Children not receiving adequate care focus of bill

Photo of the Florida Capitol courtesy: Adobe Stock

Senate Bill 1064 aims to help children who have been removed from a caregiver, be it a parent, a legal guardian or a foster home. Sponsored by Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, SB 1064 was filed on Feb. 22 and it has a companion bill in the House, HB 107.

The legislation would require lead agencies and managing entities to take specific steps for children removed from their caregivers. The bill is in the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, with the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 14.

Sarah Lee, who has worked for the Florida Department of Children and Families for 10 years, was impressed with the focus on the child’s well-being.

“Not only is the physical act of taking the child from their caregiver important but developing an understanding of the impact and the preceding events is necessary to develop the next steps,” she said.

The provision of trauma-focused assessment will facilitate the gathering of in-depth information on the severity of the traumatic events that the child might have experienced, leading to the need for them to be removed from the primary caregiver. Trauma-focused assessments usually involve standardized measures, clinical interviews and behavioral observations.

Joseph Brown, a caregiver, agreed with the time frames stipulated in the bill.

“The success of trauma-based interventions, if and when children need them, is time sensitive, and their success is highly dependent on promptness,” Brown said.

In addition, deadlines provide agencies with the much-needed motivation to act now rather than later. When time frames are unclear, involved parties tend to postpone such activities, Brown said.

The bill should also include a section on the consequences that one will face if one ignores the deadline, he added.

The bill offers voluntary trauma services for the child and their family if the shelter petition is denied and they are returned home. Voluntary, when it comes to the administration and provision of trauma services, means there will be no coercion for all parties involved.

Olivia Wright, a caregiver, supports the bill considering all scenarios.

“A child taken from their parents, legal custodian, or caregiver who returned might have a detrimental impact on their relationship and the well-being of the child whom the system intended to protect and care for in the first place,” Wright said.

The bill aims to ensure that a child’s psychological and emotional states can still be enhanced for their general well-being. Overall, the bill benefits children not receiving adequate care from caregivers, and it outlines steps to make the transition smooth. It will provide an alternative to those denied shelter care.