Kelli Stargel,Lakeland, Florida,Adoption,Polk City, Florida,Charter school

Charter school workers exempted from adoption benefit

February 8, 2017

Hide caption Daniel Lauk plays with Henry Lauk, 6. Daniel Lauk, 34, a history teacher at McKeel Academy of Technology, hopes the Florida Legislature extends to charter school employees a special monetary benefit to boost adoptions of children deemed difficult to place. [SCOTT WHEELER/THE LEDGER] State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland is drafting a bill to amend Florida Statute 409.1664 to extend adoption benefits to employees of charter and virtual schools. State Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, intends to file a companion bill. LAKELAND - Daniel and Jessica Lauk admit to falling victim to empty-nest syndrome when their only child left for college in 2015. To fill the void, the Lakeland couple visited Florida's online Heart Gallery, a repository for children hoping to be adopted. After clicking through hundreds of photographs, they kept coming back to one - a sibling group of four, ages 7 and younger, who were living in a group home in North Florida. They are part of the roughly 14,000 children living in foster homes at any given time in Florida. "It was divinely put on my heart, the number four," said Jessica Lauk, 34, a piano teacher. "They were so precious." The Lauks were not new to the adoption system - their eldest, now 20 and a student at the University of North Florida, was adopted at age 13. In the interim, Florida lawmakers added a special monetary benefit to boost adoptions of children deemed difficult to place. The benefit pays certain state employees, including teachers, up to $10,000 for each child. The money applies to children with special needs, those who are physically or emotionally handicapped, or from a racially mixed family. Sibling groups of two or more are included. Daniel Lauk, 34, a history teacher at McKeel Academy of Technology, was happy to learn of the new benefit that's paid in a lump...

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