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More Needed to Solve Hillsborough’s Foster Care Crisis

No matter the industry, it is generally a mark of leadership to take responsibility, not point fingers, when matters go south. Captains are admired for going down with their ships. It’s also why Bear Bryant, University of Alabama’s legendary football coach from 1958-1982, continues to inspire even today. When asked about his leadership style, Bear simply said, “There’s just three things I’d ever say. If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it.” To get to the bottom of Hillsborough County’s continuing foster care problems,...

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Beyond Human Trafficking Awareness – What’s Next for Florida?

With January being National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, activities have been in full swing throughout the state. The Children’s Campaign interviewed Linda Alexionok, president of Voices for Florida, one of the organizing sponsors for Traffick Stop 2018 on the takeaways from the statewide event. Voices for Florida serves as the backbone organization coordinating and administrating serves to victims and survivors through the Open Doors Outreach Network pilot.   Q: How big of a problem is sex trafficking in Florida? A: It is a persistent and pervasive crime throughout our country, and Florida is not an exception. Although progress is being...

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A False Grade for Civil Citations

The most recent revision to Florida’s civil citation law increased the number of times a child could receive a civil citation rather than an arrest for a misdemeanor offense from one infraction to three. Since then, the debate has focused on whether making juvenile civil citations mandatory for eligible offenses would help or hurt juvenile justice. The challenges with removing officer discretion unilaterally are many. Law enforcement is presented with a wide range of scenarios for offenses falling under the same category. The Children’s Campaign has consistently agreed with many other organizations about the following: The civil citation program statewide...

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Top Questions We’re Asking because of Fight Club Coverage

In the wake of Miami Herald’s disturbing Fight Club expose, which sent shock waves throughout Florida, The Children’s Campaign has analyzed the news series and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) responses in depth (see links at end of this story). The cases brought to light are egregious, but other harmful interactions occur between residential care staff (guards) and children. For example, taunting, which occurs until the victim acts out and gets punished, sometimes severely, for battery on a law enforcement officer. The guard’s instigation goes unnoticed and, therefore, unreported. Expectations for solving these long-standing abuses range from “get it...

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Florida Citizens Take Charge of Civil Citations

Rather than arresting children for common youthful misbehaviors, more law enforcement are issuing civil citations, according to Florida Department of Juvenile Justice data. Reasons for the continued uptick include numerous media headlines encouraging implementation, fairness, cost savings, and because it’s good public safety policy with its beneficial outcomes and lower recidivism.  Yet another reason is collective impact, led by concerned citizens, advocates, the communities of faith and parents worried about the long-term consequences of a blight on a child’s record. Civil citations are alternatives to arrests for youth age 8-17 and are issued at the discretion of law enforcement officers....

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Florida’s Lack of Investment in Kids is Showing

Once Again, State Ranks Low for Child Well-Being Florida’s overall child well-being ranking in the recently released 2017 KIDS COUNT report, which ranks states on 16 health, education, economic well-being and family/community indicators, is sobering. The state’s best ranking in recent history was 32nd. Since then, Florida’s child well-being ranking has dropped steadily. Currently the state has sunk to 40th place for the second year in a row. Aside from the significant improvement in the number of Florida children and families having health insurance, there are few positives in the 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book released by the Annie E....

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States Rush to Jump on Predictive Analytics Bandwagon

Far too many children die from abuse and neglect in the United States  ̶  around 1600 annually according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Many states and communities have worked diligently to reduce those numbers with varying degrees of success. Believing in the power and efficiency technology can bring to the solution, child welfare agencies across the country are quickening the pace at which they eagerly embrace “big data” to strategically help them make critical decisions and allocate resources where they are most needed. This new frontier in child welfare, like most uncharted territory, is not without...

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Facebook Live Suicide: Questions that Need Answering

In the wake of a 14-year old Miami-Dade foster child streaming her suicide live on the Internet, there’s been an outpouring of attention and outrage over the technology and lack of safeguards that allow such videos to be produced and shared online so easily. Although some of that outrage is fair, the problem isn’t solely the technology that enables such horrific acts to be aired. Equal attention should be paid to the ability for children and their caregivers to access appropriate crisis and specialized, ongoing mental health services ̶ especially children under supervision of Florida’s child welfare system. Allegations of...

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New Year Brings New Promising Practices for Serving Trafficked and Exploited Children

The year 2017 looks to be much brighter for some of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens with the expected launch of Open Doors, a new, promising coordinated system for serving trafficked and exploited children and young adults, mostly ages 10 – 24. This new model will bring an array of promising practices to Florida that have improved service delivery and outcomes for victims in other states. Five Florida regions are targeted to pilot Open Doors due to the high rate of sexual exploitation and trafficking in those areas and the lack of available services: Northeast Florida: Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Baker...

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Debtors’ Prisons for Kids?

Most people think debtors’ prisons are a thing of the past. But are they really? A recent national report by the Juvenile Law Center from Philadelphia shows juvenile court costs, attorney’s fees and fines that are assessed as youth move through the juvenile justice system ̶ and sometimes even in community diversion programs ̶ cause significant hardships for youth and their families. The costs for court related services, including probation, a “free appointed attorney,” mental health evaluations, the costs of incarceration, treatment and restitution payments can push children deeper into the juvenile justice system and families deeper into debt. Across...

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