Adoption omission an error, CEO says
Children's Home Society president cites "confusion" in leaving youth off registry.
By CHARLIE PATTON, The Times-UnionThe failure to list a 16-year-old boy on a state adoption register was the result of serious and embarrassing errors but was not done intentionally, the chief executive officer of the Children's Home Society of Florida said Wednesday.
Judge David Gooding issued a contempt of court order April 4 that said the agency "engaged in prolonged, repeated and chronic misrepresentations" to his court about the fact that for the last 32 months the boy's picture and information had not been listed on the Web site www.adoptflorida.org as required by state law.
"We are in a very, very difficult business," Children's Home Society President David A. Bundy said. "Unfortunately we are not perfect. We do understand the judge's frustration."
Bundy said the failure to add information and a picture of the boy, who is now listed on the registry under number 94534, appears to have resulted from a series of misunderstandings and oversights.
When the boy first became eligible for adoption, Bundy said, he wasn't listed because his caseworker had identified possible adoptive parents and children aren't listed when an adoption is pending.
"Unfortunately that placement didn't materialize," he said.
Meanwhile, the rules about who puts a child's name on the registry had changed but the caseworker apparently either wasn't aware of or didn't understand the change, Bundy said.
"We don't believe there was intentional misrepresentation of the truth in this case, but there was real confusion on the part of our staff," he said. " ... This is still no excuse. The bottom line is that we should have been more diligent in our service to this child and we accept responsibility for that."
The caseworker involved has since left the agency, Bundy said. Meanwhile, William Shetler, executive director of the society's Northeast Florida division, "has already made changes in the leadership of the case management team," Bundy said.
Gooding has not yet determined how much he might fine the Children's Home Society. He has scheduled a hearing for Monday. Bundy said Shetler and the agency's general counsel will attend.
Founded in Jacksonville in 1902, the nonprofit society has responsibility for the care of nearly a third of Florida's foster children, according to its Web site.
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