Nassau County Sees the Good, Bad Sides of Adoption; Commissioners Will Decide If the Pluses Outweigh the Minuses

By Apollo, Anne Marie | The Florida Times Union, May 6, 2007 | Go to article overview

Nassau County Sees the Good, Bad Sides of Adoption; Commissioners Will Decide If the Pluses Outweigh the Minuses


Apollo, Anne Marie, The Florida Times Union


Byline: ANNE MARIE APOLLO

YULEE - On one end, a division of Nassau County charged with the care and placement of children removed from their homes looks good.

A recent Florida Department of Children and Families report gave Family Matters top marks for key foster and adoptive services. The state's report found the organization kept children safe under its care and either saw them reunified with their families or adopted in a timely manner, all while spending less per child than groups like it.

Now caregivers there hope the praise will help calm concerns of a County Commission having second thoughts about being in the foster care and adoption business.

Nassau County, one of just two Florida counties to contract with DCF to provide services typically undertaken by non-profits, became critical of its own employees this year after a family complained about difficulties adopting a child.

"We hear a lot of good things, and then we hear these bad things. We want to make things run right and proper," commission Chairman Jim Higginbotham said.

Family Matters Executive Director Judy Dey is ready to talk about the controversial adoption case at a special County Commission meeting Tuesday called to discuss the county's future involvement in children's services.

Dey said having the service in-house is a benefit. She plans to urge commissioners to stick with the model or, if not, give Family Matters time to organize as a nonprofit agency and continue in the same capacity.

But Higginbotham said there have been concerns the adoption process is unclear for some.

A family approached commissioners this year saying they had been promised a particular child and was able to visit with the boy, but later found the process would be much more complicated and the family might not be able to adopt him after all.

Prospective mother Jan Nettles said the state is not seeing behind the scenes when it comes to the adoption process.

"When we were told we were going to get him we prepared just as you would for a birth child," she said. "I don't want this to happen to another family."

Dey acknowledged the mix-up was inappropriate, and she said the employee responsible resigned and her supervisor was fired.

The boy remains with his foster family.

"The child deserves the best care available," Dey said. "His welfare is what everyone should be concerned with. …

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