DCF Sees Continued Success Supporting Strong and Resilient Families Through Innovation and Impact
December 28, 2023
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Department of Children and Families (Department) Secretary Shevaun Harris highlighted the Department’s most recent successes, praising Governor and First Lady DeSantis for their innovative approach, strong leadership, and unwavering devotion to Florida’s children and families. These accomplishments include a continued vision for the Department that focuses on streamlining processes, enhancing resiliency and recovery services, and utilizing groundbreaking strategies to help Florida families thrive.
“The Department is on a mission to maximize our moments of impact by focusing on prevention efforts and providing key services during times of need that enable Floridians to achieve economic self-sufficiency,” Secretary Shevaun Harris said. “I am proud of all we have achieved alongside our incredible partners, and I am so thankful for the Governor and First Lady’s integral family-focused leadership.”
Guiding Individuals on Their Path to Prosperity
- Hope Florida, an initiative spearheaded by the First Lady, continues to grow, adapting services to meet the dynamic needs of individuals. Over 80,000 Floridians served by Hope Florida since its launch, with over 30,000 Floridians and their families being served by the initiative in 2023 alone. Together with over 6,000 faith-based, community, and private sector partners throughout Florida, the initiative helps clients overcome barriers to achieve their short and long-term goals independently.
- As of November 2023, 64% of participants who identified employment as a barrier found a job through Hope Florida.
- 62% of participants who were on public benefits have reduced or eliminated their reliance on government food or cash assistance as a result of the initiative.
- Hope Florida will save Florida taxpayers an estimated $76 million per year and more than $764 million over ten years.
- This year, the Department launched The Hope Florida Foundation, a direct support organization (DSO) to bolster Hope Florida’s efforts. This includes the Hope Florida Fund, which provides financial resources to local non-profit organizations dedicated to meeting the needs of our state’s children and families.
Strengthening Support for Families and Children
- Fewer children entered foster care in 2023 than in 2022. The entry rate has decreased 31.4% since 2019. The Department is currently at a 20-year low for children entering foster and group homes.
- Launched a Permanency Initiative in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties as part of a pilot to streamline adoption processes to help children find their forever families. Since its launch in July 2023, over 430 adoptions have been finalized in Circuits 6 and 13 alone.
- In 2023, 4,656 children were reunified with their biological families, and nearly 3,600 children were adopted in Florida.
- Collaborated with Sheriffs’ offices (SOs) in Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Seminole, and Walton counties to pass House Bill 7061, which implemented a plan to transition the child protective investigations that have been performed by the sheriff’s office back to the Department. The Department successfully transitioned all seven counties in less than two months, providing ample support opportunities for CPIs, CPI Supervisors, and other staff:
- The Department onboarded more than 480 candidates who accepted positions, exceeding the Department’s projected 424 needed for optimal caseload ratios.
- There are over 9,700 DCF-governed childcare settings operating in Florida, serving more than 782,532 children in 63 counties.
- In Fiscal Year 2022-23, the Department conducted or administered 23,143 onsite inspections for childcare programs, 859 complaint investigations in licensed programs, 196,485 in-person and online training courses, and 156,926 competency exams.
- Launched Father First, a public awareness campaign embedded with the Governor’s fatherhood initiative. The Department also awarded over $50 million in grant funding to local organizations to provide supportive services for fathers and at-risk male students.
- Awarded over $12 million in grant funding to local Continuums of Care to reduce homelessness in Florida, with extra emphasis on serving more vulnerable populations like individuals with behavioral health needs, child welfare-involved families, and survivors of domestic violence.
- Developed and launched SafeSpace, an initiative focused on providing additional tools and training for faith leaders helping survivors of domestic violence. In October, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Department celebrated the program’s first graduating class, which consisted of 15 faith leaders who received their initial designations.
- Redesigned the pre-service training for new child welfare professionals aimed to provide a more experiential learning opportunity. This initiative will continue to help the Department bolster retention efforts.
- Launched Florida’s first app designed specifically for youth and young adults in foster care. My Youth Portal is a resource hub with information on education, specialized programming, advocacy, and rights for youth in foster care. It is available at myyouthportal.com and on the Apple and Android App Stores.
- Continued to invest in our foster care system by providing a monthly subsidy of $200 per month to assist foster parents and relative and nonrelative caregivers with the cost of child-care, an investment of $24.9 million.
- The Continue the Mission initiative, spearheaded by First Lady DeSantis, continued its laser-focused approach to hiring veterans as CPIs, adult protective investigators, and case managers. As of November 2023, the Department has held 152 hiring fairs across Florida and has hired 154 veterans, with 92 veterans currently in the hiring process.
- Successfully launched Phase I of the new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS), creating a modern, modular-based software platform for the Florida Abuse Hotline and for the receiving units of Child Protective Investigations
Enhancing Behavioral Health Resources for Floridians
- Expanded from 39 Mobile Response Teams (MRTs) in 2021 to 51 in Fiscal Year 2022-2023. Due to successful expansion efforts, an annual investment of $33 million was allocated to MRTs for FY 2022-23. MRTs have demonstrated an 82% diversion rate from crisis services.
- In the first year of the 988 implementation, 96% of calls answered were diverted from a higher level of care.
- In coordination with the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration, launched the Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE) Network, which is an innovative locally-based model that takes a holistic approach to help Floridians who are suffering from addiction with a network of specialized medical experts who guide them on a sustained pathway to healthy success. CORE is currently available in 12 counties, and will expand to 29 counties in FY 2023-24.
- 303,760 naloxone kits were distributed, with 13,226 opioid overdose reversals reported and an additional 136 new Narcan® distributors enrolled in the program in FY 2022-23.
- Expanded from 114 Oxford Houses in 2022 to 147 in September 2023. These facilities provide safe, stable housing where individuals recovering from substance abuse disorders benefit from peer-based support and positive behavior modeling.
- Florida Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) teams served 3,627 individuals and diverted them from higher levels of care in FY 2022-23. FACT teams use a transdisciplinary approach to deliver comprehensive care and promote independent, integrated living for individuals with serious mental illness.
- Provided 19,861 first responders with peer and/or behavioral health navigator services.
- For the state mental health facilities, the total forensic wait list decreased by 69% this year, and the 15-day forensic wait list decreased by 75%.
- Launched Project C.O.P.E. (Caring for Our People in Emergencies) to help Floridians become more resilient by adapting and overcoming disaster or traumatic events.
Bolstering Florida’s Self-Sufficiency
- In April 2023, the Department reinstated annual Medicaid redetermination requirements after an unprecedented federally mandated three-year pause during the pandemic. The Department has successfully completed over 4.1 million redeterminations to date (out of 4.6 million).
- Implemented a robust outreach campaign resulting in 84% of recipients responding to their redetermination request compared to a 47% response rate pre-pandemic.
- Over 5.1 million texts sent.
- Over 3.8 million emails sent.
- Over 400,000 outbound calls to non-responsive households.
- Launched the new MyACCESS portal with transformative upgrades to enhance the user experience when applying for or renewing government programs like food assistance, temporary cash assistance, and Medicaid. Within the first two weeks of launch, more than 730,000 accounts had already been created.
- In response to Hurricane Idalia, the Department supplied over $10 million in Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits to support over 18,000 households and distributed $7 million in food assistance for families receiving SNAP benefits.