Florida passed a child abuse law with good intentions but it had unintended consequences.
It was believed that punishment for child abusers was too lenient and many times children were sent back to the same home they’re being abused. Florida lawmakers were able to secure money to hire more child welfare investigators. They even rewrote some state laws to make it easier to keep children away from their parents.
The one thing Florida didn’t seem to think of is where all of these children would be going after being removed from their abusive family homes. According to an in-depth USA Today investigation, the Florida foster care system was quickly overwhelmed with children needing placement in quality foster homes. This investigation was completed by multiple reporters over the course of a year.
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Three years after the law was passed in 2017, Florida had 6,000 additional children to place. Child welfare workers had been left to deal with the mess. When the state of Florida didn’t release more money to fund their program, foster care agencies had to overfill foster and group homes.
They then placed children in foster homes with families who had been accused of abusing or neglecting the children in their care in the past. In one instance, two preschool-age girls reported being sexually assaulted by their foster father. The state of Florida continued to send him 13 more children after those first accusations.
Only after a third preschool-age girl reported sexual assault, did they finally stop sending children to that home. It’s hard to believe but it gets even worst.
The investigation further uncovered multiple instances of dishonesty on the part of caseworkers overwhelmed by the number of children assigned to them. Caseworkers ignored safety guidelines and continued to overcrowd children into homes.
They then didn’t complete mandatory safety/home checks as well as parent training. Caseworkers then lied about completing these steps and even went as far as to fabricate fake logs to make it seem as if they met with these families.
USA Today also reveals that foster care agencies didn’t want them to expose this information. They also report that the Department of Children and Family (DCF) in Florida was uncooperative and even went as far as to try to persuade lawmakers to pass a law making the names of foster parents private information.
The more USA Today found the more apparent it was that the system in Florida had failed thousands of children. Foster care agencies neglected to check in on children and knowingly sent them to abusive homes.
Meanwhile, some biological parents of these children reported signs of abuse they saw during visitation. The concerns were ignored. Too many children and not enough resources to go around led to this failure for these kids.
Source: USA Today
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