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Round-Up: Crist Signs Records Law, State Reviews Foster Care Cases

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Florida’s foster children have been both a source of both eye-opening revelation about how they’re cared for, as well as the recipients of legislation designed to help them in the future.

In some good news for foster kids, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law bills designed to help grant them access to records for medical and educational needs.  The Foster Folly News wrote  that the legislation benefits children in foster care as well as young people leaving foster care. The move “provides children in foster care better access to their own personal records often needed for medical and educational purposes.  Senate Bill 1128 ensures that disabled homeless children and children in foster care receive appropriate educational services.”

WEAR-TV reported that the bills can be credited, in part, to members of Florida Youth Shine, a statewide advocacy group that specializes in foster care and child welfare issues. “You’re great advocates, you truly are,” Crist said.

Recent news in Florida’s foster child and foster care landscape continued to center on the fall-out of the Department of Children and Families response to Gabriel Myers, the 7-year-old child who committed suicide in his foster home. Reporters and government leaders are scrutinizing how Gabrielwas prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs, and how the DCF plans to deal with such cases in the future. Among the stories…

What Suicide Victim, 7, Needed Was a Parent, an editorial from The Miami Herald, discussed what it called “an unusually frank discussion of the case contained in a 66-page report” from the Department of Children and Families. The report “identified a host of deficiencies in the way Gabriel’s care was managed.”

Sun-Sentinel writer Jon Burstein in Fort Lauderdale wrote that the figure of Florida foster children who have been given mood-altering drugs “has been significantly underreported.” Those were the findings of early results of a statewide study stemming from Gabriel’s death. Since then, the DCF has pored over the case files of some 20,000 Florida foster kids. Burstein wrote: “Before Gabriel’s death, just under 10 percent — 1,954 — were listed as being on mood-altering drugs, said John Cooper, the department’s acting assistant secretary for operations.” That number is expected to grow, the paper reported.

Psychiatric News blog site also explored the case. At the time of Gabriel’s death, the publication wrote, “he was taking a combination of psychotropic medications, one of which carries a warning that it might lead to suicidal,” the publication wrote. “…It has been a common practice for DCF workers and physicians to fail to obtain parental consent when a psychotropic drug is for a nonpsychotherapeutic use, under the mistaken impression that the law didn’t require it.”

In some good news for Florida’s foster youth, a new Jacksonville facility will be home and resource to foster kids. The Jacksonville Times-Union reports that the new $1.4 million facility at the Children’s Home Society on San Diego Road on the city’s Southside “will combine a group home for teen mothers in foster care with apartments for girls after they have aged out of foster care at 18.”  Financing is coming through Jacksonville’s SHIP program, the Children’s Home Society, the Florida Housing Finance Corp., and private donors.

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