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Frank White’s ‘Safe Families’ bill would let volunteer families help out children when their parents can’t

Representative Frank White filed a new ‘Safe Families bill’ Monday morning, which would set up provisions for what to do with children in need of a place to go, but who do not necessarily need the foster care system.

The bill, HB 363, will authorize qualified nonprofit organizations to establish programs for temporary respite for children who may not need longer-term things like the foster care system – for use in cases where a parent is only temporarily unable to care for a child.

The bill will act as “a less intrusive alternative to supervision by the department or involvement by the judiciary should be available.”

“A ‘safe family’ would give overwhelmed parents a safe, temporary place for their children without fear of losing custody,” White wrote in an email.

White told FloridaPolitics.com that the bill is modeled off one in his home county, Escambia County, and in turn modeled off a program in Chicago called Safe Families. The way it works is that a local organization, usually a church but not always, sets up a program where families can volunteer to help care for a child with things like finding a job, basic life needs and more.

It doesn’t always mean a child living in the other family’s home, but it can, he said.

“A typical scenario in Escambia County would be a mom, who is a victim of domestic abuse or some other trauma in the family, will be living in her car,” White said. “Instead of the Department of Children and Families getting involved, this is a release now – the mom can have a family that will step in and help her until she can get back on her feet.”

The bill is being co-sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo in the Senate.

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