Re the Herald’s series Innocents lost: The state Department of Children & Families knew that the 477 children who died were at risk. Prior investigations showed that the children would be in danger of harm or death if left with their families.
In no system should children die at the expense of keeping families together. This is why the newly passed law, SB 1666, made children’s safety paramount. However, this law doesn’t change the federal mandate under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, which requires the state to use reasonable efforts to preserve families when possible.
We agree that this law increases the quality of the investigative process. But it also ensures that our agencies will be responsible for safety plans beyond the 60-day investigative period where there is future or imminent risk. The law allows an extended time period — as long as necessary — to monitor families to enable better risk-assessment decisions about whether families can be preserved.
What remains to be seen is whether there is sufficient funding for family-preservation services, including substance-abuse treatment, intensive case management and mental-health services for the child protection system to work.
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It’s critical that the Legislature monitor this law’s implementation and, if necessary, make adjustments and increase appropriations to ensure that these legislative goals are accomplished.
Howard Talenfeld, president, Florida’s Children First,