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New ‘Chief Child Advocate’ Ann Scott Has Child Advocates, Attorneys Hopeful She Can Continue Florida’s Progress in Adopting its Foster Children

Amid budget cuts and tough times for Florida’s most vulnerable citizens, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has named his wife and First Lady, Ann Scott, to the role of Florida’s “Chief Child Advocate.” Her predecessor, Jim Kallinger, made great strides in raising adoptions and lowering the number of kids in state care. Statewide and in the Department of Children and Families, tidings are tough: Funding for children and social services is low – and dropping, and needs of its most vulnerable are high – and growing.

Ms. Scott has a significant role ahead of her in advocating for the state’s most vulnerable citizens: Abused, neglected and abandoned children who end up “in the system” as foster children or seeking adoption. Former state Rep. Jim Kallinger, appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, held the role as a full-time employee. Meanwhile, oversight and lapses by the DCF have resulted in lawsuits, damage claims and significant awards.

The Orlando Sentinel writes, “As child advocate, [Ms. Scott] said she hopes to make child literacy and healthful lifestyles her top priorities, though she offered no specifics. She said she will also continue to promote adoption; Kallinger’s efforts resulted in 12,000 adoptions in three years and a 36 percent reduction in the number of children in state-administered foster care….Child advocates have long argued that Florida neglects children. School funding is continually on the chopping block, hundreds of thousands of children lack health insurance and the state’s pre-kindergarten programs don’t always meet national standards.” Read the entire story here [http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-07-23/news/fl-who-is-ann-scott-20110723_1_child-advocate-first-lady-child-advocacy-group]

The Sentinel went on to highlight what many advocates are thinking and hoping: That her prominence as First Lady could bring welcome attention to children’s issues, but “she would have to walk a very fine line if her advocacy collided with her husband’s budget- and tax-cutting agenda.”

We are hopeful she can walk that line, keeping in mind that on the other side are children whose care and lives hang in the balance. It’s a fine line indeed.

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