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Child Welfare, Family Advocates Applaud Governor’s Budget Recommendations
Increase in funding supports programs for homelessness, human trafficking, rape crisis, more
TALLAHASSEE — Advocates and leaders across the state praised Governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget for next year, which includes increased funding to homelessness programs and certified rape crisis centers and provides more services for human trafficking victims.
Governor Scott has recommended a $2.8 billion budget for the Department of Children and Families. Savings of $366 million over three years through more efficient processes have allowed funds to be increased for investigators and front-line services for families in need in Florida.
“This budget allows our agency to achieve its mission and vision to protect children and vulnerable adults, provide services for those in need of temporary help and support individuals and families in Florida to become self-sufficient,” Secretary David Wilkins said. “We will continue to reinvest our savings through efficiencies to reinforce our front-line staff and meet communities’ needs.”
Family advocates across the state applaud the recommendations. “Last year, Governor Scott signed two bills that helped fight human trafficking by increasing prosecution on the criminals who exploit our children and also providing better services to the victims who are rescued from this heinous crime,” said Trudy Novicki, executive director of Kristi House, a Miami program that serves sex trafficking victims. “The $1.5 million for sexually trafficked youth in this proposed budget will help us provide a home, a safe harbor, for these children so that they can be safe and overcome the trauma they have experienced.”
Angela Hogan, executive director of the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition, said, “We appreciate Governor Scott’s budget recommendations, which will allow us to increase our federal funding for homelessness and allow local homeless providers to continue their critical services. This will enable us to provide shelter for individuals on the street and increase funds to prevent families from becoming homeless. As the number of homeless families, and especially children, has reached a record in Florida, this money will help us help families get back on their feet.”
Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said, “We are thrilled that Governor Scott’s budget includes $2.5 million to enhance the efforts of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence for 30 separate certified rape crisis centers statewide. This funding will help the council raise the level of awareness of rape and sexual abuse, improve law enforcement response to this heinous crime, and help ensure that victims have immediate access to high quality recovery services.”
In addition to these changes, the recommendations for DCF include improving technology for protective investigators and case managers and implementing customer authentication for public benefits to reduce fraud. While the agency’s overall budget is seeing a slight increase, this increase is being paid for through efficiencies gained over the past year as well as a redirection of $21 million in existing funds, including $1 million savings in lease renegotiations, $4 million in staff reductions and $16 million in overall efficiencies.
To view the complete budget recommendations from Governor Scott, please go to www.floridafamiliesfirst.com. The Department of Children and Families provides a broad range of family and community services, including protecting children and vulnerable adults; providing treatment for individuals with mental health or substance abuse problems; determining eligibility of public federal benefits like food and cash assistance and Medicaid; and funding services for homelessness, domestic violence, refugees, human trafficking and others. For more information, visit www.myflfamilies.com.