Florida Coalition for Children seeking funding for foster care entities

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 8:34 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Florida’s foster care system is in crisis. Low pay coupled with an already stressful work environment has people leaving at record levels. Agencies are seeking an increase of $40 million this year to make case loads more manageable.

Going into someone’s home to check on their kids welfare can be not only stressful but dangerous. COVID has made a child protections worker’s already tough job tougher.

“This is in a crisis level right now.” Kurt Kelly, the CEO of the Florida Coalition for Children said.

The agency works with the state’s 18 child services providers and more than 70 other organizations that provide care or work with adoptions.

“In some some areas we’re having as much as 50 and 60 percent turnover” Kelly said.

Because of the turnover, case loads for protection workers is hitting as high as 40 kids. National recommendations call for a case load of 12.

“There’s been increase anxiety” CEO Of LSF Health Systems Dr. Christine Cauffield said. It serves 23 counties in Northeast and North Central Florida, where cases have exploded.

“Domestic violence instances have increased. Child abuse cases have increased as a result of people’s inability to modulate their mental health” Cauffield said.

A Bachelor’s degree is required for case workers but salaries are not competitive.

“And they are getting paid less than someone who says “would you like to supersize that sir?” Kelly asked.

Lawmakers are being asked to put another $40 million into the system for salaries. We’re being told that will bring the case loads down from as many as 40 to 15, 16, or 17.

And while no one is saying it out loud, caseloads more than three times the national standard means at risk children are seeing fewer services. The result has been a large increase in children Baker Acted for their own safety in 2020.

Providers tell us it will take at least six months to stabilize their workforces once the money has been provided, which wouldn’t be before July first.

That means high case loads will be the norm for the rest of the year.