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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 25, 200612:00 PM EST

Gooding holds 'biggest adoption event in the state'

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

Describing the process as ”grafting a branch onto a family tree,” Circuit Court Judge David Gooding, joined by Circuit Court Judge Waddell Wallace, presided over the second annual “Home for the Holidays” adoption hearing and celebration Dec. 21 at the Duval County Courthouse.

When the hearings adjourned, 50 North Florida families had another stocking to hang on the mantle this year, more than in any other judicial circuit in Florida.

“This is the biggest adoption event in the state,” said attorney Angela Orkin, the executive director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office. “Jacksonville has a model program and has helped train five other judicial circuits in the state. It’s an incredible partnership.”

Family Support Services of North Florida Inc. Chief executive Officer Jim Adams said there are currently 3,200 children in the foster-care system in Duval County and 32 more children enter the program each week.

In the 2005-06 fiscal year, 345 children were adopted in Duval County alone and Family Support Services achieved 100 percent visitation for all children in foster care for two consecutive reporting periods.

When it comes to finding loving homes for children in need, Adams said Jacksonville leads the entire state because of teamwork.

“From the caseworkers to the judicial system, everyone works together to get the job done,” he said.

Mayor John Peyton, who brought Rally Jacksonville! book bags for the newly-adopted children, said, “It’s all because of Judge Gooding. He did not accept the status quo. To be number one in adoptions is a great thing for Jacksonville.”

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