Press Release

DCF Logo
State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Rick Scott

David E. Wilkins

September 13, 2011
DCF Communications (850) 488-4855

Florida Department of Children and Families Hosts 2011 Pathway to Independence Summit
~ More than 2,000 child advocates from around the state in attendance~

ORLANDO – Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary David Wilkins today concluded a week long summit for child advocates from around the state. The "Pathway to Independence" summit provided like-minded professionals with the tools required to help enable family accountability and engage communities in the effort to get at-risk families on the path to success.

"Today’s economy has ushered in an historic sense of urgency for those dealing with families in crisis," said Secretary Wilkins. This summit provided those on the front-line necessary resources to help families reach their potential to safely and responsibly raise their children with minimal reliance on government services."

The 11th annual statewide meeting included training sessions and networking opportunities allowing for an open dialogue between the department, caregivers, and advocates. Attendees engaged in open discussions that developed the action plans for these groups to use as the blueprint for their work over the next year.

In addition to gaining training and continuing education sessions, attendees heard real-life success stories from former foster children who overcame challenging circumstances to become successful, productive adults. In a video interview, Michael Oher, whose story inspired the blockbuster movie "The Blind Side," discussed his difficult childhood and how his adopted family, teachers, and his case manager changed his life and provided him with a future. Pete Thomas, winner of the television hit "The Biggest Loser," also shared his story about growing up with a mother with mental illness and his experience in the foster care system.

"We all share a tremendous responsibility to the children of this state," said Secretary Wilkins. "The fate of our foster children is in our hands and we must be poised to respond to their needs and set them up for success so that we provide them with the best possible chance at a bright future."

For more information about the summit and the strategic vision for DCF, please visit