Department Initiatives

Ft. Myers News Press

Task force to host public child welfare workshops

By Erin Gillespie

Originally posted on October 31, 2007

The state Department of Children and Families wants to hear from residents on Friday.

The Task Force on Child Protection, appointed by DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth to examine gaps in the child welfare system, holds its last meeting this week in Fort Myers.

The meeting is the first of three child welfare conferences in the next week that will give residents information on how to keep children safe, how to adopt and how to be a better caregiver.

Butterworth appointed the task force in July after a Pinellas County toddler went missing for nine months.

Since August, the task force has met in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville to hear community members' problems.

The group released preliminary recommendations last month, and the final list is expected Friday.

The recommendations included changing laws to make background screenings of caregivers uniform; reviewing licensing of caregivers; training law enforcement on missing children cases; and making sure children are seen every 31 days.

Caregivers meeting

Grandparents and other caregivers in Lee County will have the chance Wednesday to hear from national experts on caregiving.

The program includes information on how to get family members involved, how to get community resources, and how to beat stress and depression.

The conference will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Three Oaks Banquet & Conference Center, 20991 Three Oaks Parkway in Estero. It's intended for family and professional caregivers.

The host is Gary Barg, editor-in-chief of Today's Caregiver magazine and author of "The Fearless Caregiver." The keynote speaker is Dr. Douglas Beach, secretary of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

"There's never a question that's going to be asked of a caregiver in that room that there's no answer to," Barg said. "It's for caregivers to be in there with other caregivers and hear what they're going through and learn solutions."

Tickets are $45, $55 at the door, but family caregivers can get free tickets, which are provided by Lee Memorial Health System. Lunch is included.

To register, go to and click on Fort Myers, FL, or call (954) 893-0550 or (800) 829-2734.

Adoption conference

November is National Adoption Month. On Nov. 9, families who want to learn more about adoption will have the chance to meet local children who need permanent homes.

The fourth annual Joys of Adoption Conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pelican Preserve, 10571 Veneto Drive, in Fort Myers. The cost is $30 and includes breakfast and lunch. The event's sponsor is The Children's Network of Southwest Florida, which cares for 1,800 abused and neglected children in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. More than 100 of those children are available for adoption.

"These statistics represent very real children who desperately need families of their own. There needs to be a sense of urgency to find these children appropriate, loving homes that can meet their unique needs as quickly as possible," said Nadereh Salim, network CEO.

Keynote speaker Wayne Duehn, a professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington, will discuss needs of adoptive children and skills adoptive parents should have, said Aimee McLaughlin, network spokeswoman.

Children in foster care and those who have been adopted will also talk about their lives.

For more information, or to register, call 226-1524.