specialized "HomeFinder Teams" will focus on identifying families for hard-to-place children by enhancing adoption staff training. Many of these children have special medical or emotional needs or are part of sibling groups. The training will be used to develop a personalized recruitment plan for each child identified. Team members will include current DCF adoption professionals who will travel to each DCF district to ensure consistency in training.

  • Camp Cool Kidz
    Camp Cool Kidz will offer parents considering adoption a new approach to the process. The camp will bring together children and potential adoptive parents in a fun, activity-filled
    camp. Camps will allow potential parents the opportunity to spend an entire week with a child in a relaxed atmosphere prior to their — both parent and child's — commitment to becoming a family. Camps will pilot this spring in the Orlando and Tampa areas.

DCF will continue to work with its Community Based Partners and private partners on increasing public awareness of the No Place Like Home initiative. This will include public service announcements, expanded community outreach and an improved website at www.fladopt.org. The website features Florida children who are available for adoption and helps bring potential parents one step closer to starting or expanding their families. DCF is also planning a series of adoption awareness events during the month of November in partnership with business, nonprofits, universities and faith-based organizations.

Last month, Florida received $3.5 million in federal funds, the largest amount of any state, for increasing adoption numbers for state-supervised foster care in federal fiscal year 2002. DCF will use the bonus dollars for programs like No Place Like Home to raise public awareness about adoption, including recruitment of new adoptive parents, production of educational materials and sponsorship of adoption activities in local communities.

Joining Governor Bush at the event were the Knight and Jones families, Community Based Care providers, the Honorable Chief Judge Charles A. Francis, 2nd Circuit and Judge John Cooper, 2nd Circuit, as well as Community partners.

Prospective adoptive parents may contact their local office of the Department of Children & Families for further information or call 1-800-96ADOPT or visit www.fladopt.org.