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Florida’s Children First Offers Five Steps for ‘Thoughtful Reform’ to the Child Welfare System

Yesterday we awakened to the news reports of the record breaking quake in Japan and the resulting tsunami in the Pacific Ocean. Our thoughts are with the survivors of these disasters and the overwhelming devastation left behind. But our work is focused on the tsunami of tragedy that has inundated Florida’s child welfare system.

Victor and Nubia in Miami, Jermaine and Ju’tyra in in Delray, Ronderique in Tampa and an unnamed 10-year-old boy in Charlotte County – 4 dead, 2 seriously injured, all discovered since January.

All Floridians should be outraged and saddened when they learn of the details of these cases. They are right to demand reform and accountability. FCF joins in that urgent cry – but we do so with the benefit of the knowledge and experience of our day to day work advocating for children in state care. We cannot let outrage result in bad public policy.

We therefore urge all policy makers – and the public at large to consider five principles as they undertake to debate and reform our child welfare system. If like what you read below, please read the complete position paper.

1. Changing the Structure of The Child Welfare System will not “Fix” It. Just as privatizing child welfare did not cure all 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.

If you are interested in sound public policy, please take a few minutes to read our position paper. And if you like what you read and want to support our work, please take a minute to donate.

Christina L. Spudeas, Esq.
Executive Director

Robin L. Rosenberg, Esq.
Deputy Director

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