Child Welfare Reform Legislation Moves to Senate Floor

Apr 22 • 593 Views • View Comments

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Senate Appropriations Committee Builds on $1.3 Billion Commitment to Child Welfare

Tallahassee — The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart), today approved a Proposed Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 1666, Child Abuse and Child Welfare Services, comprehensive bi-partisan, bicameral Child Welfare Reform legislation outlined earlier this year as a joint priority of Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). The legislation will now move to the Senate floor. Funding associated with the legislation will be outlined in the General Appropriations Act.“Far too many child fatalities with allegations of maltreatment impact children and families who have had prior involvement with child protective services. In too many of these tragedies, warning signs were missed and intervention was too little or too late,” said President Gaetz. “While government’s ability to prevent all horrific crimes is limited, there has been clear and compelling evidence that Florida’s current child welfare system must be improved.”

“The goal of this bipartisan legislation is to build on our more than $1.3 billion existing commitment to child welfare through targeted policies that aim to prevent child deaths due to maltreatment, to learn from tragedies we cannot prevent, and to expand the resources needed to help families stay whole and healthy,” continued President Gaetz.

The committee substitute for Senate Bill 1666 seeks to improve the quality of child abuse investigations conducted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and certain sheriff’s offices by increasing child welfare expertise in the department, improving child abuse investigator qualifications, and creating a consortium of schools of social work to advise the state on child welfare policy.

The bill directs the DCF to conduct immediate investigations of deaths and other significant incidents involving children who have been known to the child protection and child welfare system. The purpose of the investigations is to identify root causes and to rapidly determine the need to change policies and practices related to child protection and child welfare.

The bill provides a definition of “medical neglect” and requires improvements in the care of medically complex children and the investigation of child abuse cases involving such children. The bill creates a new part of state law to be entitled “Community-Based Child Welfare.” In this new section, current law relating to community-based care is reorganized, obsolete provisions are removed, and certain provisions are clarified.

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