Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dungy leads campaign to find homes for 23,000 Florida foster children

Tony Dungy and his All Pro Dad organization is partnering with the Florida Department of Children and Families to recruit more adoptive parents and foster families in Florida. Dungy, former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made the announcement Wednesday.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Tony Dungy and his All Pro Dad organization is partnering with the Florida Department of Children and Families to recruit more adoptive parents and foster families in Florida. Dungy, former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made the announcement Wednesday.

On a Thursday afternoon in 2007, defending Super Bowl champs the Indianapolis Colts were preparing to face the New England Patriots to represent their conference in the next Super Bowl.

Coach Tony Dungy had to leave a few minutes early: A family services agency in Indianapolis had asked him to film a public service announcement to recruit foster families.

That Sunday, his Colts fell to the Patriots.

Fast forward to the end of 2008. Dungy was preparing for a news conference to announce his retirement from coaching. His secretary insisted that first, Dungy read a letter from the parents of a 12-year-old boy they adopted after seeing Dungy's public service announcement.

"He had never slept on sheets, had shoes that fit, tasted a milkshake or played a game of catch," they wrote. "Now, he attends a good school and plays football; his dad is the coach. Because of your PSA, we became a family."

Dungy still tears up whenever he reads that letter. He understands what it meant for those parents to find their son. He and his wife Lauren began fostering children over 30 years ago, when he was a young defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Dungys now have 10 children, seven of whom are adopted.

"Coach Dungy doesn't just talk the talk; he walks the walk," said Mike Carroll, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Dungy appeared Wednesday to announce a new statewide campaign aimed at getting children into permanent homes. With him were Carroll, former state House Speaker Will Weatherford, and Kurt Kelly, head of the Florida Coalition for Children.

Florida has led the nation in adoption success rates, about 3,200 a year, for the last five or six years. Still, the need remains great: About 23,000 Florida kids are in foster care, enough to fill one-third of Raymond James Stadium.

"This is about everyday mom and dads who are willing to take these kids into their homes," Carroll said.

Often, child advocates say, the lack of suitable homes means children are sent into residential group care or to any bed available when they should be matched instead with a family that suits their individual needs.

Weatherford hopes thousands of children will be taken out of foster care through the new campaign.

"If we can leverage the church, community and citizens to feel compelled through the words of Coach Dungy and others to do something about this, to engage and save someone's life, I think it will be an awe-inspiring experience," he said.

One goal of the new partnership is to help children in need by strengthening families in the community.

"People like you and me have to open their hearts, homes and families to accept somebody else and love them like your own," Carroll said. "If you're going to wait for the government to fix this issue, it may never get fixed."

Efforts to recruit more foster families will include radio and television announcements, advertising through social media, op-ed pieces by Dungy and Carroll, Father and Kids' football stadium experiences, and All Pro Dads day, which puts on breakfast and activities with fathers and mentors across Florida schools.

All Pro Dad, launched in 1997 and featuring more than 60 NFL players and coaches, asks men to give one minute a day, one hour a month, and one day a year to become better fathers.

Carroll's own fostered teenage son used to hide cookies and candy under his pillow. His foster home had locked their cupboards and refrigerators.

"You see all the time that kid coming out of his shell," he said. "It's a special feeling as a parent."

Dungy makes a point of seeking foster parents among people who think they might be unqualified or too busy.

"When my wife brought it up to me, my first response was, 'This is impossible,'" he said. "But you just have to investigate it."

"As a coach, I had 53 kids already!" he added with a laugh. "If you want to do it, God will supply the means for you."

Contact Libby Baldwin at lbaldwin@tampabay,com. Follow her at @LibBaldwin

>>fast facts

To learn more

Visit www.adoptflorida.org or call (844) 4FL-KIDS. Anyone interested in serving as foster parents can call Terri Durdaller at (866) 233-0790.

Dungy leads campaign to find homes for 23,000 Florida foster children 11/18/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2016 12:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Housing starts fall in July

    Real Estate

    WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts fell 4.8 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.16 million. Groundbreakings for multi-family buildings such as apartments slumped 17.1 percent, while single-family house construction slipped 0.5 percent.

    On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported on U.S. home construction in July. 
[AP file photo]
  2. Pasco doubles tourist tax to finance sports complex

    Tourism

    DADE CITY — Pasco County is doubling its tourist tax to 4 percent to build an indoor sports complex in Wesley Chapel and improve its outdoor boat ramps in west Pasco.

    Pasco County's plan to double its tourist tax on overnight accommodations to 4 percent is intended to help finance a $25 million sports complex in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. It  would include a 98,000-quare-foot multipurpose gymnaisium of eight basketball courts and dedicated space for gymnastics, cheerleading and a fitness center. Shown here is the four-court fieldhouse with 50,000-square-feet of space for competitions at  Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.  Times photo by James Borchuck (2007)
  3. 5 things to do under $5: Where to see solar eclipse, Bucs training camp

    Events

    1 Solar eclipse: Turn around, bright eyes. Monday brings a total eclipse of the sun, and you'll need protective eyewear to see it. The bay area won't be plunged into darkness for a few minutes like the middle of the country, but with solar lenses you can see this rare event. The Museum of Science and Industry, …

    This photo shows a “diamond ring” shape during the 2016 total solar eclipse in Indonesia. For the 2017 eclipse over the United States, the National Science Foundation-funded movie project nicknamed Citizen CATE will have more than 200 volunteers trained and given special small telescopes and tripods to observe the sun at 68 locations in the exact same way.
  4. Florida man has some of Princess Di's wedding cake, plus 13,000 other royal items (w/photos)

    Human Interest

    John Hoatson recalls the day it all began with perfect clarity.

    John Hoatson poses with a photo taken in 2006 when he met Sarah "Fergie"; Ferguson, the Duchess of York, for tea at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in California.
  5. Les Miller on Charlottesville: 'This is not what we should be about'

    Blogs

    TAMPA -- In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and ahead of today's continued conversation on Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller on Wednesday looked to inspire unity in an invocation that a colleague called "inspirational."

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.