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Senate committee advances bill to reform foster-care system

Nothing could possibly prove to be more traumatic for children than suddenly finding themselves removed from familiar surroundings and officially labeled wards of the state due to circumstances entirely beyond their control.

While the state has a system in place to ensure that children in these situations are properly cared for -- foster families, group homes and other placements -- the road ahead will nevertheless prove difficult for many.  

If you don't believe it, consider that the Children's Home Society of Florida has determined that those teens who leave the foster care system without securing any sort of permanent family unit beforehand are 50 percent more likely to be unemployed, 33 percent more likely to end up homeless and 66 percent more likely to drop out of high school within three to four years.

As discouraging as this reality is, it's important to note that the issue hasn't gone overlooked by state lawmakers. In fact, the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee recently voted to advance Senate Bill 7018, which would introduce some significant changes into how the state manages foster care placements.

The bill, which is still lacking a companion in the House, calls for the following:

  • The Florida Department of Children and Families to work alongside private community-based agencies to help create a so-called continuum of care for foster children, meaning that their needs are regularly reassessed such that they can land in the best possible scenario and continue the healing process.
  • A greater extension of services from substance-abuse counseling and mental health treatment to domestic violence counseling and intervention in order to rectify underlying problems that otherwise prevent children from being able to remain in their family homes.
  • A requirement that foster families, group homes and other placements provide regular status updates demonstrating that children in their care are recovering from any trauma endured.

It remains to be seen whether the bill, which has already been endorsed by key parties like the Children's Home Society of Florida, will gain the necessary traction in Tallahassee. Stay tuned for developments.

Please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you have questions or concerns related to child custody or visitation.

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