Department of Children and Families (Department) Secretary Shevaun Harris today highlighted the successes accomplished by the Department, praising Governor and First Lady DeSantis for their innovative initiatives, strong leadership, and dedication to the children and families of Florida. These accomplishments include a renewed vision for the Department that focuses on preventative, integration across programs, systems, and supports, and enhanced crisis intervention services which will continue to expand in the Governor’s second term.
“The Department is on a mission to support families in their greatest time of need and maximize our moments of impact,” Secretary Harris said. “I am proud of the Department’s accomplishments in the last two years thanks to the Governor and First Lady’s bold leadership for Florida’s families.”
Strengthening Support for Families and Foster Children
- The Department’s Florida Foster Information Center (FFIC) was created as a resource and support program for those interested in becoming foster parents. Since inception, FFIC has connected over 6,400 potential foster parents with local licensing teams.
- Fewer children entered foster care in 2022 than in 2021, and the entry rate has decreased 33.48 percent since 2015. The Department is at a 19 year low for children entering foster and group homes.
- In 2022, 5,121 children were reunified with their family, and nearly 3,900 children were adopted in Florida.
- The Family Navigation Initiative was launched in May 2022, to wrap around high-risk families with intensive supports to ensure the family unit is stabilized, safe, and on a pathway to building a resilient family unit.
- In June, the Department launched the Continue the Mission initiative with First Lady Casey DeSantis and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This initiative is laser focused on hiring veterans for Child Protective Investigators, Adult Protective Investigators and Case Managers. As of November, the Department has held 42 hiring fairs across the state of Florida and has hired 35 veterans, with 104 veterans currently in the hiring process.
- Created the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative (HB 7065) which highlights the important and critical role that fathers have in children’s lives. This includes over $68.9 million to provide support services for fathers, create a public awareness campaign related to responsible fatherhood, and provide evidence-based parenting education to meet the individual’s needs of the father.
- Continued to invest in our foster care system by providing a monthly subsidy of $200 per month to assist foster parents and relative and nonrelative caregivers with covering the cost of child care, an investment of $24.9 million.
Improving Behavioral Health Resources for Floridians
- The Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORe) Expansion program is an innovative locally based model to help Floridians battling addiction through medication assisted treatment from a network of specialized medical experts who help guide them on a sustained pathway to healthy success. CORe is available in X counties.
- 153,500 Narcan kits were distributed, 9,980 opioid overdose reversals were reported and 62 new Narcan distributors enrolled in the program.
- Florida Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) Teams served 3,593 individuals and diverted them from higher levels of care. FACT teams use a transdisciplinary approach to deliver comprehensive care and promote independent, integrated living for individuals with serious mental illness.
- There were 5,176 referrals made to behavioral health and community resources for First Responders and 8,427 first responder peer and/or behavioral health navigator services were provided.
- Provided enhanced behavioral health services assisted child protective investigators (CPI) with 14,176 investigations and completed 8,801 consultations, 1,857 joint visits with both the CPI and BHC, 905 brief assessments, 2,692 other ancillary support services were provided.
- The Family Intensive Treatment (FIT) Team focuses on families in the child welfare system with a parent diagnosed with substance abuse disorder and deemed unsafe. FIT served over 1,329 families.
- The number of individuals in jail awaiting services from a state mental health facility (forensic waitlist) decreased by 62% this year, from 399 to 240. Those waiting more than 15 days decreased 71% from 375 to 150 patients.
Guiding Families on Their Path to Economic Self-Sufficiency
- The Hope Florida – A Pathway to Prosperity program continues to grow, adapting services to meet client’s dynamic needs. Nearly 50,000 customers have been referred to the Hope Florida Program. With over 6,000 faith-based and community partners throughout Florida the program helps client overcome barriers to self sufficiency.
- The Emergency Rental Assistance program provided more than $1.4 billion in emergency rental and utility assistance to over 252,000 Floridians.
- More than $32 million in Pandemic-TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) was distributed to support eligible familiesand children in foster care.
- Over $892 million in Summer Pandemic-EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) was distributed to 2.2 million public school students, private school students and children under age 6.
- This year the Department supported care givers with an increased monthly payment for up to six months, for children in an open child welfare dependency case. On average relative caregivers will now receive an average of $921 per month and non-relative care givers will receive an average of $1,288 per month.
- In response to Hurricane Ian, the Department set records for Florida’s fastest ever access to Disaster-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) or emergency food assistance.
- Provided more than $192 million in Disaster-SNAP benefits to over 307,000 households.
- Provided more than $130 million in additional food assistance for families who receive SNAP benefits.
- Distributed 118,788 infant and toddler meals, 11,520 adult meals, and over 1,000 toys based on donations received from various organizations/community partners.