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Child Advocates: Hotels, Offices No Place for Florida Foster Children

Over-crowding among foster children in Miami-Dade County and throughout Florida has child advocates watching closely as the situation unfolds – and as the Department of Children and Families and its community based agencies deal with the outcomes.

News about the placements broke earlier this month and forced Florida DCF to jump into action. This situation has existed for more than a year. This year, one agency said it has seen a 44% rise in the number of kids entering the system, and is actually working with 33% more kids this year over the same time last year.

The news came on the heels of sweeping changes by the Florida Legislature to how the state handles foster children and at-risk youth populations. After a year of intense scrutiny, especially following news that almost 500 kids known to the DCF had died over the past several years, the new laws took effect July 1.

Yet the lack of placements in Miami-Dade County exacerbated the problem.

It left children to be temporarily housed in unlicensed locations like hotel rooms, offices, emergency group homes and other stop-gap locations that should be unacceptable to the children, child advocates and certainly DCF officials themselves. In fact, these never even should have been a consideration.

Yet the situation could have been predicted. Keeping children in these unlicensed placements creates a dangerous situation.

DCF officials say the overflow and placements have been remedied. Let’s hope they continue to follow it closely to ensure such an outcome doesn’t occur again in the future. It’s the job of DCF, its community based care agencies and advocates throughout the state to ensure the needs of Florida foster children and at-risk youths are addressed at the highest possible levels to ensure safety and peace of mind – and a path toward normalcy for all kids in the system.

After all, a hotel room is no home for a child.

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