A new federal study of the Florida Department of Children and Families
has found that the state system has been seriously underperforming in key areas aimed at protecting and caring for foster children.
According to the Tampa Bay Times
, the Children's Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has given the DCF 90 days to come up with a plan to improve its care of foster kids.
came after the federal agency analyzed the DCF's handling to 80 foster care cases between April 1 and Sept. 30 last year. In more than half of those cases, the DCF removed children from their homes before they had set up appropriate services and without following all safety plans.
The DCF was rated as needing improvement in 11 out of the 14 categories of care the report looked for.
The report also found that the DCF didn't meet deadlines for initiating investigations of child abuse and that it lacked in how well children are protected from abuse while still in the state system.
Other concerns with the report's findings are whether foster children are receiving the special therapy and counseling they need and whether those that re-enter the system after sentences in the Department of Juvenile Justice program have clothing to wear to school.
The child welfare system in Florida has been privatized since 2005. The DCF works with 17 lead agencies that cover 20 different circuits across the state to handle foster placement and manage cases.
In light of the federal report, the DCF has scheduled a conference with agencies across the state on Tuesday to come up with an improvement plan. The plan will then be submitted to the Children's Bureau to decide whether the DCF will face any financial penalties.