With changes being made to help ensure the safety of the state's most vulnerable children and families, supporting those critical workers that we trust to protect our future is more important than ever, according to a new report from the independent watchdog institute, Florida TaxWatch.
The report, Challenges Facing Florida's Community-Based Welfare System, concludes that front-end investments to help case managers, emphasizing prevention services and initiating programs to grow and support opportunities within child welfare, will help ensure a safer future for Florida's children while saving taxpayers' money.
"Our state has a moral obligation to help these children who, through no fault of their own, have been left without the support of families that so many of us take for granted," said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. "Case workers in this state are true heroes who help families and children in situations many of us can barely imagine. Investments in strengthening the field of child welfare will not only save lives but will save money as well."
The state's community-based child welfare system is responsible for the care and well-being of Florida's maltreated youth. Over time, child welfare practices have improved and now place even greater emphasis on the swift removal of children from potentially dangerous situations.
Unfortunately, there have not been adequate resources to create equivalent improvements in services or staff, allowing demand on the system to climb to the highest it has been since 2008. There are not enough available services to meet the needs of these youth and case managers charged with their care are facing higher and higher caseloads, leading to increases in turnover and reductions in the timeliness and care with which cases are able to be handled.
To continue improving the child welfare system while maintaining child safety, Florida TaxWatch recommends that Florida:
* Implement services that improve accessibility and availability of child welfare services at all stages of the system, with an emphasis on prevention services that serve at-risk families in their homes and that give case managers more flexibility to serve the families with which they interact.
* Initiate programs that stabilize and provide opportunities to grow the child welfare workforce, particularly programs that provide early educational opportunities for exposure to the field and help case managers cope with workplace stressors.
These solutions have the potential to alleviate caseloads and stress for employees in child welfare as well as improve outcomes for Florida's most vulnerable children, but they cannot come to fruition without state investment. Higher levels of stable, recurring resources for child welfare in Florida would improve the system's services array as well as bolster and expand the workforce.
"The measure of our state's greatness is how we treat each Floridian regardless of circumstance," said Calabro. "Providing case managers with the resources to assist children and families will help ensure each Floridian has the opportunity to pursue their dreams and their futures."
Click here for the full report.