For Immediate Release: Jan. 29, 2014
Contact: Michelle Glady, Press Secretary, (850) 717-4450
Governor’s Budget Recommendations Protect and Strengthen Florida’s Vulnerable Children and Families
Increase in funding supports child protection, prevention initiatives and mental health services
TALLAHASSEE—Governor Rick Scott’s “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget” provides historic support for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) including nearly $40 million in additional funding for child protective investigations. Advocates and leaders across the state praised Governor Scott’s proposed budget for next year, which also includes increased funding for human trafficking victims, prevention initiatives and mental health services.
“Supported by input from national experts and data to back up our proposals, we are prepared to ensure that these funds will be focused on protecting children who are most at-risk,” Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said. “With Governor Scott’s steadfast support of DCF initiatives to improve child safety, I am confident that these strategic investments will be made to keep Florida’s children safe.”
Governor Scott’s recommended investments in child protection would go specifically to:
- Hire more than 400 additional child protective investigators to reduce current employee caseloads to allow every investigator more time to focus on each child. The additional investigators will expand the use of paired investigator response statewide, which is currently piloted in the Southern and Central regions.
- Create 26 new positions to provide real-time quality assurance on open cases. While this is being practiced in some parts of the state, this investment would expand the initiative statewide enabling investigators to intervene quicker in high-risk cases.
- Create the “Child Protective Master Practitioner” program to provide the best workers more opportunity for upward mobility.
“Governor Scott has recognized the need for more funding to protect children,” Christina Spudeas, Executive Director, Florida's Children First, said. “We are glad that he has considered the recommendations of national experts, and is supporting with increased funding the initiatives DCF has been testing in the field.”
DCF contracts with sheriff’s offices in six counties—Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Seminole, Pasco and Broward—to perform child protective investigations. Governor Scott is recommending an increase of $8 million to ensure law enforcement has the resources they need to protect the children in their counties.
“I thank Governor Scott for understanding the value law enforcement brings to child protection services,” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, said. These investigations are always challenging, and I am pleased that the Governor understands the importance of providing sufficient funding for all organizations that work to protect Florida’s children.”
As part of his continuing commitment to finding effective treatment for victims of human trafficking, Governor Scott is recommending $2.5 million go to providing comprehensive, individualized wrap-around services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, including family counseling, appropriate shelter, mental health and substance abuse treatment, medical care, specialized educational services and employment assistance. This treatment approach will be continually studied and evaluated to measure effectiveness in preventing re-victimization and facilitating recovery.
Governor Scott’s proposed budget reflects the importance of prevention services for at-risk families. To that end, he is proposing a $7 million increase in funding for Healthy Families. Healthy Families Florida (HFF) is a voluntary home visitation program that is proven to prevent child abuse and neglect by promoting positive parent-child relationships. The increased funding will provide the resources needed for HFF to serve families statewide.
“Governor Scott’s proposed investment is a reflection of his belief that child abuse can and should be prevented before it ever begins,” Carol McNally, Executive Director of Healthy Families Florida, said. “Healthy Families Florida is proven to prevent child abuse in high-risk families, and that means fewer children suffering the horrors of abuse, fewer children entering foster care, and more children growing up safely in loving, nurturing homes.”
In addition to new funding for child protection and prevention, Governor Scott is restoring the base funding for community substance abuse services. This program will continue to focus on providing priority treatment to pregnant women. For mental health services, the Governor is also continuing funding for Children's Community Action Teams that deliver services to families with severely emotionally disturbed children. The Governor also recommends a $2.5 million increase for transitional placements for individuals who are stable enough to reenter their communities. These programs play an integral role in preventing child abuse and supporting healthy families.
“For families struggling with mental illness, knowing that their loved one is receiving care that will assist in their recovery as they transition back into the community is so important,” Bob Sharpe, President of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, said. “Governor Scott’s support for these families shows his commitment to helping Floridians struggling with mental illness recover and thrive.”
To further his commitment to Florida’s foster children, Governor Scott is recommending fully funding the Maintenance Adoption Subsidy which supports parents who adopt children from Florida’s foster care system. Last year, more than 3,300 Florida foster children were adopted and the financial support that adoptive parents receive is an important element in making those adoptions successful. In addition, the proposed budget supports level funding for Community Based Care organizations that provide foster care and adoption services across the state.
“Governor Scott has shown unprecedented support for Florida’s foster children and adoptive parents,” Trudy Petkovich, President of the Foster/Adoptive Parent Association, said. “The resources he is proposing make a big difference for families who are going through the adoption process and continue to make adopting a child from foster care a great choice for parents looking for a loving addition to their families.”
To view the complete budget recommendations from Governor Scott, please go to www.flitsyourmoney.com. For more information on the Florida Department of Children and Families, visit www.myflfamilies.com.