News Release: Florida Senate
Tallahassee, FL–The Florida Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), introduced and passed a comprehensive legislative package to improve Florida’s child welfare system. The package includes Senate Proposed Bill 7072 related to child abuse and child welfare services, 7074 regarding community based care, and SPB 7076 concerning medically complex children.
“If government was to only have one role, it should be to protect those most vulnerable among us,” said Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). “The deaths among children known to DCF have presented us with clear and compelling evidence that our current laws must be improved. Government’s ability to prevent these horrific crimes is limited, but depends on qualified staff, adequate support for our children, an accurate and transparent accountability system and effective response to critical incidents. This important legislative package expands these imperative resources in Florida’s child welfare system.”
SPB 7072, sponsored by Senator Sobel, seeks to improve the quality of child abuse investigations conducted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and certain sheriff’s offices by increasing child welfare expertise in the department, improving child abuse investigator qualifications, and creating a consortium of public and private schools of social work, known as the Florida Institute for Child Welfare, to advise the state on child welfare policy.
SPB 7074, sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert (R-Venice), modernizes statutes delineating the roles and responsibilities of community based care organizations and requires the DCF to create a website to report basic facts relating to child deaths reported to the child abuse hotline. The bill improves the child welfare system by directing DCF to immediately mobilize a specially trained team to conduct a root cause analysis of deaths involving children that have been known to the child protection and child welfare system. The bill also creates an accountability system based on accurate and transparent measurement of meaningful outcomes.
SPB 7076, sponsored by Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), defines medical neglect, enhances evaluation of medically complex children, and directs state agencies to improve coordination and care for these children. The bill also requires placement of such children into the least restrictive, most nurturing environments including medical foster homes.
Protecting Florida’s most vulnerable citizens is a priority of President Gaetz and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). For more information on the 5-point joint legislative agenda, Work Plan Florida 2014, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.