Sen. Wilton Simpson, the Senate President-designate, will guide a priority bill of his through its first committee stop Tuesday.
If approved there, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services awaits, followed by the full Appropriations Committee.
The bill’s goal is to bring “accountability” to the Department of Children and Families.
With DCF moving toward a “prevention” model, the bill would create the Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement within the organization, shoring up foster care and adoption services.
Secretary Chad Poppell would appoint a Chief Quality Officer, who would monitor performance standards, with the goal being “exemplary services” and “direct accountability for quality assurance” in child welfare.
Annual reporting would be required, predicated on performance metrics. Providers that fall below expectations are expected to be monitored, and corrective action provided.
The bill also changes some parameters for investigations of child abuse cases, allowing investigations to commence in “24 or 72” hours, a switch from the current 24. The extra time is permissible in cases where the abuse was from a month or more ago, or when reasonable expectations are that the abuser won’t have access to the child.
However, human trafficking and sexual abuse investigations are more time-sensitive and have a 24-hour window for commencement. The same holds true when the abuse victim is less than a year old.
While investigation visits can remain unannounced, preventive services visits now must be scheduled.
The bill has provisions for contractors too, stipulating that while DCF will work with them correctively to a point, those that “consistently fail” for three years in a row are out of the game.
The bill also seeks to increase per-capita case staffer headcount from one staffer for every 17 wards to one for every 14 by 2023.
Simpson said last year that Poppell, First Lady Casey DeSantis and Gov. Ron DeSantis were on board.
Simpson said the House version is likely to be introduced by Rep. Josie Tomkow.