The measure was a priority of the Senate President, who was adopted as a child.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed proposals to improve the state’s child welfare system and help children find permanent homes more quickly.
Two measures are among a flurry of bill signings the Governor issued Tuesday.
The first proposal (SB 80), carried by Sen. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, both Republicans, would prioritize finding children a permanent place to call home, particularly before they turn 18. The second measure (SB 96), carried by Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book and Republican Rep. Thad Altman, would improve reporting standards in the case of abuse and neglect.
Finding a family for those children is a priority for Brodeur and Senate President Wilton Simpson, who were both adopted as kids.
Brodeur and Busatta Cabrera’s bill outlines the state’s preferred order for where a child should be housed, with priority given to a setting that is most like home.
If possible, a child should first be placed with a non-offending parent, according to the bill. Next, in order of preference, comes a relative caregiver, an adoptive parent of the child’s sibling, fictive kin such as past caregivers who have developed a close relationship with the child, licensed foster care, and then group or congregate care.
Siblings should also be placed together if possible and in the children’s best interest, the legislation adds.
The bill also has a scaled-back version of Brodeur’s vision for the personnel involved in deciding whether to transfer a child from one caregiver to another. Initially, Brodeur wanted mental health counselors involved in every multidisciplinary team, but the Senator says that would have exploded the Department of Children and Families’ budget.
The bill would also require “FACE sheets” in children’s files detailing the web of relationships with adults and other foster care children they have made throughout their time in the system.
The multidisciplinary team would include the child, family and others considered important to the child, current caregivers, the child’s case manager, a Department of Children and Families representative, and a community-based care representative. If necessary to meet the team’s goals, they can also invite a Children’s Medical Services representative, a guardian ad litem, a school representative, a therapist, a mental health professional, or a community service provider.
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