With four children dead and two seriously injured since January 2011 while under the so-called “protection” of the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida’s Children First has issued a well-researched and detailed position paper addressing needed reforms. The top five recommendations of the report are listed below. Although no universal agreement or consensus will come out of their efforts, it is a strong start toward addressing the systemic problems. You can access the full report here.
Florida‘s Children First Recommendations
1. Changing the Structure of the Child Welfare System will not “Fix” it.
Just as privatizing child welfare did not cure-all the system’s ills, neither will returning to a state-run system. Children cannot wait for an entire system change for reform to happen.
2. Reform must be grounded in Evidence-Based Practice – Not Knee Jerk Reactions.
The social science is very clear that removing all children from parents suspected of being neglectful and placing children in institutions instead of homes hurts, not helps.
3. There are No Sacred Cows and No Magic Bullets
Every aspect of the child welfare system can be improved, and therefore should be subject to scrutiny. No single change can fix everything.
4. Transparency and Accountability are the Watchwords of Reform.
DCF has led the way in establishing the need for transparency and accountability – all other parties must follow, including all private providers, and the Guardian Ad Litem program.
5. DCF Must Increase Oversight of Its Contracted Providers.
The State is ultimately responsible for the children in its care and it must do its utmost to ensure that its contracted providers are doing their jobs. The boards of local community based care agencies need the training to ensure that they can provide proper oversight at the local level.