DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – The coronavirus has forced courthouses to close, but one Duval County juvenile judge is still processing adoptions from his own home. Through the tears and the heartfelt personal stories, Judge David Gooding has been there to take it all in. But these days, his courtroom looks a little different. He spoke to News4jax through Zoom from the den of his home.
"I've got a portrait of my father up on the wall here, and I have a seal of the state of Florida," Judge Gooding said.
Despite the forced closures, Judge Gooding says he oversaw 34 adoptions in the first two and half weeks since quarantine began. Gooding says he has no plans to slow down, especially during a pandemic.
"There's no time that a child doesn't need a family," Judge Gooding said. "At this point in time in our history, children really need the security that a family brings them."
Also speaking to News4jax through Zoom was Bob Miller, President, and CEO of Family Support Services. He says check-ins are still happening to ensure children in foster care are safe. Visits are being done through video means including, but not limited to Skype. If that avenue doesn't work, the telephone and social distancing home visits are options as well.
More importantly, Miller says with the pandemic, foster families and caregivers have truly shown their hearts. With children at home, he says many have offered to do day respite.
“Parents and grandparents sometimes need a break or assistance,” Miller said. “We’ve had 15 foster families stand up and volunteer to take COVID positive children if those children are removed from their home.”
News4Jax has followed Judge Gooding’s Mother’s Day adoptions for years. With a holy week now starting, more adoptions are expected. Again, right from Judge Gooding’s den.
“I’ve even had some parents say they might Photoshop me into the picture of the adoption,” Judge Gooding said with a chuckle.
Judge Gooding also does remote-first appearance for juveniles through Zoom.
Foster families are still needed during the pandemic, as are guardians ad litem. To learn more about how you can help Family Support Services, click here.