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Palm Beach Post Editorial: Protection for Child Welfare Failure?

An editorial in today’s Palm Beach Post raised serious issues regarding calls by private lead agencies serving the Florida Department of Children and Families ( DCF ) to provide sovereign immunity protections that will cap personal injury damage claims by lawyers.

Many attorneys and child welfare and foster care advocates agree: Such protections will save no money. In fact, there will be a total loss of accountability for these providers’ services. More importantly for children harmed or injured while under the care of these companies or agencies, there will be no claims for damages.

Attorneys for children like Victor Barahona, who was critically injured (while his sister, Nubia, was killed), won’t be able to sue these private providers. Damages would be capped. Meanwhile, Victor’s hospital bills will far exceed any coverage limits.

As the Post wrote, “As the secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families acknowledged this week, 10-year-old twins never should have been adopted by Jorge and Carmen Barahona.

“The DCF was at fault. But so was the private agency that runs foster care and adoption placement in Miami-Dade County. More than a decade ago, Florida privatized those aspects of child welfare under the theme of community-based care. The private, non-profit agencies get state money, and now they want the Legislature to reduce their liability in cases when they fail, as the Dade agency did with the twins, Nubia and Victor.

“The agencies say they need the protection to reduce their insurance costs. But all of the directors of these agencies make more money than the DCF secretary. The agencies claim that the timing of the House and Senate bills isn’t related to the Barahonas’ case. We find that hard to believe. We also don’t believe that the agencies need this protection. They should be blaming their insurance companies. “

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