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Florida Foster Care in Crisis

January 17th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s foster care system is in crisis. Low pay coupled with an already stressful work environment has people leaving at record levels. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, agencies are seeking an increase of forty million dollars this year to make case loads more manageable.

Going into someone’s home to check on their kids welfare can be not only stressful but dangerous. Covid has made a child protections workers already tough job tougher. 

“This is in a crisis level right now.” Says Kurt Kelly, the CEO of the Florida Coalition for Children. The agency works with the states 18 child services providers and more than seventy other organizations that provide care or work with adoptions.

“In some some areas we’re having as much as fifty and sixty percent turnover” Kelly told us.

Because of the turnover, case loads for protection workers is hitting as high a forty kids. National recommendations call for a case load of 12.

“There’s been increase anxiety” says Dr. Christine Cauffield, who is the CEO of LSF Health systems. It serves 23 counties in Northeast and North Central Florida, where cases have exploded.

“Domestic violence instances have increased. Child abuse cases have increased as  a result of people’s inability to modulate their mental health” says Cauffield.

A Batchelor’s degree is required for case workers. Salaries are not competitive says Kelly.

“And they are getting paid less than someone who says “would you like to supersize that sir?”

Lawmakers are being asked to put another forty million dollars into the system for salaries. We’re being told that will bring the case loads down from as many as forty, to fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen.

And while no one is saying it out loud, caseloads more than three times the national standard means at risk children are seeing fewer services. The result has been a large increase in children Baker Acted for their own safety in 2020.   

Providers tell us it will take at least six months to stabilize their workforces once the money has been provided…which wouldn’t be before July first. That means high case loads will be the norm for the rest of the year.

 

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