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More Than 380 Children Adopted since July, following launch of Permanency Pilot in the Tampa Bay Area

December 13, 2023

Tampa, FLA. – Today, Secretary Shevaun Harris highlighted the successes from the Permanency Initiative launched by the Department of Children and Families (Department) in Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties. In less than 150 days, 381 children in the Tampa Bay area were adopted, an 85% increase compared to the prior fiscal year.

"Through prevention programs and wrap around services, we continue to do all that we can to improve outcomes in our child welfare system," said Department Secretary Shevaun Harris. "For those children who are not able to safely remain with a biological parent, we want to make sure that permanency can be achieved as quickly as possible. Under the leadership of Governor and First Lady DeSantis, we have been able to transform adoptions through this initiative and we look forward to expanding this program to further reduce the time that it takes for children to find a forever family."

The DeSantis Administration has challenged agencies to explore innovative solutions for issues impacting Floridians. Children in foster care deserve permanency as quickly as possible.

Once a child is eligible for adoption through the dependency system, it can take over one year to finalize the adoption. Through this initiative, the Department, along with community partners like the judiciary, has been able to eliminate months of delay in the process. As a part of this effort, the Department identified opportunities to streamline the following which resulted in time saved for families interested in adopting:

  • eliminating duplicative background screening, 
  • eliminating unnecessary questions in adoption application packets, 
  • expediting adoption home studies, and 
  • eliminating requirements not found in the law.

"We are thrilled that Circuit 13th was one of the circuits selected to lead the Department’s Permanency Initiative. The Department has done terrific work streamlining the process to achieve permanency, resulting in faster adoptions with fewer obstacles," said Judge Katherine Essrig, Florida 13th Circuit Court. "We are pleased that all the stakeholders have come together to improve adoption processes, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration to achieve even greater outcomes in the future."

"Family Support Services (FSS) is grateful for the chance to work with DCF to evaluate existing policy and paperwork to find efficiencies that allow children to achieve permanency more quickly, without compromising quality or safety," said Jenn Petion, President and CEO of FSS. "Every extra day a child spends in foster care is a day too many. This pilot has allowed us to streamline paperwork so that children already living with their forever family can achieve adoption finalization more quickly, which has enabled us to complete more than 175 adoption finalizations since July 1, a record for our Pasco and Pinellas community."

"Florida and the Children's Network of Hillsborough is committed to ensuring every child has a loving, permanent family. As we highlight the importance of finding homes for those in need as part of National Adoption Day, I am thankful for the leadership undertaken by the Department of Children and Families to help children find their forever families through this first-in-the-nation permanency initiative,” said Terri Balliet, CEO of the Children’s Network of Hillsborough. “I look forward to continuing to work side by side with partners and community leaders to keep children and families thriving in the State of Florida."

In Florida more than 800 children have been adopted already this fiscal year, but there are thousands of children who are still available for adoption. If someone is interested in finding out more about adoption, the Florida Adoption Information Center at 1-800-96-ADOPT or 1-904-353-0679 can connect families with an adoption worker in their area who can help start the adoption process.