Florida Youth SHINE’s Banner Legislative Year

Jonathan Doherty/ July 26, 2017/ FYA

Our partners at Florida Youth Shine (FYS) are celebrating another banner year of sharing stories, walking the halls of the Florida Capitol, and educating legislators on important issues in child welfare. Any group would be thrilled to have an impact in just one law to help children, and FYS managed to impact several laws this session. Congratulations! Check out their latest legislative victories here:

Keys to Independence – FYS joined with the Guardian ad Litem to promote the Keys to Independence and the legislature listened.  Now, “Keys” is a permanent program, providing children in care with driver’s education, financial help to obtain a learner’s permit, driver’s license, and auto insurance.  And, this now also applies to children in foster care, relative care, and non-relative care (with other good additions in the law).

Comprehensive Assessment Process – FYS has spoken for years about the trauma to children by multiple, unstable placements and the problems they face when placed in some group homes.  This year, the legislature listened and passed a law requiring a comprehensive assessment process for initial placement, as well as a requirement that the child be placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting.

Quality Rating for Group Homes – FYS has shared their stories and spoken for many years about the lack of a safe, stable, and nurturing environments when youth are placed in group homes.  FYS has asked that the state take a hard look at the group homes where children are placed.  This year, their requests were answered by a law that requires the Department of Children & Families (DCF) to develop a statewide accountability system for residential group care providers that promotes high quality in services and accommodations, and differentiates between shift and family-style models. The rating system must also include a quality measurement system with clearly-defined levels of quality.  This will take time, and the law gives DCF 5 years to get the rating system up and running.

Quality Rating for Foster Homes – FYS can count this as an advocacy accomplishment, although it is not exactly what we asked for!  FYS supported language that required a quality rating system for both group homes and foster homes. The Quality Rating System for group homes is set in place, but the legislature recognized that reviewing every foster home in Florida could be a huge task.  Rather than require that a quality rating system be set up for foster homes, the Legislature instead decided to investigate how best to do this in the future, and they passed a law requiring that DCF and the Florida Institute for Child Welfare conduct a workgroup on this topic and report back to the legislature.

Geori Berman
Florida Youth SHINE Coordinator