Florida Ranks Among Top 5 “Right for Kids” States
New annual report evaluating which states child welfare systems are right for kids puts Florida at the top
Tallahassee, FL – Florida’s high-performing Community-Based Care system is among the top five best systems in the country for children, according to the 2012 Right For Kids Rankings. If more states in the country followed the model set by Florida and other top-performing states, there would be 72,000 fewer kids in foster care and 19,000 more adoptions from foster care each year.
The 2012 Right For Kids Rankings shows which states are the best and worst for children using a methodology that scores all 50 states in 11 key outcome areas and 41 different data measures. This comprehensive report is the first of its kind. The annual ranking is a reality check on how well each state is serving the most vulnerable children, and celebrates top performing states overall and in specific outcome areas. The full report can be viewed and downloaded at www.RightForKids.org.
Key findings in this year’s Right For Kids Ranking are:
1. Florida is one of only 11 states have a 24-hour rapid response to investigate claims of abuse or neglect.
2. Florida is one of only 12 states that visit the vast majority of foster kids monthly.
3. Florida is one of only 9 states quickly and safely return foster children home to their biological families when possible. In Florida it takes fewer than 12 months on average to reunify families and has an 85 percent success rate.
4. Florida is one of only 9 states ensure short and stable stays in foster care as a general practice. In Florida foster children remain in care for a year or less and do not experience the trauma of being moved to multiple foster homes.
5. Since the Community-Based Care system was fully implemented throughout the state in 2006, Florida has moved up 12 spots in the rankings.
“With Community-Based Care, citizens in Florida are no longer looking at these children as the ‘state’s problem;’ they are now the community’s priority.” said Shawn Salamida, CEO of Partnership for Strong Families.
Since privatizing, the state has reduced the number of children in foster care from 30,000 to 20,000. The non-profit organizations, known as Community-Based Care agencies (CBCs), the Department of Children & Families selects to serve as community-based care lead agencies are responsible for thousands of lives, millions of state funds and a wide array of services. Each has succeeded by nurturing its own local ecosystem of foster parents, service providers and professional staff tailored to meet the unique needs of their community.
“These rankings are evidence that Community-Based Care works,” said Mike Cusick, CEO of the Florida Coalition for Children. “Going from one of the worst systems in the country to one of the best is a credit to lawmakers’ investment in an innovative community-based care system that is driven by local ownership, community input, transparency, accountability and solution-oriented responsiveness,” Cusick added.
Florida is the only one of the “Big Five” states for child welfare populations to rank in the top five, with most of the other states – New York (45), California (41), Illinois (48) and Ohio (13) – ranking no where near the top of the Right For Kids Rankings.
Partnership for Strong Families, the lead agency for 13 North Central Florida counties, has seen dramatic changes locally – including a 43 percent reduction in the total number of children in foster care. They have also seen tremendous growth in the number of children being adopted out of the system, including 164 adoptions finalized during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
Working together, DCF and local agencies effectively utilize resources to safely achieve permanency for children through reunification or adoption, while preventing entry/re-entry into foster care. The savings are continuously re-invested into local systems of care.