May is National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month, a time designed to raise awareness about what foster parents do and why they’re needed. According to statistics from the Florida Department of Children and Families, there are just under 19,000 children in out-of-home care in Florida. The 2010 Annual Report on the status of  children in out-of-home care that was issued by DCF on May 1, 2011, can be found here. Back to the issue at hand, foster care – who needs it, who should be a foster parent, what training is required and where to get it are all addressed in an interesting article in the Jacksonville News. You can read that article here.

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Honor Moms Around the World

This Mother’s Day, and beyond, you can honor the Moms of the world as part of the “To Mama With Love” campaign. Check out the action on Twitter at #tomamawithlove, or join their love bomb team by creating a heartspace in honor of a Mom (or Moms!) here.

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Nothing to Smile About

Latest evidence of Florida’s callous disregard for the health and well-being of its children: Florida ranks last in the country in providing dental care for children on Medicaid.

In 2008only 23.5 percent of those enrolled in the program, ages 18 and under, saw a dentist. Story link here, or you can find the full report by The Pew Center on the States, as well as related reports, here.

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We Agree: Put Your (Membership) Money Where Your Advocacy Is

Much thanks to our friends @ End Childhood Hunger for allowing us to reprint from their blog site a recent post on the membership campaign at the Children’s Movement of Florida:

We’ve written about them a lot, but this is important: The major objective of the citizen-led, non-partisan Children’s Movement of Florida is to inform political, business and civic leaders, and the parents and people of this state, that the well-being and education of our children in Florida must be the highest priority of government, business, non-profit institutions and families – and to encourage them to make the well-being and education of our children our highest priority, including in the way we invest our public resources.

We buy into that. And now you can step up and participate in their membership campaign, and help support their efforts. You can join by making a donation (of any amount, but don’t be shy – it’s the kids we are talking about here!) via this link.

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State Attorney Calls For Funding “Child Protection Teams”

Lawson Lamar, the State Attorney in the Ninth Judicial Circuit (Orlando) penned a compelling Letter to the Editor that was published in the Orlando Sentinel on April 3, 2011.

In his letter, he raised a little-known fact (at least to most of the general public): Law enforcement in Florida has a behind-the-scenes, crime-fighting partner that is essentially invisible to anyone outside of the child-welfare system. They are known as child-protection teams.

Child-protection teams are medically directed, multidisciplinary teams with expertise, training and experience in child development and maltreatment. They help the Department of Children and Families and law enforcement assess allegations of abuse, which means they also help disprove cases at times. In addition, they provide expert assessments and recommendations in cases of confirmed abuse.

Yet this valuable resource is facing funding cuts of over 2.5 million dollars in next year’s Florida Budget because the state funds earmarked for the program were moved into “nonrecurring” status last year. They’ll be gone next year unless the legislature acts to restore the funding.

A link to his Letter to the Editor is here. And in it, Mr. Lamar says it best: “Defenseless children who cannot yet vote cry out for our support and protection.” Contact your representatives and demand they preserve funding of Florida’s legislatively mandated child-protection teams at current levels.

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“Raise Revenue, Save Services”

Florida Children’s Campaign has highlighted a number of ways to increase the state’s revenue by almost 3.5 billion dollars – revenue that, if made available, could help meet the needs of Floridians without cutting vital services to children like maternal health, family preservation and child safety, early learning, before and after-school care and juvenile justice. Their recommendations for additional revenue sources, gathered from a laundry list of Florida non-partisan organizations, include ideas from Florida TaxWatch, Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Council of 100, the Florida Chamber and many others.

And what can Florida do with 3.5 billion dollars? They’ve got answers to that as well:

  • Restore and fully fund the successful Healthy Start program.
  • Restore KidCare enrollment to pre-rule change levels.
  • Adequately fund Part C Early Steps to provide necessary early intervention for young children with disabilities.
  • Restore funding to cost saving Healthy Families Program.
  • Fully fund the legislative mandate for Guardian ad Litem.
  • Restore general revenue dollars to the Department of Children and Families.
  • Restore the reimbursement rate to voluntary pre-kindergarten providers.
  • Create a separate funding stream for before and after-school programs.
  • Expand successful and cost saving Juvenile Assessment Centers to counties where they are not available.
  • Restore past cuts to juvenile justice system. Redirect those dollars to front end prevention, diversion and early intervention, including the PACE Center for Girls, CINS/FINS, day treatment and other community based models.
  • Fund other state services such as public education, aging, veterans, public libraries, arts and environment.

Raise Revenue, save Services. So simple, even a child can understand it….

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Florida’s Children First Calls For Reform Of Florida’s Child Welfare System

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.

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Tips For Parents

Via Twitter @kidshaverights: RT @operationsafe: Tips for Parents! Early Childhood (5-11) find loss very difficult to deal with. Here’s the link for more info:

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Child Abuse Reports Rise In South Florida

As reported by the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, South Florida has seen a rise in child-abuse cases and officials are calling for more awareness after a year in which the state’s social service agency has investigated some gruesome cases of abuse and neglect.

In Broward County, cases rose to 15,748 in 2010, compared with 14,876 the year before, according to the state Department of Children & Families. In Palm Beach County, cases rose to 12,183 — up from 11,947 the previous year.

“You’ll see a lot of domestic violence,” DCF spokesman Mark Riordan said. “That’s where the cycle is perpetuated. It’s a learned response.”

You can read the complete article here.

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Florida’s “Invisible” Foster Children

Did you know that kids in foster care can’t be “tagged” or publicly identified in things like Facebook photos, or have their pictures published in the newspaper – even for doing good deeds or great things? Crazy? Yes. Unfair? You bet.

Florida’s Children First works to give foster youth their voice in court, remove barriers to services for disabled children, provide free lawyers for children in Dependency Court, protect their right to receive quality health services and for better access to education. Check out their web link, above, to see how you can help.

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