If we don’t invest in child-welfare case management, children in foster care will pay the price.
A child in foster care who has only one case manager has a 75-percent chance of either safely returning home or joining a family through adoption. A child with two case managers has a 17.5-percent chance, and a child with four has only a 2.2-percent chance.
Now throw this into the mix: Florida struggles with a 30.4-percent turnover rate among case managers and an average stay on the job of just 2.2 years.
But even dire statistics don’t accurately depict what this really means. They aren’t mere numbers — they represent victimized children who languish in uncertainty, who will continue to languish if Florida doesn’t address the challenges that accompany significant turnover in case management.
Putting it bluntly, we can’t afford to accept “what is.” Our kids deserve better. And so do our communities.
That begins with a commitment to quality case management. We must invest in the professionals who dedicate their days, nights and weekends to helping children who have endured pain so severe that they can’t even live safely in their own homes.
These professionals are responsible for making life-and-death decisions on a near-daily basis. They are responsible for helping children and families overcome insurmountable challenges. And, they are responsible for 12 to sometimes 30 or 40 children at any given time.
Currently, their charge is nearly impossible, and we cannot let this legislative session pass without changing that.
We must invest in lower caseloads and higher salaries for the state’s case managers. It’s no longer an option — it’s a necessity that has been proven to improve retention and thus improve outcomes for children.
Though I’m new to Florida, my career in child welfare spans 15 years where I have worked with seven states. Never before have I seen such an incredible opportunity to make sustainable changes for children.
Florida has already garnered national attention for its innovative approaches in serving kids and for its unique methods in tackling complex issues plaguing far too many families. Our potential can’t be fully realized if the state doesn’t invest in the first responders who see families at their most vulnerable.
If we are to live up to our reputation as a forward-thinking leader for the rest of the country, then we must do the right thing for children.
We must give them a chance to heal, to find stability and to seize the opportunity for a better future.
Nearly 20,000 children are counting on us. Let’s not let them down.
president and CEO,
Children’s Home Society of Florida,