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April 11, 2014 Practice Points

Florida Aims to Reform Child-Welfare System

By Jessalyn Schwartz

In April 2014 the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services approved an amendment to SB 1666 in an effort to overhaul the state's child-welfare laws. The bill aims to change Florida's current law in a variety of ways, including: improving safety plans used by the Department of Children and Families, requiring degrees in social work for most child- abuse investigators, obligating the department to post details about reported child deaths, establishing a new response team to investigate child deaths, and allowing more placements with "nonrelative caregivers" or family friends by allowing these persons to receive foster care payments.

There are also improvements to the procedures for children with severe medical, physical, and emotional disabilities. Funding the bill is one issue for the Florida legislature, with the Senate recommending an increase of $31 million, the House calling for $44.5 million, and the Governor's proposed budget of $40 million. The conflicts between these three plans include whether or not to focus on treatment and prevention programs and the allocation for number of protective investigators.

Keywords: litigation, children's rights, Florida, child-welfare laws, SB 1666 amendment, foster care, child deaths, funding

Jessalyn Schwartz is a member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force in Boston, Massachusetts.

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