New Law Might Impact Florida Foster System

Florida may be feeling some heat from the Family First Prevention Services Act signed by President Trump in February. The new law is placing restrictions on funding for group homes for kids in the foster care system, and it is instead focusing on preventative support to keep them from being placed in care at all.

Droves of children are currently entering the foster care system where there is a shortage of foster parents. The overflow of children go into group homes. Round the clock care for those children is expensive, and some people are concerned for the future.

The Family First Prevention Services Act will only provide funding for a child to be in a group home for two weeks unless extenuating circumstances apply, such as a teen who is pregnant or parenting. In addition, it directs funding for at-home parenting classes, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment.

Matthew Ladika, the CEO of HomeSafe, operates five group homes in Palm Beach County. “The funding that we get from the government covers the basics, and we don’t believe that the basics are good enough for the kids. I want the absolute best for these kids,” he said. “We will continue to monitor to see when it’s implemented and make any necessary changes.”

USA Today reported, “The group home provision comes after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a 2015 report showing that 40% of teens in foster care group homes had no clinical reason, such as a mental health diagnosis, for being there rather than in a family setting. Child welfare experts saw this as more evidence that group homes were being overused. Children’s average stay in a group home is eight months the report found.

States are allowed to request a two-year delay in implementation of the new law, but as of yet, Florida has not.