The Florida Department of Children and Families is “functioning as an emergency room rather than a prevention agency,” according to department Secretary Chad Poppell.
Poppell’s comments came earlier this week during a presentation he gave to lawmakers on the department’s strategic plan.
As it stands, DCF serves over 23,000 children a day in out-of-home care through private nonprofits that serve as community-based care, or CBC, lead agencies. Poppell said DCF’s first goal is to reduce that number by 20 percent no later than June 30, 2021 — the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Accomplishing that will take some changes to the CBC funding model.
Currently, there’s language on the books requiring DCF to identify alternative funding methodologies for the distribution of core service funds to CBCs.
There is no consistent methodology applied across the CBCs and the funding challenges caused by that have made it difficult for the department to measure its performance and boost its accountability.
The varying funding levels for CBCs are also a hindrance to competitive bids in many parts of the state.
Poppell and Gov. Ron DeSantis deserve praise for their commitment to invest more resources into the child welfare system and adding preventive services that stop children and families from ever reaching the point of crisis.
Fair and adequate funding is essential to implementing this much-needed reform.
Poppell’s resolve to increase support and accountability — including holding youth who refuse their foster care placements and services accountable for their actions — is necessary so that DCF and its providers can focus on all the children in their care, including crossover youth who are involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.