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Hope Remains for Child-Welfare Reform

It’s still unclear what the final version of Florida’s child-welfare reform legislation will look like this year, as the session draws to a close.

Several provisions that concern transparency and accountability could still be in play – both for the Department of Children and Families and for the community-based care agencies that provide adoption and foster-care services at the local level.

On Friday, an amendment to the Senate’s reform bill would have stripped out language requiring more oversight of the child-welfare system.

For instance, the amendment would have eliminated a requirement that the privatized community-based care agencies post their CEOs’ salaries and other data on their web sites.

The amendment was withdrawn, and Kurt Kelly, who represents the community-based care agencies - or CBCs - says accountability and oversight are important to the reform efforts.

“Everyone should be looked at and be evaluated in that respect. I also think that in the light of all the conversations we’ve had, I think that the public is expecting to have that kind of fair oversight,” Kelly said.

Mike Carroll, who was tapped as DCF’s new interim secretary on Monday, says he backs a more open approach to child welfare.

“I can tell you that I do advocate for more transparency within our agency, within the CBCs, within our systems of care,” Carroll said. “I think if we’re going to say that we want community based care, then let the community in. Good, bad or indifferent, the community has to be let in and has to see.”

The Senate bill passed unanimously on Friday and is poised for a floor vote in the House later this week.

Lawmakers have been working for months on a response to a series of child deaths from abuse and neglect last year.