Action Agenda for Equity, Social Justice, and Child Well-Being
Protecting and Strengthening Families
IMPROVE CHILD PHYSICAL WELLNESS
Improve access to quality oral health care. In 2023, in partnership with Floridians for Dental Access, a statewide public information campaign will highlight that 1 in 5 Florida children suffer from treatable dental conditions which impact academic performance in both GPA and attendance, leads to as many as 150,000 emergency room visits, costs taxpayers as much as $600+ million annually, and can cause permanent impairment and death.
Reduce poverty and food insecurity by retaining the SNAP disaster levels of eligibility critical to Florida food insecure families at or near poverty.
Improve and expand maternal and infant health care especially focused on disparities due to historical racial and income inequities.
Invest in easily accessible and high quality community services for substance abuse to help keep children out of foster care and the juvenile justice system and treat children suffering with addiction.
Increase KidCare health insurance eligibility limits to 300 percent of the federal poverty line which is equal to an annual income of $83,250 for a family of four.
PREVENT UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES HARMING CHILDREN’S FUTURES
Create a pathway alternative for girls involved in domestic disputes to avoid a harmful arrest or charge for domestic violence; increase utilization rates for use of civil citations and mandate use by school resource officers; keep youth out of detention for technical violations of parole; and raise the age of arrest from the current age of 7.
Remove or reform arbitrary practices and policies keeping youth in the juvenile justice system for non-criminal behavior, for example – fines and fees.
Address the number one killer of children — Guns. Increase the requirements for the safe storage of firearms and promote criminal penalties for the failure to safely store personally owned guns, remove loopholes for violence from dating partners, and require the reporting of gun loss/theft in order to keep track of weapons available to children.
Add human trafficking victims to the “vulnerable victims and witnesses” provided protections during trial proceedings.
STOP INSTITUTIONALIZED CHILD TRAUMA
Reverse the escalating use of Florida’s Baker Act on children which results in them being transported in handcuffs, without parental involvement, only to arrive at a receiving facility to be turned away because the majority don’t meet the criteria of the Baker Act.
Oppose locking up dependent child victims of abuse, neglect, trafficking and other traumas, and use of hardware secure environments without due process.
End the practice of placing youth in solitary confinement. Develop strict guard rails for placing children in a cooling off/time out if the safety of the child or others is in immediate jeopardy.
Reform criminal record expunction laws to advance the future health, safety and quality of life measures for human trafficking victims.
End the harmful practice of conversion therapy, whose inventor has disavowed the practice.
BEST INTEREST PARENTAL RIGHTS
Prohibit a child under age 16 from waiving their Miranda rights without attorney or parental consultation.
Increase the health of Florida’s families through evidence-based parental education, fatherhood initiatives, services that address intergenerational trauma, and enforcement of child support laws.
Protect the rights of parents to choose the appropriate medical care for all children regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Reexamine removal of children from their homes due to poverty-related conditions rather than actual neglect and abuse and the related failure to reunite families for the same reasons.
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO SUCCESS
Stop the practice of returning justice-involved children to the child welfare system by reforming community reentry with appropriate housing, treatment, and other services provided through funding from the Department of Juvenile Justice for post detention and hardware secure residential placements.
Reexamine the options available to children who won’t thrive in traditional foster care placements.
Prioritize access to mental health services to keep children out of the child welfare system, reduce substance abuse, protect them from in-school danger, and prevent entry into the juvenile justice system.
Support the creation of a Florida Caregiver Youth Act to recognize caregiving children as a population in need of targeted services and support.
Expand access to trauma-responsive, research proven services to children who are impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in foster care, juvenile justice, and human trafficking.
Require Florida’s pre-k program to meet Head Start quality standards.
OPTIMIZED WORKFORCE SUPPORTING CHILDREN
Address the clinician crisis – the inability to hire/retain qualified workers – in social services. Reform the child welfare and juvenile justice system to reduce burn-out and high turnover rates through better entry compensation, meeting national average mileage rates/state funded vehicles, and reduction of daily caseloads from 20 children to the current national casework goal of around 12 children at a time. Continue to utilize systemic changes that happened due to pandemic that increased efficiency of the social service workforce.
Protect and expand the successful volunteer model of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program. Review and improve the recurring situations in which an attorney ad litem must be automatically assigned to dependency cases.
Expand the number of permanent dependency judges in Florida’s judicial circuits.
Require Community Based Care programs to develop consistent methods and best practices based on proven successful models for foster parent recruitment and retention.
Address the needs of Florida’s children with disabilities by increasing non-institutional care options, improving the high school graduation rate with parental involvement and additional support services, and providing easily accessible information about the services and support available.
SYSTEMIC IMPROVEMENT AND ADMINISTRATIVE/REGULATORY REMEDIES
Expand Critical Incident Rapid Response Requirements so more cases involving serious child harm receive the proper scrutiny, including the deaths of children who had any contact with DCF in the past 24 months, and all reports of physical, sexual and mental abuse of children in out-of-home care – except for reports showing no evidence of abuse.
Improve the governance model of Community Based Care agencies and limit the number of judicial circuits served and maximum caseloads.
Create a Blueprint Commission to examine and make recommendations to improve Florida’s child welfare system.
Strengthen families, reduce infant death and the instances of poverty, and improve children’s performance in school by mandating a 12 week paid parental leave for infant/adoptive parents.