Members of the Florida Legislature, as well as foster families from across the state, were in attendance for the second and final day of events for the Florida Coalition for Children’s annual “Rally in Tally.”
After nearly 12 hours of events, Monday, that President and CEO Kurt Kelly described as “an outstanding day of training and opportunities to collaborate,” the breakfast, which took place on the 22 floor of the Capitol building, began at 8 a.m. and proceeded the coalition’s meetings with legislators scheduled for 10 a.m.
Zepp encouraged both legislators and members or guests of the Florida Coalition for Children to fill out “pledge cards” to become members of the caucus and drop them in a box near the door before they left the 22nd floor.
“We already have a number of cards that are going in the big box and they are going to continue to build up. What that means is that these legislators are part of our community-based care. That’s what it is. Community-based care is not lead agencies and provider agencies. It’s those two pieces, our legislators, our foster families. Everyone in our community is part of community-based care. These folks will be looking to the future to be able to help other ambassadors no matter what organization they come from.”
Among the lawmakers in attendance were state Reps. Stan McClain, Charlie Stone, Mel Ponder and Josie Tomkow. Senators Gayle Harrell, Lauren Book and Aaron Bean attended as well. Both State Rep. Tomkow, who has a child welfare bill currently being drafted, and Senator Bean, who Zepp described as “an amazing advocate” for the foster care system, took the podium to speak.
“We ask you to go out and be advocates for the nation’s first state level foster and adoptive caucus,” Zepp proudly proclaimed to the nearly 200 people in attendance. “It includes the House and the Senate, so thank you very much.”
The breakfast also featured musical selections from Tallahassee’s One Voice IMPAACT Choir.
“[Joining the caucus] is a great way to learn more about what we’re doing on a daily basis and be involved,” Kelly explained to the legislators in the closing remarks of the breakfast. “There is no other state in the union that has a foster and adoptive caucus. They have one in Washington [D.C.] for federal, but just the House level. We are the first to do this, which once again shows Florida is leading when it comes to taking care of their abused, abandoned, neglected and adverse children.”
According to its website, the Florida Coalition for Children hosts the Rally in Tally every year to give their advocates, especially the children currently in the foster care system, the opportunity to bring awareness to the many challenges facing the system by sharing their experiences with Florida legislators.