Robert King spent half his life living in foster care. Now, after years of wondering if he'll ever have a family, he has finally found one forever.
"It feels great. It's extraordinary. It's really hard to put your finger down on it," said King.
The 17-year-old was adopted by Kim and Michael Johnson who have two biological children. The Johnson's wanted to adopt a teenager, so they surfed the net and saw Robert's photo on the state's adoption website. The photo reminded the family of what Michael looked like when he was a boy.
"They looked at the website and they saw me and I guess it was like first love," said King.
"We went straight to the adoption process because from the point of meeting him, we just couldn't wait to have him as part of our family," said Kim Johnson.
Robert and his new family were guest speakers at an event kicking off national adoption month. Around 850 children are available for adoption on any given day in Florida, and more than half of them are teenagers like Robert.
"A lot of those kids will say, the thing I really miss, the thing I want most of all, and they may never have had it, is a loving family," said DCF Secretary George Sheldon.
A room of his own and a place to call home can be crossed off Robert's wish list. But the greatest gift of all, is knowing he has people to turn to, to share his joy, comfort his sorrows and introduce him as their son.
The following is a press release from the Florida Department of Children and Families:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
The “30 Days of Amazing Children: Explore Adoption!” initiative presenting children in foster care who dream of being adopted by forever families was unveiled today by Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon and Florida’s Chief Child Advocate Jim Kallinger.
A different “Amazing Child” available for adoption in Florida is being featured every day during National Adoption Month in November on www.adoptflorida.org. Many of the featured teens, sibling groups and children with medical needs are depicted on videos as they talk about themselves and their hopes to become part of a loving family. About 850 children are available for adoption on any given day in Florida, and more than half of them are teenagers.
“Floridians are encouraged to visit www.adoptflorida.org during November and become acquainted with children available for adoption and their dreams of belonging to a family,” Secretary Sheldon said. “These are Florida’s children. Their futures depend on actions that all of us can take to raise adoption awareness and recruit loving adoptive families.”
Speaking at the celebration that kicked off National Adoption Month in Florida at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was 17-year-old Robert, whose adoption becomes official this month. Kim Johnson and her husband decided last March to adopt Robert, who spent half of his life in foster care. Kim first encountered Robert when she searched www.adoptflorida.org looking for a teen in need of a family. The Johnson's also have two biological children, ages 3 and 4.
“I’m not in foster care any more. I’m really happy. It’s more than I expected,” Robert said of being adopted by the Johnson family. “All the comfort and love, it’s really extraordinary. You have someone to fall back on.” He gets along great with his sister Sage and brother Kaden, likes doing math and playing video games, and thinks it’s cool to have a dog named Buddy.
“We had an extraordinary first meeting. It just felt so natural.” Kim Johnson said. “We are so blessed to have a son like him. What an amazing great big brother. To Robert, it has meant a vision of what he wants to do in life and the stability of knowing where home is and where he can be.”
Florida is a national model on adoptions, collecting a total of more than $15 million in federal bonuses in 2009 and 2010 for increasing the adoption of children in foster care. More than 12,000 Florida children in foster care were adopted over the past three and a half years. Florida also currently is best among the states in achieving adoptions in a timely manner.
“When children in foster care are adopted by a permanent family, they feel loved, secure and positive about their future,” Chief Child Advocate Kallinger said. “The many adoptive parents I have met are equally overjoyed to add these wonderful children to their families. We just need to keep spreading the adoption message.”
Children in foster care who do not achieve permanency with a family before transitioning out of care at age 18 are at higher risk of being arrested, becoming teenage moms, dropping out of school and becoming homeless. Over the past three and a half years, Florida has safely reduced the number of children in foster care by nearly 11,000, or 36 percent, through adoptions, permanent guardianships and reunification with parents.
Credit for Florida’s adoption successes is shared by many committed partners, including the Explore Adoption campaign, the Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection, DCF, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, community based care lead agencies, local adoption providers, Forever Family, Heart Galleries, One Church One Child and many others.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a new partner, is giving free passes to state parks to all families finalizing adoptions of children in foster care during National Adoption Month. Several state parks also are hosting adoption celebrations.
“At DEP, we realize the importance of outdoor activities that families can enjoy together,” said Bob Ballard, DEP Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation. “We proudly manage 160 Florida state parks which are recognized as premier family-friendly destinations. Florida state parks not only offer unlimited outdoor recreation, but provide educational opportunities for the entire family.”
Nearly 50 adoption celebrations and finalization ceremonies are being held throughout Florida this November. Go to http://www.adoptflorida.org/adoptionmonth4.shtml to find out about events in your area.
While private forms of adoption can cost upwards of $30,000, adopting one of Florida's children in foster care costs little or nothing. The benefits include a monthly adoption subsidy for the family, health benefits for the child, and free college tuition at a Florida public university, community college or vocational school. The federal adoption tax credit recently was raised to $13,170 per child and is refundable, meaning eligible taxpayers can receive it regardless of whether or not they owe taxes for that year.
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