Florida’s success turning around its failed child welfare and foster care system with an innovative, kid-focused reform strategy is examined in a report published today by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA).
FGA, Florida’s newest free market think tank which specializes in health and child welfare policy, released the report, Florida’s Right For Kids Reform, as a follow-up to its 2012 Right For Kids Ranking of every state’s child welfare system performance. Florida’s fourth-in-the-nation rank inspired FGA to research how the state’s child welfare system went from being a national embarrassment to a leader in protecting abused and neglected kids.
“Florida transformed its foster care system from a failed, state-run bureaucracy to private, kid-focused community-based care. We told this reform story to help leaders in other states learn how Florida reversed the trend and provided the best help to more kids,” said FGA Director of Research Jonathan Ingram, author of the latest report. “Compared to the old, state-run system, more kids in Florida today are adopted into safe and loving homes, kids spend less time languishing in foster care, morale among caseworkers and front-line staff is higher and kids and foster parents report higher satisfaction. What Florida accomplished was truly right for kids.”
The report recalls Florida’s grim experiences under the old, state-run foster care system before statewide implementation of the Right For Kids community-based care reform. Florida had only been giving 29 percent of foster parents sufficient information to provide proper care for the kids placed with them. And skyrocketing foster care enrollment resulted in foster homes exceeding capacity and kids forced to sleep on the floors of bureaucratic social services offices.
“Before the Right For Kids community-based care reform, Florida’s foster care system was failing the state’s most vulnerable abused and neglected kids,” Ingram explained. “At-risk kids forced to sleep on the floors of bureaucratic offices and a little went girl missing for more than a year without her caseworker even noticing. It was urgent that policymakers acted to reverse these tragedies.”
FGA’s report explains how Florida’s Right For Kids reform pioneered a new way to serve kids through local, private care from community non-profit organizations and an innovative funding model that prioritized finding kids safe, forever families as quickly as possible. As a result of Florida’s Right For Kids reforms:
- 6,500 more kids have been adopted into safe, permanent homes
- 2,700 more kids found a forever family within two years of entering foster care
- Foster families are more likely to report being treated with courtesy and respect and receive more help finding additional resources
- Caseworkers report higher morale and less burnout, leading to greater staff retention
“This report explains how community-based care in Florida reversed the tragic outcomes the state had been seeing for years,” Ingram said. “What Florida accomplished for its child welfare system was revolutionary. Every kid in America deserves safety, love, stability and the hope of a brighter future, but too many states’ child welfare systems pull kids further away from that dream. If all states replicated Florida’s success, more than 36,000 kids would find safe, forever homes. Now that the success of Florida’s Right For Kids community-based care model is proven, other states should replicate this child-focused reform and begin changing the lives of more abused and neglected kids. ”