Governor Charlie Crist today lauded community partners, Progress Energy Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco and Eckerd Community Alternatives, for teaming up with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) to launch the "Winter's Dream" adoption awareness campaign. The Governor also praised Florida's record-breaking adoption numbers two years in a row through the Explore Adoption Initiative.
"Across Florida, communities are getting involved in raising awareness about adoption and helping children in foster care find their forever families," said Governor Crist. "We must continue to maintain Florida's successful adoption track-record so that wonderful foster children in state care can find permanent and loving adoptive families."
The "Winter's Dream" project is a partnership between the CMA, Progress Energy Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco, and Eckerd Youth Alternatives to promote awareness of children in state foster care available for adoption. The aquarium promotes the importance of adoption by paralleling the story of adopting Winter, the now famous resident dolphin. The CMA rescued and adopted Winter from a life-threatening situation and rehabilitated her. Despite losing her tail, Winter has successfully recovered and adapted to her new physical form. The CMA also shares 20 percent of donations to Winter's Adoption Fund, another aquarium fundraising initiative, toward the "Winter's Dream" efforts of pairing foster children with adoptive families.
"I want to thank Governor Crist for his efforts to achieve more adoptions and decrease the amount of time that children spend in foster care in Florida," said Jim Kallinger, Florida's Chief Child Advocate. "But our work is not finished -- we will continue to focus on teens, sibling groups and children with medical needs still in foster care and find them loving and permanent homes. We must continue to raise awareness and recruit families for the children still waiting for their forever family."
Last year, Governor Crist announced Florida's record-breaking 3,777 adoptions through Florida's public adoption system during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. This record follows the previous year's record of 3,674 in 2007-08, up from 3,079 in 2006-07. Additionally, during the 2008-09 fiscal year, Florida saw the fewest children entering foster care since 2003. As of July 1, 2009, there were 19,797 children in out-of-home care, down 32 percent (9,483 children) from 29,280 children in January 2007.
Since Governor Crist launched "Explore Adoption" in May 2008, the state's adoption hotline, 1-800-96-ADOPT, has received a record number of calls. The Web site for "Explore Adoption," www.AdoptFlorida.org, features real Floridia family stories, the road map to the adoption process, a detailed listing of the benefits to adoption, all campaign materials and much more. In December 2009, the Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences nominated series of five "Explore Adoption" ads won an Emmy award.
To learn more about the Governor's Explore Adoption initiative that focuses on adopting teens, siblings groups and children with special needs from state foster care, please visit www.AdoptFlorida.org or call 1-800-96-ADOPT.