Ask the GAL: Tax credit for adoptions expires this year

October 31, 2012 

November is designated as Adoption Month in Florida.

Special events are happening all over the state to highlight the number of children available for adoption in Florida. In the 12th Circuit, events are centered around a picnic where potential adoptive families have the opportunity to meet and have fun with some of the local children who are available for adoption. On Nov. 16, the circuit will celebrate Adoption Day in the court where 23 children will be adopted into forever families.

Adoption Month presents an opportune time to take action if you are a family thinking of adoption. Private adoption can cost $30,000 or more. Adopting a child from foster care can have minimal or no out-of-pocket cost. On Dec. 31, 2012, the Federal Adoption Tax Credit expires. Families who adopt a child before the 2012 deadline may qualify for a $12,650 tax credit that can be used against a tax liability for up to five years. After Dec. 31, the only tax assistance available will be a $6,000 non-refundable credit for the adoption of a special needs child.

If you think you might be interested in one of the local children available for adoption, you can see them and learn more about them on the Heart Gallery at www.heartgallerysarasota.org.

Q: What is Children's Legal Services?

A: Children's Legal Services is the Department of Children and Family's law firm representing the State of Florida in child welfare matters. Their goal is to successfully advocate for the care, safety and protection of Florida's abused, abandoned and neglected children. There are three CLS offices in Circuit 12: Sarasota, Arcadia and Bradenton.

On a daily basis, CLS attorneys advocate for the best interests of abused, abandoned and neglected children and strive to achieve permanency, stability and security as mandated by Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes and corresponding federal laws. CLS has more than 250 attorneys statewide and is re

sponsible for more than 16,000 cases ,with an average individual attorney case load of 70.

CLS serves numerous other functions, including training protective investigators and community-based care partners in child welfare legal issues; staffing cases with protective investigators and case managers to determine appropriate legal action; and actively participating in statewide initiatives in the areas of psychotropic medication, education, independent living, the quality foster parent initiative, Casey Foundation projects, state and federal quality assurance, domestic violence training, child death reviews and overall family centered practice.

In addition to their involvement in various statewide initiatives, Circuit 12 CLS attorneys volunteer and support many projects such as the development of a local human trafficking task force; Camps for Champions (summer camp programs for foster children) and Kalish House (which provides tutoring, tours of colleges, a clothes closet, basic necessities for youth transitioning to adulthood and classes).

Q: What is Quality Time?

A: When children are removed from their parents due to abuse, the court allows the parents a year to remedy the situation that brought them into state care. During that year parents have limited, supervised visitation with their children. Maintaining a child/parent relationship and rebuilding trust is very hard to do with minimal contact.

Quality Time is a new program aimed at training volunteers to supervise the child visitations of low- to medium-risk families, thus allowing those families to spend more time together to promote and strengthen the family bond and lead to faster reunification. Persons interested in training as a visitation supervisor in Manatee County may contact Monica.Moore@gal.fl.gov.

Pam Hindman, director of the Guardian ad Litem program for the 12th Judicial Circuit, writes this weekly column for the Bradenton Herald. Email her at askthegal@12gal.org, or write to the Guardian ad Litem Program, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Hensley Wing, Suite 330, Bradenton 34205.

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