June 29, 2012
Allison North Jones, FCC
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Florida's high-performing child welfare system is among the top five best in the country for children, according to the 2012 Right For Kids Rankings report released today. If more states in the country followed the model set by Florida and other top-performing states, the report says there would be 72,000 fewer kids in foster care and 19,000 more children adopted each year.
The 2012 Right For Kids Rankings measures how well each state is serving its most vulnerable children, and celebrates top-performing states overall and in specific outcome areas. The Florida Department of Children (DCF) and Families and the Florida Coalition for Children (FCC) are proud to announce that Florida ranked 4th overall on a national level for the strengths of our child welfare system and the dramatic improvements that have been made in recent years.
"In Florida, we are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our children, especially those in foster care," said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. "As we continue to implement our plans to improve our operational efficiency and the measurements of the health and educational well-being of Florida's children, we will continue to be a model for the nation."
Florida is the only state that met all five "key findings" in the report, which include:
- Florida is one of only 11 states that have a 24-hour response to investigate claims of abuse or neglect.
- Florida is one of only 12 states that visit the vast majority of foster kids monthly.
- Florida is one of only 9 states that quickly and safely return foster children home to their biological families when possible.
- Florida is one of only 9 states that ensure short and stable stays in foster care as a general practice.
- Florida is one of only 11 states that help find forever families quickly for a large share of children in foster care.
Since the community-based care system was fully implemented throughout the state in 2006, Florida has moved up 12 spots in the rankings, according to the report. DCF contracts with 18 nonprofit community-based care organizations to serve as lead agencies that are responsible for a wide array of services, including prevention, foster care and adoption. Each has succeeded by nurturing its own local ecosystem of foster parents, service providers and professional staff tailored to meet the unique needs of their community.
"These rankings are evidence that community-based care works," said Mike Cusick, CEO of FCC, an association of CBCs and service providers. "Repeatedly being recognized as one of the best systems in the country is a credit to Florida lawmakers' investment in an innovative community-based care system that is driven by local ownership, community input, transparency, accountability and solution-oriented responsiveness."
Since privatizing, Florida has reduced the number of children in foster care from 30,000 to less than 20,000 currently. Since January 2011, we have reduced the number of children available for adoption without an identified family from 850 at any given time to 750. In addition, the number of children in care seen monthly has increased from 90 percent to 99 percent, a great improvement that shows our case management partners across the state believe that keeping a close eye on each child ensures they are safe, happy and healthy and free from abuse or neglect.
Florida is also one of only a few states that mandates all investigations begin within 24 hours, with a special category of investigations beginning within three hours depending on the nature of the allegation in the hotline call. This ensures that children who may be victims of abuse or neglect are interviewed quickly and rescued from potentially dangerous situations.
The 2012 Right For Kids Rankings is the first of its kind to use a methodology that scores all 50 states in 11 key outcome areas and 41 different data measures reported to the federal government. Florida is the only one of the "Big Five" states for child welfare populations to rank in the top five, with most of the other states – New York (45), California (41), Illinois (48) and Ohio (13) – ranking nowhere near the top of the Right For Kids Rankings.
Another reason Florida ranks near the top is savings. Since transitioning fully to a community-based care system, the state and local communities have seen significant savings. The foster care system today receives roughly the same amount as it did during the transition seven years ago, yet Florida is providing more services and performing better than other states.
"Helping kids is not just good social policy, it is good economic policy as well," said Tarren Bragdon, the author of the Right For Kids Ranking. Bragdon noted that nationally, child abuse and neglect costs more than $100 billion every year.
Working together, DCF and local agencies effectively utilize resources to safely reunite children, while focusing on intensive prevention and intervention services to preventing entry and re-entry into foster care. The savings are continuously reinvested into local systems of care.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is a world-class social services system that works hard to protect and provide services to the vulnerable, promote strong and economically self-sufficient families, and advance personal and family recovery and resiliency. For additional information, please visit www.dcf.state.fl.us.
The Florida Coalition for Children (FCC) advocates for Florida's abused and neglected children and supports the agencies and individuals who work on their behalf. We work to ensure that Florida continues to support and advance a system of Child Welfare that is fully resourced, well managed and fulfills the needs of our abused and neglected children.
To see a full copy of the Right for Kids report, please go to www.rightforkids.org.