Applause fills the room after Chairman of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet David Wilkins wraps up today's meeting with a progress report regarding Florida's children.
The meeting focused on both the positive and negative. Chairman Wilkins noted a variety of positive statistics in his progress report: Graduation rates are at an all time high, while drop out rates are at an all time low. He also mentioned that for the third year in a row, the state has seen more than 3,000 adoption this year.
Discussed earlier in the meeting was human trafficking. Chairman Wilkins says, "being a large state and tourism state we have a bigger human trafficking problem than others." He says recently, there has been some high profile situations in Miami where foster children were being pimped.
But it's even a problem here in Panama City, he says. Cabinet members, child advocates, and other state agency representatives talked about several initiatives and ways to combat human trafficking. "Part of it, is law enforcement, better relationships with law enforcement to crack down on this, and part of it its better training without case workers," says Wilkins.
Wilkins also says there's 20 percent more foster kids in group homes...leading to a desperate need for more foster parents. "We want to recruit about 1,200 foster parents across the state to try and alleviate that problem."
He's hoping the new Foster Parent Recruitment Initiative which he announced today, can help combat the problem.
Today was the first time the cabinet met in Panama City. The cabinet will meet again at the end of October in Miami.