From the Executive Director                                               4.30.15
Building bridges and making change...

April was a busy month for FFCR. We were active in a coalition-led push to get important anti-trafficking legislation passed, and... spoiler alert!... the push was successful in large part thanks to you! We were also energized by the camaraderie among everyone who came together for Children's Week in Tallahassee.

Coalition work and community engagement like this enables us to accomplish more than we can through programs alone. The successful passage of the anti-trafficking legislation stands as proof. Many other bills introduced in this year's legislative session were also reflections of community concern for the well-being of abused and neglected children -and fortunately many moved forward in advance of the Florida House's early adjournment on Tuesday. Win or lose, good legislative proposals serve as symbols of the potential we have for making lasting changes that protect Florida's most vulnerable. Stakeholders also gathered in Tallahassee to consider proposed rules for Extended Foster Care, and FFCR was there.

In the spirit of National Volunteer Month, we send special thanks to the dedicated volunteers who ensure that the children who come before our Citizen Review Panel and Permanency Roundtables are given the time and care they deserve. They make success stories like Katrina's happen. We also welcome our newest volunteers - Iris Acosta, Alina Mustelier, Cristina Da Silva, Barbara Seraphin, Lisa Delasotta and Machele Harris. We're so glad you're on board, and we hope to see you at our annual Volunteer Appreciation & Awards Ceremony at the end of May!


Candice L. Maze

Executive Director, Florida Foster Care Review

NewsandNumbersIn the News

Children in foster care deserve a better chance

In the Community


Guardian Ad Litem April/May Newsletter

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth now accepting scholarship applications 

FFCR's New Online Newspaper


FFCR recently launched Foster Youth Weekly, an online paper focusing on resources useful to and/or supportive of youth in foster care and young adults recently in care. Check it out for employment information and more! To receive it in your inbox, be sure to subscribe!


Be the safety net that abused and neglected children and youth need.

Donate or volunteer today.

HumanTraffickingHotlineFlorida Legislature Passes National Human Trafficking Hotline Legislation

Break out the bubbly! Against the odds, bipartisan legislation to require posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline in key transportation hubs around Florida passed the Florida Legislature just yesterday, in spite of the Florida House's unexpected early adjournment of session on Tuesday. The bill, HB 369, will now go to the Governor for signature.


FFCR worked as a part of a statewide coalition to support HB 369 and its Senate companion, SB 534. In The Miami Herald earlier this month, FFCR Exec. Dir. Candice Maze argued the importance of passing the legislation into law, particularly for youth and young adults in or recently out of foster care, who are among those at highest risk of being trafficked. Candice's message was also published in El Nuevo Herald and the Tallahassee Democrat.


We know that many of you kept pressure on the Legislature to pass these bills by sending tweets and emails and making calls. We cannot say thank you enough! Your work as concerned community members will save lives and prevent abused and neglected youth from being further victimized. This is a victory.


In the House, the bill benefited from strong bipartisan support, with Rep. Dave Kerner (D-87) as the main sponsor and Rep. Ross Spano (R-59) as the primary co-sponsor, and over 30 co-sponsors from both parties. Huge thanks go to the legislators and advocates who worked hard to achieve this success!

KatrinasStorySuccess Story: Katrina's struggle to keep in touch with her siblings

When Katrina and her siblings were removed from their biological parents, they were placed in separate foster homes. Shortly before her 18th birthday, Katrina expressed her desire to see her younger siblings, and in January 2014 the court issued an order allowing supervised visitation with her younger siblings every other week.

During a November 2014 Citizen Review Panel (CRP) hearing, Katrina revealed that she had experienced only sporadic contact with her siblings throughout the year because the siblings' case manager would not consistently respond to her requests for visitation. As a result, the CRP issued a recommended court order, accepted by the judge, that required the case managers and foster parents for Katrina and her siblings to work together to set a visitation schedule.

At the subsequent CRP review in April 2015, Katrina explained that due to direct contact with the siblings' foster parents she was able to see her siblings more frequently, but not every two weeks as the court had ordered. Upon learning of the continued non-compliance, the guardian ad litem reported during the CRP review that she would immediately follow up with the siblings' case manager and agency administration. The CRP also followed up with the agency and was told the visitation schedule had been developed for two visits per month and would be carried out, which the GAL confirmed. The CRP will continue to follow the case to make sure Katrina and her siblings enjoy the benefit of regular visits.

ChildrensWeekChildren's Week Recap

A beautiful poster made by kids who visited FFCR's Children's Week Booth

Children's Week this year was a little quieter than usual, though the Capitol still buzzed with legislators, community groups, child welfare professionals, teachers and families who came together to show their commitment to Florida's children. FFCR was represented in Tallahassee by staff members Candice Maze, Vanessa Muñoz, Shantavia Clark, and Ranetha Jones. On Children's Day, FFCR invited kids to participate in a craft activity at our booth in the Capitol's courtyard. Later that night, FFCR staff members were thrilled to see the Honorable William J. Gladstone receive the 2015 Chiles Advocacy Award at the Children's Week Awards Dinner and Ceremony.


FFCR's Children's Week activities also included meetings with many legislators, with whom FFCR discussed challenges facing children in foster care. Shantavia and Ranetha, as alumnae of the foster care system, were able to provide their personal perspectives.


All in all, we were inspired by the ideas, energy and commitment at Children's Week. We encourage you to keep up the momentum by building relationships with your legislators - the legislative "off-season" is the best time to do so! You can also help by volunteering with FFCR or making a donation.  



FFCR Executive Director Weighs in on Rules for Extended Foster Care


During the 2014 session, the Florida Legislature passed a bill making foster care available to young adults ages 18 to 21 (22 for those with disabilities) who meet certain education and employment requirements. Even though the new Extended Foster Care (EFC) program went into effect on January 1 of this year, administrative rules still have to be made to sort out details. Via conference call, FFCR Executive Director Candice Maze joined a March 25, 2015 hearing in Tallahassee to ask questions about and comment on the proposed rules.


The proposed rules focus on eligibility requirements, case management for the young adults, judicial interaction, and procedures for discharge from the program. FFCR raised issues such as standards for approved living arrangements and who sets them, the appropriate balance of responsibilities between case managers and young adults, as well as the need to obtain consent from young adults receiving therapeutic/medical services, to provide an allowance to all young adults in EFC even if they are employed, to clarify what happens if a living arrangement is not approved and to ensure that the rules for discharging young adults from EFC are within the law.

FFCR will continue to act as a resource during the rulemaking process.

Legislative Update: Key Child Welfare Bills Pass and Fail

The Florida Legislature's 2015 session took an unexpected turn this past Tuesday when the House adjourned suddenly over a budget dispute related to possible expansion of Medicaid. The House declared sine die three days prior to the regular session's scheduled end on May 1, causing many bills to become collateral damage. The Senate, which is continuing to meet, can still pass and send to the Governor bills that the House passed previously, as long as they don't amend the bills. Below, FFCR recaps the status of a few key bills related to child welfare. Please bear in mind that the pace in the last days of session is fast, and the status of bills may change by the time this email is published. In addition, please be aware that other important bills related to child welfare were or are in play this session; the list below is not all-inclusive.


SB 940, a bill with bipartisan support, calls for development of a work plan for reform of the use of group homes within the child welfare systemThe bill establishes that recruiting appropriate families for home-based care is essential; that group home care should be considered a short-term, specialized intervention; that once stabilized, most children should be transferred from group home care to home-based family care with their services following them; and more. The bill was referred to three committees, passed two, and stalled in the third. 


SB 7078 / HB 7121 would allow critical incident rapid response teams (CIRRTs) to review more cases of child deaths, hopefully strengthening the CIRRTs' role in uncovering systemic problems requiring rapid policy and practice changes in order to protect children. The bills update the CIRRT requirements created by last year's SB 1666. SB 7078 was passed by the Senate and sent to the House, which substituted its own version. The House passed its bill and sent it back to the Senate. The Senate passed the House version yesterday; the bill will now go to the Governor for signature.


HB 7013 / SB 320 provides an adoption incentive program to try to increase the number of adoptions. It also requires DCF to prioritize educational stability for foster children and adds homeschooling as one of several available educational options. The bill also brings the law up-to-date with an appeals court decision that ended Florida's ban on gay adoption. The House made several amendments and passed the bill, sending it to the Senate, which substituted it for SB 320.The Senate passed the bill and the House ordered it enrolled. It's ready to go to the Governor.

HB 7111, the "Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies" would have allowed state-funded private adoption agencies to assert religious or personal bias against qualified prospective parents, including LGBT couples wishing to adopt. The bill, passed by the House, was referred to the Senate Rules Committee where it was temporarily postponed. It is unlikely to move further this session.  

SB 2514, according to a staff analysis, "amends the core services funding allocation methodology for community-based care lead agencies (CBC)." The Senate passed the bill and sent it to the House requesting that they pass the same version or agree to include it in the Budget Conference. The House passed an amended version but agreed to the Budget Conference. Given the House's abrupt adjournment and the fact that the budget will be dealt with during a special session, the bill's path is now unclear.


SB 760 / HB 1055 provides requirements for the representation of Children's Medical Services on multiagency teams investigating certain child deaths or other critical incidents; requires the Statewide Medical Director for Child Protection and the medical directors to hold certain qualifications; provides that a physician who holds an expert witness certificate may provide expert testimony in criminal child abuse and neglect cases; and more. The House passed HB 1055 and sent it to the Senate, which substituted it for SB 760. The Senate passed the House version; the bill will go to the Governor.


SB 542 / HB 7001 allows private recordings by children under 18 years of age who meet certain requirements as admissible evidence in sexual abuse cases involving children. The House passed its version, which the Senate passed with an added amendment. The House concurred with the amendment, passed the bill, and ordered it enrolled for sending to the Governor.

About Florida Foster Care Review 

Established in 1989 by a United Way committee, Florida Foster Care Review promotes the safety, well-being and long-term success of abused and neglected children in our community. Through special recruitment and training, volunteers review cases of youth in foster care to ensure they are safe and receiving needed services, intensively promoting positive outcomes. Together with child welfare professionals, Florida Foster Care Review also works to ensure that children and youth leaving the foster care system have someone they can call family. Through all its programs, Florida Foster Care Review tracks and analyzes outcomes in order to advocate for system changes that improve children's lives.