College Highlights

FAU social work students join rally in Tallahassee

Published April 4th, 2008

By Dale M. King

Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt with School of Social Work students.
Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt with School of Social Work students.

Looking to loosen Florida’s tight regulations on adoptions, 65 social work students from Florida Atlantic University recently motored to Tallahassee to join a larger group at a rally for that cause and other issues.

The gathering was sponsored by the National Associatoin of Social Workers (NASW), and drew some 300 people, said Mary Moore, a participant from FAU.

“Our foster care system is in crisis,” Sharon Paxton, another student told the Boca Raton News.  She said Florida “has to come into compliance with the Safe Families Act of 1997.  That says children have to come out of the foster care system in 12 to 18 months and be placed in homes.”  In Florida, the average amount of time a foster child spends in the system is 33 months.

If Florida does not comply, she said, it could lose $220 million in federal funding.

FAU students seemed unanimous in supporting gay adoptions as a means of opening up the field of potential foster parents. Florida currently allows heterosexual couples or individuals to adopt, but bans gay couples or individuals.

Paxton said agencies that deal with adoption must consider “what’s in the best interest of the child.  We had a woman with us who was raised by a lesbian mother and her partner.  There were no social issues.”

The FAU group also met with state Sen. Nan Rich, a Democrat whose district includes Miami-Dade and Broward counties. She has filed a bill in the Senate to allow gay adoptions. But students said she told them the bill will likely die in committee.

“But she told us to keep fighting,” students said.

The social worker student group from FAU also brought to Tallahassee concerns about prevention of teen suicide and protection of social workers’ professional titles.

Also on the group’s agenda was a plea for parity in the funding of programs for the mentally ill as well as the physically ill.

Paxton said Florida is ranked 48th in the nation in spending for the mentally ill, providing “less than half” of what is needed to cover the cost of required services. She added that “125,000 people require immediate attention.”  And this, she said, will increase without additional funding.

She said the state should deal with the needs of the mentally ill now instead of waiting for conditions to worsen, and they become criminals.  This, she said, will increase the cost of running the correctional system.

Dale M. King can be reached at 561-549-0832 or at

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