In under two months, Department and Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Shevaun Harris and Department leadership have successfully begun transforming the community-based care system in Pinellas and Pasco Counties. These accomplishments range from working with local Sheriff’s offices to reduce child removal rates by 50 percent to selecting and transitioning a new lead agency for Circuit 6.
“I’m incredibly proud of my team for making such significant strides in a short period of time,” said Secretary Shevaun Harris. “We have worked hard with our partners in law enforcement in Circuit 6 to reduce the removal rate and make sure that the children who can safely remain with their families are supported and have access to needed services and community resources. Through Hope Florida – A Pathway to Prosperity, we have been able to activate state resources, private business, and the faith-based community to provide assistance to the families and children in Pinellas and Pasco counties. We thank our dedicated foster parents and community partners who continue to support the children in our child welfare system.”
Since the beginning of November, Department executive and senior leadership have been on the ground in Circuit 6 every week. Additionally, the Department has deployed over 45 frontline child welfare certified team members to support operations at the community-based care and case management organization level to ensure continuity and stability during the transition period.
DCF Successes in Circuit 6:
- Successfully activated community resources for families in partnership with the local Sheriff’s offices, resulting in a 50 percent decrease of child removals (out-of-home care placements) from November through December, a 63 percent reduction from 2020 to 2021. This dramatic decrease reflects the importance of a strong child welfare partnership that brings a robust continuum of preventative services to support the Sheriff’s offices in their child welfare investigations.
- Launched a direct referral process to Hope Florida – A Pathway to Prosperity and Care Navigation for the Sheriff’s offices, providing assistance to 272 families who faced economic barriers in open child dependency cases.
- Provided assistance with completing child studies, home studies, and staffings which resulted in the finalization of 35 adoptions in December. This is a 17 percent increase over the monthly average of 30 adoptions per month prior to November 2021.
- Deployed a Mobile Response Team to work with the five highest-need group homes on trauma-informed approaches and access to crisis services.
- Analyzed 1,600 reviews of out-of-home cases to determine immediate safety and permanency needs.
- Procured a new lead agency for the Circuit, Family Support Services of SunCoast, whose model prioritizes upstream prevention and intervention services to provide holistic supports to children and families.