TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — During the 25th Annual Children's Week at the Florida Capitol, House lawmakers in the Children, Families & Seniors subcommittee today approved sweeping child welfare reforms via a proposed committee bill.
The bill, PCB CFS 20-02, Child Welfare, improves the state’s child welfare system by providing more support for key workers, enhancing workforce development at every stage in the pipeline, involving community-based organizations, and holding all partners to the same standard of excellence. Pay raises for child protective investigators and supervisors are included among the reforms.
“We have hundreds of people who are making enormous decisions, daily, for our state's most vulnerable children. These workers need support,” House Speaker Jose Oliva said in a prepared statement. “We must give our very best to help the state’s abused and neglected children, and this legislation does just that."
Recent studies show that child protective investigators are burning out from workload and secondary trauma, inadequate supervision and support, and lack of opportunities for advancement – the turnover rate for people in this vital role is almost 50 percent, and most only stay on the job two years or less.
The bill increases base pay for these workers and their supervisors, and calls on Department of Children and Families to create clear pathways for long-term career success. The bill also creates a pipeline of professional child welfare workers through new programs that will be led by the Florida Institute for Child Welfare.
Additionally, the bill encourages the Department to work with faith- and community-based nonprofits to help families in crisis before the state child welfare system steps in. Their early and active involvement can reduce the agency’s caseload and keep families out of crisis. The bill further supports these non-profits’ work by creating a new tax credit for businesses that contribute to them.
Lastly, the legislation requires that all of the agency’s partners are held to the same high standards, processes, and outcome measurements. For example, some sheriffs take on the work of investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect, but current Florida law does not require the same degree of transparency from sheriffs than from other Department contractors. The bill revises the law to ensure that no matter who does the child protective investigations – the agency or sheriffs – they’ll be done with the same accountability for quality performance.
“I am excited about the change that this bill will bring to Florida’s child welfare system. I know that day in and day out, hundreds of our fellow Floridians working for the Department, sheriff's offices, community-based care lead agencies, case management organizations, and other partners are giving their best to our state’s abused and neglected children,” the subcommittee chairman Rep. Mel Ponder said. “I join Speaker Oliva and Chair Rodrigues in wanting to honor and support them.”
The full bill text and staff analysis can be found at myfloridahouse.gov.