New Factors Contributing to the Foster Care Problem in Bay County

PANAMA CITY- Life Management Center, the Department of Children and Families, Big Bend Community Based Care and the Florida Baptist Children's Homes discussed the growing foster care problem during a community breakfast Monday morning at The Woman's Club of Panama City.

"Foster children tend to be two years behind their peers in schools. So the older you get, its accumulative effect. And kids get behind in school; they get behind on their credits. They have 50 percent less of probability of graduating high school. They have 80 less probability of going on to college,” said Mike Watkins, CEO of Big Ben Community Based Care.

Bay County has the highest child removal rate in the state of Florida, 300 out of the county's 37-thousand children.

77 of those had to leave Bay County because they’re enough foster homes here to take them in.

"It’s not clear why we have such a high removal rate. There’s three factors that make a difference, drug abuse, domestic violence and also transient families,” said Scott Clemons, big bend board member.

Scott Clemons says tourism plays a key role in this.

"Families come in and hoping they can get a job, in a tourist community, and find that it's seasonal. And it's not as easy as they thought. It causes strains in the family and they make poor decisions,” said Clemons.

Last year, bay county authorities investigated a reported 24069 cases of child abuse and neglect.