by Caroline Gabsewics
Along with the children, families, attorneys and case workers that were inside Circuit Court Judge David Gooding’s courtroom on Friday, was Governor Charlie Crist’s newly appointed chief child advocate.
Jim Kallinger was appointed to the position in the Office of Adoptions and Child Protection on July 2.
“I am serving as the governor’s liaison on issues dealing with Florida’s children,” he said. “The governor has made children a priority of his.”
Kallinger was in Jacksonville on Friday to observe Gooding in his courtroom, because of the work that he has done for children in Duval County.
“What Judge Gooding is doing is incredible,” he said. “I have heard so many great things about what he has done for our children and we think it can be a model for the rest of the state.”
Kallinger, who has only been at this position for a little over a month, said his plan is to make his way around the state to see how judges handle adoptions.
Last year Gooding was involved in the adoption of 282 children in Duval County. Duval County was also the highest in the state in gross numbers last year. Currently, Duval County leads the state in percentages over goals, said Gooding.
Kallinger explained how important it is for foster children to be adopted into a loving family.
“There are a lot of barriers attached to adoptions, but if you have a champion for adoptions like Judge Gooding, those barriers can go away,” said Kallinger. “Judge Gooding has taken this issue and is bringing the kids home.”
Crist would like to reduce the number of children in foster care, Kallinger said and added that children’s lives depend on how good the child welfare system is.
“If a child gets removed from a home and put into foster care, they need to get out (of foster care) as quickly as they can,” he said. “Because the longer kids are in foster care, the more damage.
“The key to the whole process is the court system and with what Judge Gooding has done so far, has made a big difference.”
Before Judge Gooding held the adoption hearings for 17 children on Friday, he said he was very happy that Kallinger decided to come see him in action.
“I am so excited that he is here,” said Gooding. “It is a demonstration of the outstanding leadership of our governor that he has created this (chief child advocate) position.
“And he (Kallinger) demonstrated that by coming here today.”
Gooding added that he is happy that Kallinger and Crist see how important it is for children to have a permanent home.
After the children were legally adopted into a new family on Friday, Kallinger handed them a goodie bag and a bookbag from Family Support Services of North Florida.
“I made it a priority to see what is going on in different courtrooms because each judge and each case is different,” he said. “If other judges know what Judge Gooding is doing, they can follow his model and I know it will make a big difference.”