Front Cover
 Membership of the commission
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Format of this report
 Intervention to protect the...
 Organizational structure and...

Title: Report of the Study Commission on Child Welfare
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00075698/00001
 Material Information
Title: Report of the Study Commission on Child Welfare
Physical Description: 2 v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Florida -- Study Commission on Child Welfare
Publisher: The Commission
Place of Publication: Tallahassee
Publication Date: 1991
Subject: Child welfare -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Family services -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Family policy -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
General Note: "March, 1991."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00075698
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 23750243

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front cover
    Membership of the commission
        Membership of the commission
    Title Page
        Title page
    Table of Contents
        Table of contents
        Page i
    Format of this report
        Page ii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
    Intervention to protect the child
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
    Organizational structure and resources
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
Full Text






MARCH, 1991



The Honorable Rosemary Barkett, Chair
Justice Florida Supreme Court
Supreme Court Building
Tallahassee, FL

The Honorable William Bankhead
Member Florida Senate
Jacksonville, FL

William Bentley, Executive Director
Florida Network for Youth
& Family Services
Tallahassee, FL

The Honorable Corrine Brown
Member House of Represnetatives
Jacksonville, FL

The Honorable Lois Frankel
Member House of Representatives
West Palm Beach, FL

The Honorable Carolyn Fulmer
Judge 10th Judicial Circuit Court
Bartow, FL

The Honorable William Gladstone
Judge 11th Judicial Circuit Court
Miami, FL

The Honorable James Hill
Member House of Representatives
Hobe Sound, FL

Jay Kassack, Asst. Secretary
Children Youth & Family Services
Florida Department of Health and
Rehabilitative Services
Tallahassee, FL

H. Mary McKeown, Esq.
Growney, McKeown and Barber
St. Petersburg, FL

Donald Middlebrooks, Esq.
Steel, Hector & Davis
Miami, FL

Dianna Morgan, Vice President for
Governmental Relations
Walt Disney World
Lake Buena Vista, FL

The Honorable Eleanor Weinstock
Member Florida Senate
West Palm Beach, FL

Christina Zawisza, Esq.
Florida Legal Services Corporation
Miami, FL

Carole Zegel
State Guardian Ad Litem Program
Gainesville, FL





MARCH, 1991

'.... ..... 15 7 ..,
l....j.- ,.l ; ;r i i^ i- .. ;*i~l ^n t




Format of This Report






During the November, 1989 Special Session, the Florida Legislature
appropriated resources to staff and fund the Study Commission on Child
Welfare, and directed the Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) at the
University of South Florida to provide staffing and administrative support
for this Commission.

The Commission wishes to recognize the efforts of FMHI Dean Max C.
Dertke, Ph.D., and Robert Friedman, Ph.D., Chairman of the FMHI
Department of Epidemiology and Policy Analysis for their support of the
Commission's work. The University graciously underwrote the cost of
administrative services for this project so that all of the funding received
from the Legislature directly supported the work of the Commission. Dr.
Dertke made numerous members of the faculty and support services
available to assist Commission staff in specialized areas of child mental
health, child abuse, and the training which is provided to individuals
working with children. Dr. Friedman offered his particular expertise in
child mental health issues and chaired a workgroup on state and local
initiatives for children's services as well.

The Commission also wishes to thank Christian H. Giblin, Ph.D., Staff
Director, for her leadership, innovative thinking and dedication. These
factors have played a major role in the development of this document. We
also thank Mary Lewis, Staff Assistant, Patricia Richardson and Brenda
Wood, Research Assistants, and Tim Alberts, Audio/Visual Specialist, for
their capable efforts in producing this report.


Part One of the Commission Report contains a description of the problems
identified within five major themes which emerged from Commission
deliberations, and the specific recommendations which the Commission
believes will alleviate these problems. The recommendations are designed
to clarify the role of the state in the lives of children and their families, to
shift emphasis to preventing rather than fixing problems, to involve
communities to a greater degree, and to make it possible for social service
agencies, schools and the courts to better provide assistance and support to
children and their families when these are needed. In several instances,
when the background information which would clarify the problem
statement or the recommendation is lengthy, it is printed on the opposite
side of the page (under the heading NOTES). The problem statements and
recommendations are presented using the following four categories:

A. Prevention;
B. Intervention to Protect the Child;
C. The Judiciary; and
D. Organizational Structure and Resources.

Unless noted, all recommendations were unanimously adopted by the

Part Two is printed separately and contains the Charge to the Commission,
the Commission membership, Agendas, materials presented to the
Commission, and the background information and documentation for the
problems identified in this report.


In promulgating the Recommendations, the Commission
adopted the following Guiding Principles and urges the
state to do the same in establishing a comprehensive plan
for meeting the needs of its children.

Florida must formulate policy' for children and their families around these
basic concepts:

a. Every child must be:

1) protected from harm;
2) provided with basic food, clothes, and shelter;
3) provided with necessary medical services and a basic
education; and
4) provided with the opportunity for cognitive, aesthetic
and emotional development.

b. When help is needed, the first obligation is to assist the child
in his or her family.2 If, despite such assistance, the family
cannot meet the basic needs of its children, government must
assure that their needs are met, regardless of economic status.

c. Local communities are best suited to identify needs, provide
accountability, and support a child's sense of identity. Local
communities should be given more control in selecting,
purchasing, and delivering services to children and families in
compliance with statewide standards.

Legislative intent in current law (Appendix B) should be examined and conformed to these

2 The family today may consist of a number of possible combinations of individuals.


The Study Commission on Child Welfare was established by the Florida
Legislature in November, 1989, after several children died while in state
custody. The Legislature asked the Commission to review state laws and
programs and to make recommendations which would ensure that children
are protected.

After hearing public testimony and the presentations of experts, the
Commission concludes that Florida children are in serious trouble and that
their ability to reach adulthood as physically and emotionally healthy,
educated individuals is in jeopardy. The problems affecting them are multi-
faceted, and there is no single solution. The social and economic changes
of the past two decades have resulted in more children living below the
poverty level than any other age group, a fact that significantly affects their
ability to develop as physically and emotionally healthy individuals.
Moreover, the current structure for serving children can be more responsive
to political pressures than to the needs of children and their families. There
is an inherent conflict when the service provider evaluates the delivery of
services and dispenses information about its own performance.

Inadequate funding for children's services is a problem, but while the
Commission recognizes that this has had serious consequences for children
and their families, it does not believe that additional funding alone is the
answer. Resolving the problems confronting children requires a
combination of financial, structural, and societal remedies, as well as a
commitment from every Floridian. It will take the strong will and
coordinated efforts of families, communities, schools, social service
agencies, courts, and the legislature. We must recognize that, for economic
as well as moral reasons, the strength of our society is tied to the well-
being of our children, and we must apply whatever resources or solutions
are necessary to ensure that they do well and flourish.

Five areas have emerged from the Commission's deliberations:


There is a serious lack of funding for services which support families at risk
and which prevent the removal of children from their homes. Programs


* In 1989, Florida Aid to Families with Dependent Children
(AFDC) grants paid 37% of the level of need (the amount a
family of three needs to maintain subsistence existence) to AFDC
recipients, one-fourth of whom were three years of age or

* Medicaid payments do not cover all pregnant women and infants
up to the level permitted by federal matching fund grants.
Federal law allows states to extend Medicaid coverage and
receive matching federal funds for services to pregnant women
and infants with families below 185% of the poverty level.
Florida law was recently amended to expand Medicaid coverage
of pregnant women and infants up to the 150% of the poverty

* The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program improves the
dietary intake of pregnant women and their children and is known
to reduce the cost of low-weight birth. Florida's WIC Program
serves only 35% of those eligible to participate; that is the lowest
state rate in the southeast region.

* Although federal programs exist to provide food to eligible
children, they are not available in some counties with
demonstrated need. Children whose families receive AFDC and
food stamps, and children at or below 150% of the federal
poverty level are eligible to receive free or reduced cost lunches
or breakfasts. Despite this, eleven Florida counties with between
18 and 42% of their children living below the poverty level, did
not have a school breakfast program in 1989. Recent legislative
changes require breakfast programs to begin in all schools in FY

have been established, but they have either not been funded to meet the
level of need or have been funded to serve only a percentage of those who
need the service3. These programs include, but are not limited to:

A. Economic, Health and Nutritional Services
1. Aid to Families with Dependent Children;
2. Medicaid;
3. Women, Infants, and Children Program;
4. School Lunch and Breakfast Program;
5. Improved Pregnancy Outcome Program ; and
6. Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment.

B. Social

and Therapeutic Services
Children in Need of Services;
Children's Mental Health;
Community Resource Mothers and Fathers;
Early In-Home Intervention4;
Guardian Ad Litem Program; and
Family Foster and Shelter Placements.

C. Educational Services
1. Primary Grade Education Enhancement;
2. Developmental Child Care;
3. Prekindergarten Early Intervention
Disadvantaged Three & Four Year Olds;
4. The Florida First Start Program.

Programs for

Many of the problems confronting children and their families can be
eliminated or reduced in severity if addressed in the early stages. Even
though prevention programs are proven and cost-effective, they are scarce.
In Florida, the condition of large numbers of children and their families
deteriorates before they are eligible for the limited services which are

Other programs, such as Food Stamps, are fully reimbursed by federal funds, but suffer from
problems of access, complicated paperwork, and administrative errors so that client receipt of
benefits is often untimely.
Such as Intensive Families Services, Intensive Crisis Counseling or Family Builders.

According to testimony provided to the Commission, the greatest degree of
unmet need for services (among all children) is for prenatal care and for
services to infants and toddlers up to three years of age.

Florida law does not clearly define the State's responsibility for protecting
its children and ensuring their well-being.

Service Structure
Communities have the greatest stake in making sure that children grow up
to become healthy adults; they are the best suited to identify the unique
needs of their own children. Yet they have little or no control, involvement,
or responsibility in the planning or delivery of the social, medical, and
economic services which are provided to children and their families.

The Commission recognizes that the twelve-month timeframe for its
deliberations was too short for an in-depth treatment of many of the
problems and recommendations which are contained in this document.
Although the Commission considered, to some extent, the questions of a
separate Department of Children's Services, time constraints did not permit
a thorough discussion of this issue.



THE PROBLEM: The problems confronting children and their families
can be eliminated or reduced in severity if addressed
in the early stages. Yet, in Florida, families which
could remain intact with support services often
deteriorate until they require intensive, often
intrusive, measures'5

1. Florida should direct its resources to prevention and early
intervention services,6 emphasizing needs prior to birth and
through preschool years.

2. Although the safety of the child must be the primary
consideration, the state must assure that no child is
unnecessarily removed from the home when the family can
remain together through such services as intensive crisis
counseling or a family builders program.7

3. Every eligible Florida child, whose parents desire it, should
be placed in a Head Start Program.s

4. School Boards should provide special education programs for
Prekindergarten handicapped three, four and five year olds to
the full extent needed.

5 Children who could remain with their parents are not receiving the services they and their
families need. As a result, in addition to unnecessary admissions into shelter and foster
homes and psychiatric hospitals, children do not grow up healthy.
6 For the purposes of this recommendation, prevention and early intervention mean providing
services at the earliest possible opportunity to eliminate or reduce the problems of the child
and family, rather than the age of the individual who receives the service.
These services would also include counseling, child care, transportation for parents and
children, and housing services.
8 A longitudinal study of disadvantaged children in the Perry Preschool in Michigan concluded
that, at nineteen years of age, they had fewer arrests, school drop-outs, and welfare
experiences, and higher literacy and employment rates than those children who did not attend

'THE PROBLEM: Nationwide, Florida ranks 39th and 38th,
respectively, in the rate of infants who die or who
weigh too little at birth. Prenatal care is a proven,
economical way to prevent low-weight births and
infant deaths, yet it is not available for all women.9


5. Prenatal care must be provided to all pregnant women in
accessible locations at accessible times.

6. Programs to prevent low-weight births and infant deaths must
be fully funded.'0

7. Specialized obstetrical care should be provided to high-risk
pregnant women, including those living in unserved, rural
areas of the state where outreach services are essential.

Between 1980 and 1985, the percentage of Florida women receiving late or no prenatal care
increased. Prenatal care reduces the incidence of low-weight infants; reducing Florida's rate by
one percent will save four million dollars annually in care to at-risk newborns and infants.
10 The Improved Pregnancy Outcome (IPO) Program provides prenatal care to pregnant low-
income women; yet in 1987, one-quarter of those eligible for this service did not receive it.
WIC improves the dietary intake of pregnant women and their children. Florida's WIC
Program services only 35% of those eligible to participate; that is the lowest state rate in the

THE PROBLEM: Teenage pregnancy" all too often dooms at least two
human beings to a life of poverty. In addition, babies
born to teenagers are more likely than others to be at
risk of early death, physical handicap, abuse and
neglect, and economic and educational failure.


8.' Florida must fully implement and continue to fund programs
to reduce births to teenagers by providing family life and sex
education classes,13 and by expanding health care services
located at or near public school campuses.

9." Florida must fully implement and continue to fund
programs" which ensure that adequate sex education and
family planning programs are available for all males and
females who desire them.

This is particularly the case for young teenagers, especially those who have not completed high

12 See Appendix A for dissenting views of Senator William Bankhead and Representative James

S Section 233.067, F.S., created the Comprehensive Health Education/Drug Free Schools
Program, which provides for K-12 instruction in subjects (e.g., sexually transmittable diseases;
substance abuse; personal, social and family relationships; adolescent health problems, etc.)
that are designed to influence the development of responsible behaviors. The full range of
these courses should be offered in each of the state's school districts.

1 See Appendix A for dissenting views of Senator William Bankhead and Representative James

15 A number of family planning and sex education programs have been created by state law.
Seventy-one applications were received for the $2.9 million available for expanded school health
services resulting form HB 1739 (1990). Twenty-eight projects are funded for FY 1990-91. $9.6
million is available for the following year. Chapter 154, F.S. authorizes the establishment of
County Public Health Units (CPHUs); in addition to educating the public, CPHUs are to provide
primary care, including family planning services. When health care services were provided to
student of Shanks High School by a satellite of the Gadsden CPHU, teen pregnancies declined by
two-thirds (Florida State University, 1989). This is the only public school in the state, at this
time, with a health clinic. Only twenty counties have Health Educators or provide information
to new mothers at the birth site; the remaining forty-seven are limited to providing health
education to patients, with a minimal amount of public or community education provided.

THE PROBLEM: Teen parents and pregnant teenagers frequently leave
school before graduation and are unable to go back
to school or find jobs.


10. Ensure that every school district with a Comprehensive
Dropout Prevention Program Plan16 offers a Teen Parent

11. Provide child care for the children of teen parents at the teen
parents' home school site, or provide transportation for the
teen parent to and from child care sites to enable the teen
parents to remain in their home schools.

12. Modify school courses to permit flexible scheduling to allow
parenting or pregnant students to stay in school.

13. Provide transportation for pregnant students and students with
children to school and child care programs for their children.

14. Extend mandatory school attendance laws to pregnant teens
and students who are parents.17

16 The Dropout Prevention Act of 1986 provided the authority for local school districts to
establish comprehensive dropout prevention programs, including a teen parent program that
could offer transportation, child care, and health care to pregnant or parenting teens. In 1987-88,
thirty-one counties did not have a teenage dropout prevention program. In 1987-88, only 20 school
districts provided transportation for the children of teen parents; only twenty-five school districts
offered on-campus child care. In 1988-89, twenty-five districts did not offer this program.
Legislation passed in 1989 made a dropout prevention teenage parent program an entitlement for
teenage mothers and fathers and their children. Child care, transportation, health care, a parenting
curriculum, and social services are required components of the program. In 1988-89, forty
districts implemented comprehensive teen parent programs and twenty-two districts received
waivers from offering a full program. No waivers were granted in 1990-91, and as of 2/8/91,
sixty-five districts had approved comprehensive programs.

17 Under present law, those who are under sixteen years of age may be exempted from the mandatory
school attendance requirements.


Many Florida children are at risk of contracting
debilitating, communicable diseases because they have
not been fully immunized against them; one-third of
all two-year old children have not received the basic
immunizations suggested for this age group. "


15. Innovative efforts"9 must be undertaken to insure that all
children are fully immunized. Immunization must be offered
at sites dispensing AFDC, food stamps, or other social or
economic services. Medical personnel could also be provided
at the schools, preschools, or other child care programs.

HRS determined in a 1989 study that one-third of all two-year olds have not received the
basic immunizations which are recommended for that age group.

It is important to note that primary care services, in conjunction with immunization, provide
additional preventive protection for children's health.

THE PROBLEM: In Florida, the number of infants born exposed to
drugs, including alcohol, exceeds the treatment
services available for them or their families.2


16. Florida must develop inducements to encourage drug-abusing
parents to obtain treatment without fear of prosecution or the
permanent loss of custody of their children. If criminal
prosecution is initiated as a result of maternal substance
abuse, a program to divert women from the criminal justice
system into substance-abuse treatment should be made
available during prosecution. The use of pre-file or pre-trial
diversionary treatment programs for these cases is

17. Counseling and treatment must be available for all pregnant
women who use drugs and their families. These services
must be provided during pregnancy and continued after the
child's birth.

18. Long-term support, including a continuum of residential
services for mothers and their children, should be provided
for mothers who are struggling to recover from drug addiction
in order to parent their children.

19. High-quality, developmentally-appropriate child care, access
to health care, and tracking to monitor the on-set of
developmental delay resulting from drug exposure must be
available to the children of mothers who use drugs while

20 Over 2,300 substance-exposed babies were reported to the HRS Abuse Registry between July
and December, 1989, and HRS estimates that information captured this way represents only
about one-quarter of the total number of substance-exposed babies born in this state.

20. Family planning efforts must be initiated and directed toward
drug-addicted women of child-bearing age.

21. Florida must develop a uniform approach for dealing with
substance-exposed babies and their families in terms of how
they are treated and codrt handled.

THE PROBLEM: Some parents do not understand the process of child
development and lack basic parenting information.


22. Parent education legislation should be fully implemented in
the school curriculum.21

23. Training initiatives in basic parenting skills and child
development should be encouraged within the private sector
and for those no longer in school.'

In The Florida Comprehensive Health Education and Substance Abuse Prevention Act (s. 232.067,
F.S.) all public schools are required to provide instruction in, among other topics, parenting by
the 1991-92 school year.

Section 411.1072, F.S., authorized the implementation of the community resource mother or
father pilot programs. Two pilot programs have been funded. In 1989, the Legislature
enacted a program similar to the Missouri "Parents as Teachers' Program: the Florida First
Start Program was appropriated $1.95 million in the 1989 fall special session. $3.2 million was
appropriated for the FY 1990-91. There are twenty sites currently funded.

THE PROBLEM: Some men and women who wish to limit their
reproduction through the use of contraceptives or
sterilization are unable to obtain these services when
they are desired.


24. For adult women, reduce the 30-day consent requirement
which applies to Medicaid recipients who desire sterilization.

25. Florida should offer all available family planning methods,
including implant contraceptives, to individuals eligible for



HRS workers who deal with children who are
dependent, delinquent, or in need of services are
hampered by high caseloads and low salaries." In
particular, Child Protective Investigators (who are
often the first to determine if a child has been abused
and/or neglected, and to make important decisions
about removing him or her from the home) believe
they are unable to effectively carry out their
responsibilities." This can result in situations where
children who should be removed for their safety are
not; or conversely, where false accusations result in
wrongfully removing children and destroying the


26. The state must:

A. Set the pay for child welfare classes at levels which
will afford reasonable competitiveness in the labor
market with Florida's teachers and other entities with
which HRS competes for qualified personnel;

23 See the Child Welfare League of America. (1990). Salary and Retention Study of Florida's
Child Welfare System. Washington: Author.
24 In a survey conducted by the Commission, CPIs report that they are overloaded; do not receive
realistic training which prepares them for the requirements of their work; perform tasks which
interfere with their ability to investigate complaints; spend valuable time investigating unfounded
complaints; lack proper equipment; and generally believe that they are not supported by upper-level
HRS management. A summary of their responses to this survey is contained in Part Two of the

B. Review time and task allocations of dependency
workers to assess ways to restructure job classifications
and reallocate tasks to provide both paraprofessional
and professional career mobility based on increasingly
complex work assignments and competencies. This
mobility should be both horizontal within
classifications and promotional;

C. Evaluate all CYF positions and establish a new, more
relevant class series with equitable salary levels.

D. Adopt an allocation formula for staff-to-caseload ratios
that reflects net staff working in the field, not
authorized positions;

E. Expand the CYF training system beyond the
probationary competency training required for new
dependency employees to ensure that the field
experience and advanced training necessary for a
viable career path is provided to dependency staff;

F. Provide field "mentoring" training for new employees
prior to assumption of a full caseload, during which
time new employees experience basic casework in
tandem with experienced staff who are actually
handling the caseload;

G. Provide funding, training, and certification of
experienced field staff as formal "mentors" for
probationary employees, working under the direction
of CYF counselor supervisors and CPI supervisors.
These "mentors" will supervise the field experience,
provide additional individualized training required by
employees, and assess the competency of new
employees in conjunction with the line supervisor prior
to completion of probations;

H. Pilot a restructured dependency unit that provides
strong computer and paraprofessional support for
routine tasks (e.g. telephone status monitoring, voice
mail, computerized case records, direct service aides
to handle medical appointments, travel and visitation,

I. Revise Florida Statutes to require local law
enforcement authorities to develop a formal protocol
with each HRS district to provide adequate and timely
backup to staff working at night or in potentially
dangerous locales;

J. In cases where arrangements with local law
enforcement officials are not determined to provide
adequate backup, authorize and fund sufficient numbers
of HRS security officers for this function;

K. Provide all field units with equipment to communicate
and/or access to a dispatcher who can summon backup
as needed; and

L. Develop new performance standards for dependency
staff that reflect the realistic expectations of the
organization and which help enhance the job
performance of the staff. HRS must also revise the
training and experience requirements to target
recruitment of entry level professional staff with B.A.
degrees in social work, child development, guidance
and counseling;

27. To improve the child protective investigation process, HRS

A. Provide meaningful, quality training on the dynamics
of abuse and case investigation to Child Protective
Investigators (CPIs); enhance the Professional
Development Centers," and provide exposure and
training on innovative programs which have proved
successful around the country.

B. Supplement liability insurance coverage for workers;

C. Hire staff to relieve CPIs of such activities as
transporting children, babysitting and entering
computer data.

Established in Chapter 402, F.S., to provide professional training to those working with
dependent and delinquent children.


Child support enforcement guidelinesu presently in
state law do not sufficiently recognize the interest of
children in obtaining adequate child support awards.
Children's custodians disproportionately bear the
burden ofproving that a non-custodial parent has the
ability to pay child support. Indigent custodial
parents are not even assured of legal representation
in the child support enforcement process.


28. A statutory rebuttable presumption should be enacted which
would shift the burden of proving present inability to pay in
a civil contempt proceeding to the person who has failed to
pay child support where that person has previously failed to
seek a modification of the child support order.2

29. Indigent custodial parents must be assured of legal
representation. Judges should assess attorney fees in the child
support enforcement process, including proceedings for
contempt of court for non-payment.

30. In those cases in which the non-custodial spouse does not
meet his or her obligation to pay child support due to lack of
employment, that non-custodial spouse should receive a
mandatory referral to Project Independence and be subject to
contempt of court for failure to comply with this directive.

This Commission recognizes that other commissions have exhaustively studied this issue.

We recognize that there are other possible statutory changes which would better additionally
protect the interest of children in obtaining adequate child support awards. Time constraints
prevented more detailed recommendations on this issue. This area should be closely examined
by appropriate legislative committees.

THE PROBLEM: In many cases, the state is not complying with laws
which support the reunification of dependent children
and their parents, or which quickly establish
alternative permanent placements, when that is


31. As soon as a child has been temporarily removed from home,
adequate social services should be provided to enable families
to be reunited as soon as possible. Parental rights should be
terminated only when:

A. reunification clearly is not possible within time frames
reasonable to the child;
B. it is in the manifest best interest of the child; and
C. when other options, such as those contained in
Recommendation 34, have been considered.

32. When the decision is made to terminate parental rights, a
better method of accountability should be developed to assure
immediate, permanent placement of the child.

33. The state should allocate sufficient funds to comply with the
Supreme Court's decision in the Florida Bar. In re Advisory
Opinion HRS Nonlawyer Counselor, 547 So. 2nd 909
(FL. 1989)

28 State law requires that efforts to return a foster child to the biological parents or an adoptive
family shall be made 'as soon as possible,' and that no child should remain in foster care for
longer than one year. In fact, children remain in foster settings for much longer than twelve
months and the length of stay is increasing. The average length of stay was reported to be
over thirty months with a range of twenty months in District 1 to fifty months in District 11
(Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, 1989). The average number of
placements experienced by a foster child was 2.8, with a range from one to thirty-eight placements
(Boyd, et al., 1990).

34. The State should consider establishing different permanency
time requirements for infants and for those who are
adolescents, in regard to their permanency planning.29

29 Section 39.40 (3) and (4), F.S., requires the court to expedite the resolution of permanency
placement for a child who is less than four years of age when removed from the home and to
expedite the judicial handling of all cases involving a child under four years of age. Section
39.453 (3)(a), F.S., contains timeframes for the judicial review of children under four who are
in foster care, as well as adolescents in these settings.


Legal guardianship in Florida is presently a status conferred on competent adults by the probate
division of the circuit court. Currently, under Chapter 744, F.S., legal guardians exercise
responsibility both for the person and the property of the child; guardianship may be limited,
plenary, emergency and temporary, standby, resident or foreign. Chapter 744, F.S., requires
separate credit and criminal investigations of the prospective guardian; a minimum of eight
hours of instruction and training; and the preparation of habilitation plans, annual guardianship
plans, annual guardianship reports and financial accounting. This process is cumbersome, time
consuming and complicated, and it cannot be successfully negotiated without retaining counsel.
This process also duplicates the investigations and accountability required under Chapter 39,
F.S. A simplified process needs to be designed for legal guardianship (which may be with
relatives or non-relatives) awarded by the juvenile judge under Chapter 39, F.S., without the
necessity of a separate legal action, investigation, and annual accounting.

For some relatives, legal guardianship may not be desired or feasible. The juvenile court
needs the flexibility to order temporary or permanent custody to a relative without supervision
(or to the non-neglectful or abusing natural parent). Temporary custody might be desirable or
feasible when investigations are not yet complete, or the relative is in the process of exploring
other options, or the natural parents are in the process of working on a performance
agreement. Permanent custody is necessary when the preferred option is long-term foster care.

This category covers two situations:

a) older children for whom adoption is not feasible but foster parents are able and
willing to make a long-term, stable commitment to care for the child through age 18
and beyond;
b) relative placements where the relative needs the foster care board payment in order
to be able to provide financially for the child. This option must be coupled with an
order of temporary or permanent custody. Stable, long-term, committed foster
relationships require less judicial review and oversight, and therefore changes in
mandatory judicial reviews are also anticipated.

There are many situations where a continued foster care status is not beneficial for the child,
yet the grounds for termination of parental rights cannot be met or continued contact with the
natural parent, siblings, and grandparents would not be harmful to the child. There are
situations in which the "adoptive" family may also benefit from continued financial support
from the natural family, particularly where the child has Social Security benefits, insurance
benefits, or death benefits from a deceased parent. This choice allows the court greater
flexibility in structuring permanency arrangements for the child.

Independent Living allows the older child to live in settings supervised by HRS (either group
homes or apartments) without the necessity of legal guardianship or custody vested in an
individual. It allows the Department to receive the benefit of federal funds for independent
living programs.

THE PROBLEM: For some children, returning home is not an option; for others,
particularly those who are older, adoption is not possible. Florida's
laws give the courts only two choicesfor children: return home or


35. Florida's law should be changed to give the courts more choices, including:

A. legal guardianship;

B. placement with relatives;

C. long-term foster care for older children;

D. adoption with natural parent contact or visitations; and

E. independent living.

These choices should be specifically defined and situations in which each option
might be used should be clarified in statutes or rules.

THE PROBLEM: Despite significant increases in expanding child care, by 1993,
Florida will have twice as many children who need this service as
are enrolled in it today."0


36. Child care, including care for infants and toddlers, must be available to all
families who desire it on a sliding scale commensurate with their ability to

37. Private businesses" and local and state government should make child care
facilities available to their employees, or try to make it easier for these
working parents to have affordable child care near their place of

30 It is estimated that 27,000 children are currently on waiting lists for child care.

31 One example of increased involvement on the part of private industry in the well-being of children
is the Florida Children's Coalition, a non-profit organization which works with the school districts,
the Department of Education, chambers of commerce and private businesses.


HRSM 175-16, states that:

Section 5-6(g)

1) Race will not be used as a -ingle or exclusive criterion in the placement of
children for adoption. The categorical denial of adoption placements
based on race is prohibited. The consideration of the race of the child or
prospective parents will be used as a relevant factor in placements, only if
doing so is in the best interest of the child. This determination will be
made on a case-by-case basis to take into account the particular child, the
prospective adoptive parents and the circumstances.

2) It must be noted that in today's society, children are more easily
integrated into families whose racial characteristics are most like the
child's. When considering placement of a child with a family of race
different from his own, the family must face and understand that:

a) The child is coming into the community, as well as the home.
b) They must understand the racial climate in their community.
c) The child may be perceived differently by others.
d) Additional stress will be placed on the family.
e) The child may feel isolated.
f) There may be additional problems when the child reaches
g) There will be the need to help the child identify in a positive
manner with his biological and cultural heritage.
h) The family will become transracial with the placement of the
i) It may be necessary for the family to make adjustments in its
lifestyle when the child is placed.

3) The family considered for placement of a child of a race different from
their own, thereby becoming a transracial family, will require special
assistance from the counselor both prior to and after the child's
placement. Such assistance will be focused on helping the family to deal
with the issues, problems, and concerns identified above. A family who
resists addressing these issues, or who denies their existence is being
unrealistic, and may be reflecting an inability to help the child deal with
them in the future. Such families should be carefully evaluated in terms
of their ability to meet the needs of such a child.

THE PROBLEM: HRS practices have, at times, appeared to discourage the adoption
of children whose racial or ethnic background is not the same as
the prospective adoptive parents.


38. HRS must immediately take steps to assure that the written policies on this
issue are expanded to include ethnicity and to insure that they are followed.

THE PROBLEM: Insufficient mental health and substance abuse services are
provided to meet the needs of children, particularly those in state
care or custody. Any child removed from his or her home is at


39. The full continuum of children's mental health services, from in-home
counseling through residential out-of-home care, must be available.

40. Florida must increase the availability of programs to treat children with
mental health needs at home" and in therapeutic foster homes" in order
to reduce the reliance on costly residential care in psychiatric hospitals.
For example, the state should work with insurance companies to restructure
payments to reimburse out-patient services at a higher rate than presently
allowed for out-patient services. The number of in-patient beds should be
reduced and replaced with out-patient services.

41. The entire children's mental health system in Florida must be re-examined
to assure the availability and timeliness of appropriate services, with full
due process protection.

32 The Family Builders model has been successfully used for this purpose in other states.

33 Therapeutic Foster Homes serve emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children in a family-
like setting which is the least restrictive on the mental health services continuum. Specially
trained and licensed foster parents are assisted by mental health professionals, whose services
are available to natural parents as well. Typically, each home is licensed for one or two

THE PROBLEM: The level of support providedfor relative placement is not the same
as that provided to foster parents.


42. The Legislature should pass laws which ensure:

A. children are placed with relatives who will be screened and whose
homes will be inspected, (although they will not necessarily be
licensed) as the first choice after placement with parents;

B. relatives who care for children are able to receive the same amount
of money each month as shelter or foster care parents;

C. children placed with relatives have the same rights" to permanency
placement as do children placed in state or private care;

D. simple court procedures are written for relatives to obtain legal
custody when HRS places a child with them and closes the case; and

E. simple court procedures are written for relatives to obtain legal
custody when HRS is not involved in placing the child with them.

These rights should include the following options: performance agreements; case plans;
judicial reviews at least every six months; therapeutic services; and permanency through the
return to the parents, termination of parental rights, or adoption by their relatives or other
suitable persons.

THE PROBLEM: It is difficult for the court to adequately review the status of
children in foster care to make sure that laws are being followed,
the appropriate services are being provided, and that children
quickly go back home or into other permanent homes.


43. The state should expand and fund programs which assist the court in
reviewing the status of children in out-of-home care by promoting
independent county Citizen's Foster Care Review Boards."

35 Such a Review Board is in place in Dade County.


During the past three years, there has been a proliferation of
private-pay adolescent psychiatric beds and facilities throughout the
state. Many adolescents have been placed in these facilities when
less-restrictive programs would have been more appropriate and less


44. Florida Statutes must be revised to ensure that the due process rights of
children are protected when placement in a private or public psychiatric
facility is being considered.

45." An independent assessment of the child and his family must be
conducted prior to any out-of-home placement to determine what services
the child and family need and whether or not psychiatric placement is

36 See Appendix A for dissenting views of Senator William Bankhead and Representative James


Children need time with caring adults, yet the work schedules of
single-parent families and families in which both parents are
employed make it almost impossible for parents to spend time at
home with their children or to be involved in their school activities.


46. The state should expand pilot programs37 which change the workday
schedule so that parents who wish to do so can end their workday at the
time that school is dismissed3 or work at home when possible.3 The
concept of educational leave (provided on the same basis as annual and sick
leave) should be offered to let parents participate in their children's school
functions or volunteer for school-related activities.

37 North Carolina National Bank (NCNB) already offers Select Time, a program which allows
employees to modify the workday. Through the Department of Administration, Florida has
piloted and is currently evaluating programs involving flexible work schedules. NCNB offers
employees two paid hours weekly to be a volunteer in the schools. Citibank, F.B.S., provides
all employees with 1-3 days a year, separate from sick or annual leave for such purposes.
38 Parents who want to take advantage of these policies should not have to take pay cuts or lose
health and other benefits.

39 The State Employees Telecommuting Act (Chapter 90-291, L.O.F.) provides the authority for pilot
programs which enable state employees to work at home.

THE PROBLEM: Over half of all Floridians, twenty-four years of age or younger,
lack any form of private or government health insurance.


47. Health care coverage must be made affordable and accessible for all Florida


THE PROBLEM: The judicial system is overwhelmed by and has not responded to the
increasing number and complexity of cases involving children and


48. A Family Court Division should be established in each circuit.'

A. The Family Court Division must be adequately funded and have
access to the following services: mediation, arbitration,
investigations, social and psychological evaluation and counseling,
and guardians ad litem.

B. Judges and other court personnel assigned to the division must be
persons with an interest and desire to be in the family court and must
be continuously trained and show competency in fields affecting the
family, including child development, and should be encouraged to
utilize the Professional Development Centers.4"

C. There should be a minimum time requirement for judges on the
Family Court to ensure that they become familiar with family court

S The jurisdiction of this court would include matters affecting children and families, such as
dissolution, custody, alimony and child support, delinquency, dependency, children and
families in need of services, adoption, and termination of parental rights.
41 Created by Section 402.40, F.S. These Centers provide training to state employees and
contract employees who work with children.

D. The Family Court should be encouraged to establish programs for
community relations and public information concerning the functions,
progress and problems of the Family Court, advocacy for law reform
and improved services. It should develop a close working
relationship with community agencies serving parties who appear
before the court. Each circuit should be encouraged to establish a
Family Court Citizens' Advisory Committee, appointed by the Chief
Judge, to advise, critique and assist the division in achieving a more
effective Family Court.

E. The Guardian Ad Litem must be an integral part of the Family Court
process. A primary responsibility of the Family Court Division is
the welfare of the child, and the Guardian Ad Litem acts on behalf
of the child.

49. The Guardian Ad Litem Program should be placed in the branch of
government or agency which would best assure adequate funding and the
independence necessary to fully serve the children it represents.

50. The time standards applicable for dependency cases in the Rules of Judicial
Administration should be revisited.42

51. The Rules of Judicial Administration must be revised to require that all
pending delinquency and dependency cases which do not meet the time
standards be reported43 to the Chief Justice monthly and that all other
cases be reported quarterly.

52. Each District Court of Appeal must develop policies and procedures to
make sure that criminal, civil, and juvenile cases involving children are
decided quickly.

42 At the present time, they differ from statutory time limits and reality.

43 The report should include the date of arrest or the date the child was taken into custody and,
for dependency cases, the date the petition was filed.

53. The Family Court should have the necessary human and material resources,
proportional to the total circuit workload, so that courts can meet the new
time standards.

54. Counsel should be offered to indigent parents in dependency proceedings.

55. Alternatives to criminal prosecution should be explored and utilized in intra-
familial child abuse and neglect cases. These alternatives should be
operated in conjunction with HRS and designated therapeutic providers.


THE PROBLEM: Laws affecting children are now found in many separate chapters
in Florida Statutes, which is confusing because some laws are
repetitive, others conflicting. A consequence is the fragmented
treatment of the problems of children and their families.


56. All Florida laws pertaining to children should be compiled in a
comprehensive children's code or in chapters which focus on the needs of
the family, rather than the administrative needs of the agencies or
institutions providing services.


The state does not adequatelyfocus on the needs of children, and
its efforts in this regard are fragmented due to the number of
agencies, departments, and levels of government which are


57. The Governor should work to focus the efforts of state government toward
children and should consider designating one person in his office to be
responsible for coordinating state and local efforts for children.


The greatest unmet need for services appears to be present in pregnant women and their
unborn children, infants, and young children up to the age of three:

According to the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services
(HRS), one-third of the pregnant women in this state receive no or late
prenatal care, which jeopardizes not only their own health, but that of
their child.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program provides food to only
about one-third of the eligible low-income mothers and children.

Over 2,300 substance-exposed babies were reported to the Abuse Registry
between July and December, 1989, and HRS estimates that it captures
only about one-quarter of the total number of substance-exposed babies
who are born in this state. Treatment facilities are available to serve only
a small fraction of these babies or their mothers.

One-third of all two-year olds have not had basic immunizations and, as a
result, are at risk of contracting debilitating diseases.

The younger the child, the more likely he or she is to be abused or
neglected; 91 % of the children who died during fiscal year 1989-90 as a
result of abuse by a parent or caregiver were four years of age or

Despite significant increases in expanding subsidized child care, by 1993,
Florida will have twice as many children who need this service as are
enrolled today.

THE PROBLEM: The State does not allocate sufficient funds for children's services;
it does not prioritize fundingfor children against other needs of the
state or among the many and various children's needs. In
addition, the distribution of resources is not equitable within the


58. Florida must provide additional dollars to meet the needs of children.

59. The allocation of funds to meet the needs of children should be based on a
comprehensive plan which assesses their needs on a prioritized and long-
range basis."

60. The responsibilities of The Child Welfare Estimating Conference,45
enacted during the 1990 Legislative session, must be expanded to determine
the number of Florida families and children who need the assistance of the
state and the types of assistance they need.

61. Based upon state policy, Florida must prioritize the service needs which are
determined by the Child Welfare Estimating Conference and determine
which services must be provided; the state must calculate the cost of these
services and provide the data to'support an equitable allocation formula.

62. A formula similar to that used in the public education system4 must be
used to fund services for children and families, based upon the level of

63. To facilitate planning at the local level, state agencies which collect relevant
information on children should report it by HRS service district, county,
and if possible, by zip codes.

44 In particular, data should be obtained on the demographics of children in substitute care so that
specific recommendations for prevention and permanency planning may be used in this plan.
45 A consensus estimating conference is created in statute to develop official information (data,
forecasts, estimates, studies, etc.) for the purpose of state planning and budgeting.
46 Florida Education Finance Program, Chapter 236., F.S.


When a judge has adjudicated a child dependent and a
performance agreement necessary, the services which are ordered
are not always available. Families, courts, and caseworkers cannot
rely upon the availability of specific support services when ordered
by the court for dependent children and their families.


64.4' Florida must create, statewide, a basic floor of services which would
be available, when needed, for every at-risk child (regardless of age) and
his or her family. (This means that a core of specific services are identified
and prioritized, so that when needed, they are legally assured and

47 See Appendix A for dissenting views of Senator William Bankhead and Representative James

THE PROBLEM: Social services, law enforcement, health and educational agencies
often serve the same children, but rarely plan or use their resources
in a coordinated manner.


65. A single plan for services4" should be developed and implemented for
children and their families when they are first identified as needing them.
Such planning, however, should take care to preserve family privacy rights.
One community-based organization should retain the information contained
in the single service plan.

66. In order to support the planning and delivery of coordinated services, the
data systems'9 used by social service agencies, the schools, and the courts
should be able to share information when they serve the same children, as
long as privacy rights are preserved.

67. The state should encourage HRS, law enforcement, state attorneys, and the
judiciary to better coordinate the dependency and the criminal prosecution

48 The plan should address the primary health care, educational, and developmental needs of the
child, as well as the employment, housing, income, and mental health needs of the family.
The plan should be designed by an interagency team which meets with the family and which
identifies the agency responsible for assuming the service coordination responsibilities for
implementing this plan unless the parent assumes this responsibility. The plan should be
developed with parents in a way which will motivate them to participate rather than coerce
or mandate them to participate.
49 The issue of confidentiality can be addressed by blocking certain data elements.

68. Health and social services" should be co-located at school sites to make
them more accessible for children and their families. Neighborhoods which
have developed their own models of neighborhood service centers should
be encouraged in their innovations.

69. Health and social services should be available at times when they can best
be utilized, for example, on weekends and after 5:00 pm, instead of
primarily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

70. Health and social service agencies and schools should share the costs of
needed services for students considered to be the responsibility of both
agencies. Resources targeted at diagnosis and evaluation activities should
be identified across education, health and social service agencies and used
in a manner which eliminates unnecessary duplication of efforts and ensures
the sharing of available information.

50 Such services would include, among others: counseling for children who are in need of
services, dependent or delinquent children; services for pregnant and parenting teens; health
clinic services; family counseling services; and adult literacy training programs.

THE PROBLEM: Florida's social service delivery system lacks a structure which
would enable it to be responsive to the needs of children in their


71. In order to provide local, community-based services which are consistent
with state policy regarding children2 the organizational structures of the
Florida Department of Education (DOE) and of social services departments
(including HRS) must be reviewed and, if necessary, revised.

72. Legislation for "full service schools" should be expanded to assure that the
capabilities of local programs -- not just those of DOE and HRS -- are
considered in the planning of these initiatives.

73. Funding for services should be made increasingly more flexible and less
categorical both at the county and at the client level.

74. A service planning and delivery system must be developed which involves
citizens, parents, county government, the school board, the court, local not-
for-profit providers, the children's boards, and HRS, and which mandates
joint planning, funding and delivery of services to children and families.
The cluster approach should also be established at the state level" to deal
with any problems which cannot be resolved at the local level and to ensure
that state policy continues to be responsive to the identified needs of

75. When state-wide commissions and councils are organized to address the
needs of children and their families, representation should include citizens,
parents, and representatives of county government and children's boards.

76. The state must require evidence of local review and involvement in the
Legislative Budget Review process, as it relates to children's issues.

51 Local communities have little or no control or involvement in the planning or delivery of the
social, medical and economic services which are provided to children and families through
district offices of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS).
52 See state policy in the Introduction.

53 For example, the Governor, Secretary of HRS and the Education Commissioner.


The state lacks systematic oversight capabilities for monitoring
either the effectiveness ofprograms for children and families or the
implementation of long-range plans.' Over the last several years,
the HRS Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Program has been
reviewed by a number of legislatively-mandated commissions,
legislative oversight committees and private organizations
(contracted as a result of legislative actions)."


77. One body should be appointed to provide continuing oversight and advice
to the CYF Program. This body must be empowered to review and make
recommendations and to follow these recommendations to their conclusion.

78. There must be an independent entity" to continually assess the needs of
family and children, to evaluate programs and their effectiveness, and to
assure compliance with laws.

On a number of occasions, the Commission was unable to determine whether certain
provisions in law or program standards were being implemented (e.g., the reporting, by HRS,
of serious abuse allegations to the state attorney offices; the frequency of visits to foster
children by their caseworkers; the extent to which state attorney offices reported to HRS the
results of their investigations; length of time in foster care; reasonable efforts requirements of
Chapter 39, F.S. use of detention facilities for dependent children; etc.)

55 Examples include the Juvenile Justice Task Force, the Child Welfare Study Commission, and
the Child Welfare League Study. In many cases, these groups produced similar
recommendations. Follow-up on the recommendations has been inconsistent.
56 This entity must be clearly void of any involvement with the agency it is evaluating or the
programs it is responsible for reviewing, and it must be insulated from the effects of political
pressures. HRS was consistently either reluctant or unable to provide the Commission with
information on children and their families which was not politically "positive'. Currently,
Section 381.0615, F.S. requires HRS to evaluate the outcomes in all Children, Youth and
Families Programs and report the results annually.

79. Florida must increase both the quantity and quality of legislative oversight.
Most oversight takes place within the context of the budgetary process.
Budgetary pressures do not encourage the sort of careful study and
evaluation that would lead to a more reasoned assessment of a program's

80. The amount of resources dedicated to the evaluation of programs and
services must be increased' and the evaluation process be more closely
integrated with the data collection systems. Evaluations must become more
longitudinal rather than "one shot", so that program improvements and
longer-range objectives can be assessed and so that programs can be fine-
tuned to increase effectiveness.7

57 An example of the type of long-range evaluation commitment needed can be found in Chapter 411,
F.S. (see Independent Third Party Evaluation and Strategic Plan requirements).

THE PROBLEM: Federal and private dollars are lost because the state does not
always claim the reimbursements for which it is eligible or apply
for other funds which are available.


81. Florida must streamline state and HRS contracting procedures and eliminate
internal inconsistencies between HRS program offices. It must emphasize
fair-pricing strategies, shift to outcome rather than process objectives, and
while retaining competitive bidding, institute multi-year contracts to
promote agency and program stability."

82. In jointly funded contracts, eliminate or reduce dual project management
and duplicated state and local monitoring and evaluation capabilities.

58 Too often, contract agencies are weakened by annual increases which are inadequate to reflect
the increased cost of doing business, added regulatory requirements and increased program
expectations. The accumulation of several years of such practice leaves an agency crippled in
its ability to accomplish its mission and recruit and retain qualified staff.

THE PROBLEM: There is no effective mechanism to investigate consumer complaints
regarding the delivery of HRS services to individual children, and
for taking action when it has been determined that HRS policy has
been violated.


83. There must be a state mechanism59 for investigations of individual client
grievances and enforcement of corrective action when HRS policy has been

59 This may be done either through the existing Statewide Human Rights Advocacy Committee
(SHRAC) or district Human Rights Advocacy Committees (HRACs), through Ombudsman
Councils, or through another mechanism which would independently investigate grievances
regarding children and families.




TO: Justice Rosemary Barkett
Chairman, Child Welfare Commission
Tallahassee, Florida

FROM: Senator William G. Bankhead
Representative James Hill

DATE: February 27, 1991

Please find below our concerns with several recommendations
which have been adopted by the Child Welfare Commission.

In regard to recommendations 8 and 9, we have reservations
about the effectiveness and appropriateness of sex education
classes and health clinics being conducted/operated on
public school campuses if they involve promoting pregnancy
prevention by other than abstinence without the consent of
the parent. We also object to abortion referral or
counseling being funded by government or given without
parental consent.

We believe recommendation #45 is extremely intrusive as
written as it will significantly restrict the ability of a
parent to act in what he believes is in the best interest of
his child. Certainly such placement at public expense
should be subject to review for appropriateness.
Recommendation #64 creates an entitlement for an unspecified
"basic floor of services" which if ordered by a circuit
judge would have to be provided no matter what the expense.
Before adoption of this recommendation, a great deal more
specificity as to both the services involved and their costs
is in order.
Justice Barkett, we very much appreciate your efforts as
Chairman of the Child Welfare Commission to develop
consensus while providing an opportunity for dissent.



The basis for the state's involvement in the protection and well-being of children and their
families is found in the Legislative Intent Section of a number of state laws concerning

Overall, this Legislative Intent language emphasizes prevention services and a belief that
the family is the primary protector and nurturer of the child, that the quality and stability
of the family should be preserved, and that programs and services should be provided to
prevent family dysfunction and loss of independence. The Intent language also expresses
a desire to protect Florida's children from harm due to abuse or neglect, coupled with a
conviction that, if the child cannot remain safely with the family, alternative out-of-home
placements must be provided. When out-of-home placements occur, the ultimate goal is
the safe reunification of the child with the family, if that is possible, and if it is not, the
swift placement of the child in another permanent home environment.

The "Florida Prevention, Early Assistance and Early Childhood Act" (Chapter 411, F.S.)
was enacted in 1989. This Act was influenced by a belief on the part of the Legislature
that fifty percent of the handicapping conditions in young children can be prevented and
that those which cannot be prevented can be minimized by providing services to high risk
pregnant women, their families, and high-risk and handicapped children from birth to age
five. This law requires the Department of Education (DOE) and Health and
Rehabilitative Services (HRS) to jointly identity and refine a continuum of services for
high-risk pregnant women and high-risk and handicapped preschoolers from birth to five
years of age and their families; to implement such services as the funds become available;
and to develop a joint strategic plan, which includes a joint budget program, to implement
the continuum.

The Family Policy Act (s. 409.801. F.S.) states that it is the Legislature's goal to:

"...protect, preserve and enhance the stability and
quality of Florida's families through the funding of
programs and services and the enforcement of laws and
policies to prevent family dysfunction and the loss of
family independence."

Goals, stated in s. 409.145, F.S., relating to the care of children, include:

1. the prevention of separation of children from families;
2. the reunification of families who have had children placed in
foster homes or institutions;
3. the permanent placement of children who cannot be reunited
with their families or when reunification would not be in the
child's best interest; and
4. the protection of dependent children and those alleged to be
dependent, including the provision of long-term, alternate
living arrangements.

The prevention of abuse and neglect of adults, as well as children, is a
priority of this state (Chapter 415, F.S.). To that end, section 415.501
F.S., also known as the "Mills Bill," describes a planned, comprehensive
approach for the prevention of child abuse and neglect which is to be used
as the basis for funding programs and services. In addition, a primary
prevention training program is created to prevent child abuse. Through this
program, it is intended that primary prevention training for all children in
kindergarten through grade 12 be encouraged in the district school system
through the training of school teachers, guidance counselors, parents and
children. (s. 415.5015, F.S.)

It is the intent of the Florida Juvenile Justice Act (Chapter 39, F.S.) that
children served by HRS receive:

1. a home that is permanent and stable;
2. a safe and nurturing environment which preserves their
3. adequate shelter and clothing;
4. effective treatment for their physical, social and
economic needs;
5. protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation;

6. equal opportunity and access to quality education;
7. access to preventive services; and
8. an independent, trained advocate when intervention is
necessary and a skilled guardian/caretaker in a safe
environment when alternative placement is necessary.

The Legislature further stated (s. 402.301, F.S.) its intent to protect the
health, safety and well-being of the children of the state and to promote
their emotional and intellectual development and care through the
establishment of minimum standards for the care and protection of children
in child care facilities. The development of these facilities is described as
desirable and should be encouraged and fostered by the state (s. 402.301,

With respect to adoption, the Legislative Intent is to protect and promote
the well-being of persons being adopted, as well as their natural and
adoptive parents, and to provide a permanent family life to all children who
can benefit from it.

The State is also involved in ensuring the well-being of children through a
variety of programs and services which promote child and maternal health.
In order to promote, protect, maintain and improve the health and safety of
all citizens, the Legislature created the system of coordinated public health
services (Chapter 154, F.S.). These services are provided to Medicaid
recipients and other qualified low-income residents in all sixty-seven
counties of the state. To protect children from communicable diseases,
immunizations (provided by local health units) are required for admission
to school (s.232.032, F.S.). Chapter 383, F.S., contains a description of
the maternal and child health programs administered by HRS, including
prenatal, and neonatal services.

Recognizing the importance of economic pressure on the ability of a family
to remain intact and to foster the well-being of its children, Chapter 409,
F.S., was enacted to provide services under the jurisdiction of HRS. In
addition to the broad statement of intent, this Chapter contains specific
legislative findings related to the child welfare system:

1. Special programs should be developed for teenage
parents who are public assistance applicants and
recipients in order to prevent long-term welfare

2. Integration and coordination should occur among
current federal, state and local programs designed to
provide public assistance recipients with the
opportunities for economic self-support.

The Legislature created the "Dropout Prevention Act" (s. 230.2316, F.S.),
which is intended to meet the needs of students not effectively served by
conventional educational programs. This Act was designed specifically to
implement innovative, exemplary programs aimed at reducing the number
of students who do not complete their education and increasing the number
of students who have a positive experience in school and who obtain a high
school diploma. Among the students these programs are designed to target
are teenage parents, those with drug or alcohol-related problems and
students who are disruptive in the traditional school environment. The
Legislature also declared the health services conducted as a part of the total
school program should "appraise, protect and promote the health of
students." (s. 409.32, F.S.)

Chapter 827, F.S., relates to the criminal abuse of children and defines the
types of actions which are punishable by criminal sanctions.

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