One of Us: Robert "Bob" Rooks


Ponte Vedra resident Robert “Bob” Rooks, 69, has a lot of love to give. A chance encounter at a foster parent booth at the state fair led Bob and his wife, Geri, on the path to their life’s work. The couple became foster parents in 1969 and successfully fostered about 100 children. Upon moving to Florida, Geri became a neonatal nurse and Rooks took a job with Daniel, the oldest child-serving agency in Florida. The Jacksonville-based organization helps nearly 2,000 children and their families each day through a wide variety of programs. Rooks has worked for the organization since 1993 and currently serves as director of Florida’s Adoption Information Center. In addition to being a foster parent, he and his wife are also adoptive parents. A youth-care services worker for more than 30 years, Rooks has served as a residential counselor and youth care administrator.

How long have you and your wife been foster parents?

My wife and I have been foster parents since 1969. We were active foster parents from then until we moved here to Florida, which was in 1993. If the children couldn’t go back to their family, our goal was to keep them and raise them. A couple of the kids stayed with us well into their 20s. That’s what you’re supposed to do. We had a word for our program back then. We called it family - and truly that’s how we operated, we operated as a family.

Tell me about your role at Daniel.

Daniel operates the state’s adoption information center. We’re the 1-800-96-ADOPT number, a statewide program. It handles all areas of adoption – whether it’s working with people wanting to adopt or whether the child is an infant, an international child or the kids are in foster care. About 60 percent of our work is on behalf of the children in foster care that need to be adopted. But we also work with adults who were adopted and may be seeking their medical history. We can let them know how to go about doing that. If they’re wanting to reconnect to their birth family, we can help them with that. Also, we get calls from pregnant woman who are considering placing their child for adoption. We let them know what services are available to them and then get them directed to those folks who would be most helpful to them. It might be adoption, but it might just be a good social service agency so they don’t have to place their child for adoption. In this day and age, money is the last reason anybody should have to place their child for adoption.

How many calls does the adoption information center receive?

We average over 10,000 calls a year in adoption. Our motto is “if adoption is in the sentence, we can help.” I’ve been in the adoption information center for 22 years now. We pay close attention to what’s going on in adoption and try to make sure that we’re minimally able to get that person or family to that next step based on what their needs are.

And you also like to clown around when you have the time?

I didn’t set out into the world to be a clown, but I had these skills. One year for Father’s Day, one of my kids got me this book to learn how to make balloon animals. Then, it was actually a little paragraph in the paper that said come learn how to juggle – just bring three oranges. So, I brought my teenagers and we all went to learn how to juggle. I went home and practiced and got relatively decent at it. Two years later, I was teaching the juggling class. Geri, my wife, got me a unicycle for Christmas. So, I learned how to ride a unicycle. Now if you can do balloon animals, ride a unicycle and juggle, what do you do with those skills? You become a clown, and so I did! I did it for a while quasi-professionally. When we moved here, I joined a group in town called Gator Clowns. There are about 75 of us.