Child Welfare Reform: Although Progress has been Made, More is Needed

Florida’s child welfare system is charged with the safety and protection of the state’s most vulnerable children. Abused and neglected children also rely on the child welfare system to help their families recover, when possible, from crisis. Although Florida has made strides in reforming its child welfare system, especially in the areas of transparency and adoption, more progress is needed.

Currently, there is no unified strategy among key stakeholders on the best approach for keeping children safe. High-profile tragedies and crises continue to cause large pendulum swings in the system’s core values, policies and practices between keeping children safe vs. preserving families. Funding to fully support these changes has been inconsistent.

Unified Strategy Needed to Stabilize Pendulum Swings

Further transformation of Florida’s child welfare system will be challenging until the state stabilizes the large pendulum swings that occur primarily because there is no unified strategy among key stakeholders for the best approach for keeping children safe.

Other issues facing the system include: inconsistent oversight of Child Protective Investigations (some are handled by Department of Children and Families and others by local sheriff’s departments), lack of services for dually-served children who have involvement with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, availability of substance abuse and mental health services prior to the family being in crisis and recruitment and retention of qualified foster parents. In addition, the risk assessment tools being used have not yet been scientifically validated.

Support

  • Strengthened child welfare reform efforts: The Children’s Campaign supports positive child welfare reform moving towards the creation of a child welfare blueprint  ̶ a unified strategy for ensuring children’s safety and well-being.
  • Quality rating system for residential group care: A quality rating system should define exact standards for group care. This would identify both failing and successful programs, allowing for the improvement or elimination of those that could harm children and providing best-practice models.
  • Expand and refine Critical Incident Rapid Response Teams (CIRRT) reports: Expedite posting of CIRRT reports, require CIRRT reports to cover children with verified abuse and neglect in the past 24 months and contact with the system in the past 12 months and address the team’s composition so that most members don’t have current contractual or financial relationship with the Department of Children and Families.

Legislation

What The Children’s Campaign is Saying…

Additional Resources

  • Child Fatality Prevention—Florida Department of Children and Families. Information on child fatalities in the state of Florida including hotline information and access to CIRRT reports.
  • Innocents Lost—Miami Herald. An investigative series using child death reports from DCF to document the dynamics of abuse and neglect, as well as the lives of children who have died in the care of Florida’s child welfare system.
  • Branded for Life: Undertreated and Underdiagnosed Mental Health Hurts Children and Families—The Children’s Campaign. National data tells us that adults with mental health conditions are overwhelmingly parents. Parents living with untreated mental illness are often unable to adequately care for their children. Mental illness is a disease and, if left untreated, can have a significant effect on children’s well-being.
  • Child Welfare Reform – Florida’s Come Far, but Not Far Enough—The Children’s Campaign. Although progress has been made in reforming Florida’s child welfare system, more progress is needed, especially in the areas of children’s safety and well-being.
  • Challenges Facing Florida’s Community-Based Child Welfare System—Florida Tax Watch. Due to increasing service demand and case manager turnover averaging at nearly 40%, Florida’s child welfare system needs to be better funded in order to provide the preventative services necessary to protect Florida’s children.

Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.

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