Department of Children and Families
David E. Wilkins
February 17, 2012
RECOGNIZE 15 LOCAL LEADERS
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Songs, dancing and motivational words inspired more than 100 people who attended the Department of Children and Families' fifth Black History Month celebration.
The event opened with an invocation from the Rev. Dr. R. B. Holmes Jr. of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and the crowd singing "The Negro National Anthem." A beautiful solo from Miriam Franklin, a 31-year-old mother who is studying Music Education at Florida A&M University, moved some in the audience to tears.
The theme of the event was "Strengthening Families and Communities: One Family at a Time." Vonda Jordan, an adoptive parent from Jacksonville, spoke about her struggles to start a family and the blessings she and her husband have received after adopting two children from foster care in March 2007. "Please consider readjusting your plans because there might be a kid who needs you," she told the audience.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, one of 15 honored at the event, spoke about the impact caring people can have on one another. "If you give all that you can, the magnitude of your efforts will be spread across this nation,” she said. "As we touch lives and impact them, they then will change others as well."
DCF Secretary David Wilkins spoke about the importance of diversity in leadership and how community engagement is the key to preventing and fighting child abuse. Currently, African Americans make up about 16 percent of Florida' population but black children make up 33 percent of kids in foster care.
The goals of a new DCF partnership with the Urban League of Greater Miami are to reduce child abuse and neglect and reduce the number of black children and youth in foster care. "I am so excited the African-American community is such an integral part of this," Wilkins said.
The event's keynote speaker was Ken Bevel, a noted minister, speaker and actor. He recently starred in the hit movie "Courageous" and also starred with Kirk Cameron in the 2008 movie "Fireproof."
Bevel, a 20-year Marine Corps veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke about his struggles as a teen and in the Marines with drugs and alcohol and how his faith helped him become the man he is today. "There are many people out there just like me, longing to know that somebody cares about them," he said. "You are the rescuers of the broken."
Bevel, a Jacksonville native who is now associate pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., spoke about the number of fatherless households today and how that problem increases the number of runaways, children with behavioral issues, high school dropouts and the number of people in prison.
He talked about the importance of fatherhood and how he is raising his children to be able to "navigate all the obstacles of life." Both movies "Courageous" and "Fireproof," produced by his church, are motivational films about faith and the roles of husbands and fathers.
To end his speech, he gave seven characteristics that people should have in order to help others be successful: love, kindness, tenderhearted, mercy, humbleness, meekness and long-suffering. "There are 19,000 foster children in Florida today. They need your help," he said. "It's a calling. If you really want to affect a generation, stay in the game. Someone needs you."
The 15 honorees of the Black History Month event are:
- Ramon Alexander, Program Director of Distinguished Young Gentlemen of America, Inc.
- Lanetra Bennett, WCTV
- Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll
- Wanda Finnie, Department of Juvenile Justice Assistant Secretary
- Sherrie Gainer, Department of Children and Families Adult Protective Investigator
- Atarri Hall, Department of Children and Families Field Services Coordinator for Child Protective Investigations
- Miatta Jalaber, Department of Children and Families Child Care Licensing Counselor
- Carlton and Vonda Jordan, Adoptive Parents and Family
- Charles McDonald, Children's Home Society Executive Director
- Judge Nina Richardson, Leon County
- Gerard Robinson, Department of Education Commissioner
- Corey Simon, Founder of Corey's Kids
- Angel Trejo, former Department of Children and Families Administrator for District 2
- Shalunda Turo, Department of Children and Families Office of the Secretary Receptionist
- Kisha Wilkinson, WTXL Assistant News Director
At the event, African-American children available for adoption were profiled through the Heart Gallery, which features large, professional portraits and short biographies of these children waiting for a family.
Also, for each day in February, our Explore Adoption website showcased "29 Days of Amazing African-American Children: Explore Adoption!" This online campaign shows an African-American child currently available for adoption in Florida and focuses on teens, sibling groups and children with special needs who are waiting for their forever family. The children are featured on the Explore Adoption website at www.adoptflorida.org.