Child welfare bill clears first committee stop

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'The entire function of government is to protect our most vulnerable.'

A Senate panel advanced legislation Tuesday that would usher in procedural changes to Florida’s child-welfare system.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee advanced SB 80 with a unanimous vote. Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, is the bill sponsor. 

SB 80 proposes several changes intended to “reduce the trauma children face when they are moved from one out-of-home placement to another,” Brodeur explained. 

The bill would require children in the custody of the Department of Children and Families to receive a “case sheet.” Similar to a hospital’s patient sheet, it would feature relevant information such as name, date of birth, contact information and more.

Numerous states, including Iowa and Illinois, utilize a case sheet, according to a bill analysis. Currently, Florida law does not require a case sheet for child welfare cases.

The proposal would also compel caregivers to consider sibling relationships even if they’re unable to be placed together.

Among the specified considerations, caregivers must attempt to place siblings geographically near one another. If not possible, the caregiver is required to permit regular digital contact.

Withholding communication or visitation as a form of punishment would be banned under the proposal.

Further, Brodeur’s proposal seeks to minimize school changes. The measure proposes that “every effort must be made to keep a child in the school of origin.” Caregivers would also need to assess what impacts a school change may have on the child.

Under the proposal, child and family teams — or multidisciplinary teams — would be charged with following the bill’s guidance when making determinations about children in DCF custody. 

The teams are required to form as soon as possible or at least within 72 hours after an emergency.

Notably, Brodeur said the legislation is needed to create clearer, more uniform standards statewide.

He noted that judges are bound by law, not rule. 

“Until we put legislative intent in that says everyone should kind of follow this process or this pathway, individual circuits have been left to kind of interpret what some of the broader laws are versus the individual rules,” Brodeur said. “This now says legislatively: here’s what we think best practices are so now everyone follows them.”

Brodeur’s 44-page proposal moves next to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Rules Committee.

While the proposal’s cost is still being determined, the Sanford Republican contended the changes are cost-worthy. 

“The entire function of government is to protect our most vulnerable and get that right first,” Brodeur said. “In this bill, we put the child first. I know there’s going to be difficulties for the adults to get this done. I get that, and it’s probably going to cost some money. But if we can get it right by these vulnerable children, it’s all worth it.” 

If signed into law, SB 80 would take effect on Oct. 1, 2021.  

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


3 comments

  • Sonja Fitch

    February 17, 2021 at 3:56 am

    Omg my heart be still. This is a wonderful Bill to help protect our children in situations that “we” deem unacceptable. The process will be standardized. How do we keep track of these children now? Please tell me this is another REAL Republican. Vote Democrat up and down ballot for the elections in 2022.

  • Julie Wanbaugh

    February 17, 2021 at 11:46 am

    I don’t understand why they are putting “into law” items that are ALREADY in child welfare code. If they would read the child welfare laws that are already in existence, they would know this.

    For example: “Withholding communication or visitation as a form of punishment would be banned under the proposal.” This is already BANNED under 65C-45.010(4)(j) Licensed out-of-home caregivers shall not threaten a child with removal or with a report to authorities or prohibit visitation with family as consequences for unacceptable behavior. If the politicians won’t learn their own statutes, at least they could speak DIRECTLY with the frontline staff to find out EXACTLY what is needed for out-of-home care.

  • Sonja Fitch

    February 17, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you Julie Wanbaugh. The need to act as if there is a problem to solve seems to be how this Florida Legislature does business. Showing off instead of doing their proper preparations for bills. Vote Democrat up and down ballot for the elections in 2022!

Comments are closed.


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