After HB 5 took effect July 1, concerns have been raised about whether it will have a negative effect on Tampa’s already overwhelmed and chaotic foster care system.
As Governor Ron DeSantis tries to propose reforms to help foster children and encourage more parents to raise them, it won’t be enough to fix the mess that already exists and alleviate the additional chaos that will result from the ban on abortion.
As of this year, Hillsborough County is estimated to have 3,100 foster children, making it the county with the most in Florida, according to a Feb. 11 report. Tampa Bay Weather article.
Hillsborough has repeatedly failed them, with reports of abuse, neglect, child endangerment and runaway overcrowding from its former child protection service Eckerd Connects.
The agency, which had been tasked with providing safe homes for these children, was the subject of a criminal investigation for ill-treatment in November. At a news conference about the investigation, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called the children’s living conditions “deplorable conditions” on Nov. 4. interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
There were reports of overcrowding, according to the Tampa Bay Times, with a social worker saying he had to care for 154 children when he was encouraged to only have 17 at a time.
Eckerd Connect’s contract with Hillsborough ended on July 30 and was transferred to the new child protection agency Family Support Services (FSS). But with so many children in the system, concerns have been raised about whether FSS will really be able to address the foster system’s long history of inadequacy.
Angela Hart, the mother of a former Eckerd Connects foster child who died of an overdose, said in an August interview with WFLA“Everything is the same. If your service providers and case managers are still exactly the same, what has changed? »
Parents fear that despite the agency’s new name, its practices will remain the same and no longer be equipped to handle the glut of foster children. But in this reality of the post-Roe world, Tampa must prepare for the foster care system to be even more crowded.
Contrary to the belief that adoption is the panacea to abortion, more than 90% of these women actually choose to raise the child themselves, according to the National Library of Medicine.
DeSantis signed SB 7034 March 12, which provides grants of $200 per month to parents and non-parents who serve as caregivers for adoptive children, as well as strengthening tuition and fee waiver programs to help prepare for foster children to state colleges.
While supporting education financially is a good step, pumping more money into an already failing system is not enough to solve the problem. It looks like DeSantis is putting a band-aid on the gaping wound that is Tampa’s rampant overcrowding in the foster care system.
The Florida Department of Children and Families received at least 1,000 reports of foster home abuse in 2020, including 800 neglect and 100 sexual assault cases, but only terminated 29 caregiver licenses, according to studies found in USA today.
The fact that the foster care system continues to place children in unsafe homes is despicable and shows the corruption of a system meant to protect our most vulnerable. If Florida’s system can’t find the resources to provide safe homes for children now, it certainly isn’t equipped to handle this problem once crowding worsens due to HB 5.
Inappropriate care inside foster homes and by social workers contributes to shocking statistics, like how 25% of young people who leave foster care will be incarcerated within a few years of turning 18 , according Georgetown Law.
According to National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and Permanency Planning.
Although HB 5 emphasizes the importance of adding more foster parents into the system, it is clear that this is not just a quantity issue, but a quality issue. The mental and physical health of these children has been neglected both in the agency and in the foster home, and we can only imagine how the system will withstand the pressure to take in more children.
The problem of foster care is pervasive from every angle, and we won’t see a solution until leaders tackle it at the root.
More attention needs to be paid to why so many children are separated from their parents in the first place. More mental health services must also be provided to these children to ensure their well-being.
While SB 7034 is important in moving things forward to help foster children, it won’t be strong enough to contradict the negative effects DeSantis brought about by banning abortion. We can only hope that Florida Support Services and DeSantis are prepared to handle this and will work hard to overcome the long history of abuse and neglect in Tampa’s foster care system.