Bill stressing permanent homes for foster children passes first House committee

foster care florida
Senate President Wilton Simpson considers the version in his chamber a priority.

A House panel gave its green light to a bill to prioritize finding a permanent home for children within the child welfare system, putting that legislation on the move in the House committee process.

Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera‘s bill (HB 1473) would make several changes to how and where the state places children within the system. Ultimately, the bill’s goal is to land children in a permanent home before they enter adulthood.

Monday’s House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee meeting marked the first time lawmakers heard the Coral Gables Republican’s legislation in committee. She noted it was a work in progress, but the bill still garnered the panel’s unanimous support.

In December, Florida had 22,000 kids in out-of-home care, when children are removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. Some kids remain in foster care until they turn 18, meaning they enter adulthood without a permanent family.

“Let’s make sure that we can give them the best fighting chance,” Busatta Cabrera told the committee.

The bill outlines the state’s preferred order for where a child should be housed, with a priority on a setting that is most like home.

If possible, a child should first be placed with a non-offending parent, according to the bill. Next, in order of preference, comes a relative caregiver, an adoptive parent of the child’s sibling, fictive kin like past caregivers who have developed a close relationship with the child, licensed foster care, and then group or congregate care.

The bill also stresses the importance of keeping siblings together to help reduce trauma.

“It’s best for a child’s development to have as few moves between caregivers as possible and to achieve permanency quickly,” Busatta Cabrera said.

If passed, the bill would also require “face sheets” in children’s files detailing the web of relationships with adults and other foster care children they  have made throughout their time in foster care. Most of that information is already included in a child’s records, leading some lawmakers to question the redundancy or whether it would create a shortcut when a more detailed report is warranted.

Tampa Republican Rep. Traci Koster told the committee she didn’t see it as a shortcut.

“I think it is an extra set of eyes, and I think that it may in some ways be duplicative, but it is sort of a red flag sheet that would cause somebody to dig deeper into the file,” Koster said.

Similar legislation on the Senate side (SB 80), carried by Sanford Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur, is a priority of Senate President Wilton Simpson. Both senators were adopted as children.

During his remarks on the first day of Session, Simpson thanked Brodeur for trying to put an end to the “revolving door” that is the foster care system.

“We know that the sooner a child has a permanent living situation, the better off they will be,” he told senators. “And the reason we need to act now is because Government is a terrible parent. All children need a loving home. Let us rally together to find permanent ones where they can thrive.”

The Senate Rules Committee is slated to hear Brodeur’s bill Thursday in its final stop before it is ready for the Senate floor. Busatta Cabrera’s version next heads to the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, its second of three stops.

Both bills would take effect in October.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


3 comments

  • Donald Johnson

    March 8, 2021 at 9:53 pm

    Having read way to many “scandal” stories about foster care and dysfunctional child welfare systems around the country over the years, I’m wondering:

    1. Will Florida’s foster care reform legislation ensure that foster care is effectively and competently funded, policed, reviewed and managed? Foster kids don’t have any political clout. They’re in the same boat as the mentally ill and Medicaid beneficiaries.

    2. With all of the competition for care givers who often are under paid and/or poorly trained, not to mention over worked,, what is and will be the strategy for recruiting nurturing, safe and sane foster parents and foster care givers? Is everything perfect in Florida? If not, what else needs to be fixed?

    3. Should foster care reforms be covered in one bill or a group of them so that each important issue is thoroughly debated and considered?

    It is good to see that the Florida legislature is addressing this problem.

    Where does Gov. DeSantis stand on the issue? Is he involved in shaping the legislation, or is he opposed for some reason?

    Who might lobby against these reforms? And which unions and other organizations will lobby for them?

  • Maricka

    March 9, 2021 at 11:45 am

    The challenge to this bill is that there is no standard work for how to find and clear family members right away, and even who owns doing that CW or DCF investigator. The ICPC process for out of state movement of children to family almost always takes over 6 months. The bill would make families have to hire lawyers and pay for bonding studies that the are unlikely to win, and permanently separate children from their own family that wants them became the process is undefined and slow.
    There is nothing in the bill requiring improvement or clear definition of how to get children to family quickly, it’s just let’s leave them were they are separated from siblings and family because they were not placed there in the first place.
    As an adoptee who may soon adopt kin, I know how much better this child will feel knowing his own family wanted him and took him in.

  • Donald Johnson

    March 11, 2021 at 6:32 pm

    Maricka, Interesting perspective.

    How many or what percent of foster kids are from totally dysfunctional families where no one in the extended family wants the kids?

    Why are you assuming that kids are better with “family” when so many are abused by “family”?

    How many families that lose kids to the state can afford lawyers or any other kind of help?

    What percent of these families are poor, have genetic mental problems and come from serially criminal and abusive families?

    If relatives of parents who neglected, abused or abandoned a kid never tried to help the kid,, why would the kid want anything to do with family members who looked the other way until the state took over?

Comments are closed.


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