This Sunday will mark the two-year anniversary of when the Department of Children and Families first reported Rilya Wilson missing from state custody. The five-year-old actually disappeared 15 months earlier and remains missing today.
Advocates hope one of Rilya's legacies will be more foster kids being adopted into permanent, safe homes. Legislators and adoption advocates stood on the steps of the Florida Capitol to remember Rilya Wilson. It was two years ago this weekend the Department of Children and Families admitted they'd lost track of the child
"So many people were outraged. People are still outraged. I will always be outraged until we find Rilya,” says, Sen. Frederica Wilson, (D) Miami.
State Sen. Frederica Wilson has been a driving force behind many of the reforms at DCF since Rilya's disappearance. Although she and DCF's new secretary, Jerry Regier, are frequently at odds, they're united in the believe that Rilya's legacy is a safer Florida.
"Obviously many of the changes in the department have been driven by the tragedy that took place, and because of that I think it drove home to all of us the need for safety, the need for accountability,” says Regier.
Now both are trying to encourage more families, especially minorities, to adopt foster children to give them the permanence Rilya never had. Minority children waiting for permanent adoptive homes far outnumber white kids. In Miami-Dade County, for example, of the 479 kids available only 50 are white.
Last fall Leroy Coleman and his wife adopted the little boy they'd cared for as a foster child for five years. The new daddy says he fell in love with the child they now call Leroy, Jr.
More than 4,000 Florida foster children like Leroy are in the system waiting for permanent adoptive homes. Adoptions of foster kids have increased 60 percent in Florida since last fall when the state kicked off its "no place like home" initiative.
For more information on adoption, call 1-800-96-ADOPT or log onto www.fladopt.org