DCF names new lead child welfare agency in Palm Beach County

August  22, 2012

Paige Patterson-Hughes, Southeast
Region Communications Director
Cell: (954) 410-3931 | Office: (954) 202-3209

DCF names new lead child welfare agency in Palm Beach County
ChildNet, Inc. will replace Child and Family Connections, Inc.

WEST PALM BEACH – In an effort to improve the services provided to abused, abandoned and neglected children in Palm Beach County, the Department of Children and Families is ending the contract with Child and Family Connections, Inc., the nonprofit organization that has been the lead community-based care agency in the county. Effective immediately, the Department is negotiating a replacement contract with ChildNet, Inc. to manage the child welfare system in Palm Beach County.

As the new lead community-based care agency in Palm Beach County, ChildNet will begin subcontracting with local social service agencies to provide a wide array of support to children who have been removed from unsafe homes, to parents seeking to strengthen their families, and to foster and adoptive parents who open their homes and hearts to vulnerable children. ChildNet has been the lead community-based care agency in Broward County since 2003.

The Department’s decision came after months of review and evaluation of Child and Family Connections’ performance, leadership changes and staff turnover. In June, the Department required Child and Family Connections to begin a Corrective Action Plan to address poor performance and serious concerns expressed by the local judiciary.

“We have been working with Child and Family Connections for several months on a number of child safety issues, and the improvement has not come quickly enough,” DCF Secretary David Wilkins said. “This decision has one primary goal in mind - making sure the children in Palm Beach County are receiving the attention they need and deserve.”

Child and Family Connections has been the lead child welfare agency in Palm Beach County since 2002. In 1999, the Legislature required the Department to begin transferring to communities the system of care for children living in foster homes, with relative caregivers, in group shelters or under supervision.

From its inception until March 2012, CFC was an administrative services organization, subcontracting with several community organizations to provide a comprehensive system of child welfare services. In March, CFC also began providing case management services to children in the northern part of Palm Beach County. In July, after continued high turnover of case managers and poor performance under a hasty transition, CFC began transferring all case management – for nearly 1,000 children – to the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Palm Beach Division (CHS). CHS historically has handled case management for children in the central and southern parts of Palm Beach County.

The direct, hands-on case management by a community-based organization begins after a child protective investigation by DCF determines a child is unsafe in a home and needs shelter, or that parents need services to strengthen their family and best provide for their children. Services also are provided to children 13 and older, in an effort to prepare them for productive, independent adulthood. Case managers are responsible for monitoring a child’s safety and well-being, and ensuring the child’s educational, medical, dental and developmental needs are met.

To stabilize the workforce and improve the quality of services, the Children’s Home Society will continue to provide case management services for all of Palm Beach County through June 2014, when the Department’s contract with ChildNet expires in both Palm Beach and Broward counties. The transition will include ChildNet naming new Palm Beach County leaders to its board.

In Broward County, ChildNet provides case management, independent living and adoption services and also subcontracts with more than 30 social service agencies to provide family preservation and strengthening, residential group and shelter care, foster home management and other services. ChildNet has been the state’s top-performing community-based care agency for the past four months, ranking No. 1 on the Department’s monthly Accountability Scorecard (http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/community-based-care/monthly-cbc-lead-agency-scorecard).

“We will be working closely with ChildNet, CFC and all of our community providers to make sure this transition goes smoothly, with the safety of children forefront in our decisions,” DCF Southeast Regional Managing Director Dennis Miles said.