Department of Children and Families

Several civil legal aid organizations in Florida have filed a federal class action lawsuit against the agencies that operate the state's Medicaid system.

It's not even 6 a.m. when Amy and Christie begin a 45 minute drive south. 

The two friends are headed to a clinic in Hernando County where they’ll get a dose of methadone. They take this trip seven days a week, they said, to keep from relapsing into the pill addiction that nearly destroyed their lives.

When Toni and Jim Hoy adopted their son Daniel through the foster care system, he was an affectionate toddler. They did not plan to give him back to the state of Illinois, ever.

"Danny was this cute, lovable little blond-haired, blue-eyed baby," Jim says.

Toni recalls times Daniel would reach over, put his hands on her face and squish her cheeks. "And he would go, 'You pretty, Mom,' " Toni says. "Oh my gosh, he just melted my heart when he would say these very loving, endearing things to me."

Daylina Miller/Health News Florida / WUSF

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday named Rebecca Kapusta to serve as interim secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families. 

Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll is leaving the agency effective Sept. 6.

A number of child welfare bills are continuing to move in the Florida Legislature.

October is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month, the Florida Department of Children and Families also received a grant to help support domestic violence victims.

A preliminary hearing was held Thursday in the case of Naika Venant, the 14-year-old girl who broadcast her suicide on Facebook Live  from her Miami Gardens foster home earlier this year. It was the second suicide of a teenager in foster care overseen by the agency Our Kids in less than 60 days.

State Cracks Down On Troubled For-Profit Facility For The Disabled

Jun 24, 2016
Alberto Cairo (For ProPublica)

After years of tepid action, Florida officials are moving to intensify monitoring and remove residents from a sprawling complex for the disabled that has a long history of abuse and neglect.

Settlement Reached In Battle Over Children’s Health Care

Apr 6, 2016

After a court fight that lasted more than a decade, the state and groups representing pediatricians and dentists have settled a class-action lawsuit about care provided to children in Florida's Medicaid program.

The settlement, released Tuesday, came about 15 months after a federal judge found that Florida's history of low reimbursement payments to doctors led to a lack of access to care for many poor children. But the agreement also came after the state argued that an overhaul of the Medicaid system had effectively made the case moot.

DCF To Move Ahead With Foster-Care Changes After Bill Fails

Mar 16, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

A bill aimed at reforming the way Florida foster children are placed in group homes died on the last day of the 2016 legislative session.

AHCA, DCF Leaders Get Senate Panel’s Blessing

Feb 17, 2016
Agency for Health Care Administration

A Senate committee signed off Tuesday on the confirmation of seven agency heads, including leaders of some of the state's highest-profile departments.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office

The mother of a girl found dead in a freezer was accused of beating her five children for years in a home that at times was filled with rats and roaches, according to documents released today.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office

The body of an 11-year-old girl who had apparently been missing for more than a year — though authorities say no one reported her disappearance or questioned her whereabouts — was found in a freezer that her mother left at the home of some family members, police said Monday.

Florida Legal Services and Disability Rights Florida want the state to clarify how it handles social service applications from people who are disabled. The organizations are concerned thousands of disabled Floridians can’t apply for food stamps or other services in the state’s online system.

Settlement Could Offer More Options For People With Mental Illness

Sep 29, 2015

The state Department of Children and Families has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Disability Rights Florida and move toward providing more options for people who are mentally ill to live in their communities instead of in state mental hospitals.

Report: Foster Kids Still Being Medicated Without Proper Consent

Sep 23, 2015

Despite an outcry in 2009 over a 7-year-old's apparent suicide, a draft report from the research arm of Florida's child-protection system shows that foster children are still being put on psychotropic medications without caregivers following proper procedures.

Scott Signs Order Tracking Mental Health Services

Sep 10, 2015

As the state Department of Children and Families convened its annual child-protection summit Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order aimed at better coordinating mental health services --- something DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said will help his agency provide improved care for children.

Rules Focus On Gay, Trans Foster Youth

Jul 14, 2015

As the state Department of Children and Families considers a new rule governing group homes for foster kids, advocates are pushing to include provisions requiring better treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths who live in such facilities.

The agency is updating its rules for group homes for the first time in almost 30 years to try to bring more uniformity to the facilities, which are supposed to be short-term solutions for children in state care.

State Sees Sharp Spike In Number Of Children In Foster Care

Jul 6, 2015

 The number of Florida children in the state's foster-care system has reached its highest level since 2008 --- driven by both a spike in the number of kids being removed from their homes and a drop in the number being discharged after a stint in foster care.

In the last 24 months, the number of children in what's known as out-of-home care has reached 22,004 statewide, up from 17,591 in 2013.

State Considers Response To 3-Year-Old's Death

May 6, 2015
Department of Children and Families

A report by the state Department of Children and Families on the death of a 3-year-old Hollywood boy is prompting talk among policymakers about the next steps in fixing Florida's troubled child-protection system.

The report --- by what is known as the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team --- details a system-wide breakdown in protecting Ahziya Osceola, whose body was found March 19, hidden in the laundry room of his family's home.

Lawmakers Tweak Extended Foster Care Law

Apr 14, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

  Lawmakers are working on changes to a two-year-old law that extended foster care in Florida from ages 18 to 21 and sought to give kids more time to prepare for independence.

Hailed as groundbreaking --- in fact, it was named the "Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act" for its Senate sponsor --- the law is likely to get a tweak this session.

Florida Legislature
Florida House of Representatives

The 22 bills proposed in the Legislature this spring to reform Florida’s mental health care system would allow for-profit companies to compete for contracts for the first time, the Miami Herald reports.

Polk County Sheriff's Office

A Polk County jury will begin to hear the case of a Department of Children and Families case worker accused of threatening to take a woman’s children unless she had sex with him, the Ledger of Lakeland reports. 

Brevard County Sheriff's Office

  Several recent, high-profile Florida murder cases have brought to light the need for increased mental health services.

Jessica Lacy McCarty, 33, was charged Saturday with the murder of her three young children in Palm Bay, the Orlando Sentinel reports. A Department of Children and Families investigation showed she had previously received mental health treatment from a community provider.

The Florida Senate is working on bills that would increase the amount of federal Medicaid money used to fund mental health and substance abuse problems, Florida Politics reports. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will discuss the bill drafts Monday at its meeting.

Senators Clash Over Exemptions From Child-Care Licensing

Mar 10, 2015
Florida Legislature

  A bill that would make clear national groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs are exempt from Florida licensing requirements is stalled in a legislative committee, sparking a clash between two state senators.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, began a meeting last week by announcing that the bill (SB 250) by her fellow Broward County Democrat, Chris Smith, would be postponed "because we don't have enough information."

Florida lawmakers are looking into reforms related to mental health and substance abuse issues and how it relates to the state’s child welfare system.

Senators Look For More Ways To Boost Adoptions

Feb 19, 2015

A bill that would provide incentives to state employees who adopt children in Florida's foster-care system continued moving forward Wednesday with several changes.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved the measure (SB 320) by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, with amendments aimed at boosting adoptions still further.

The bill would provide a one-time cash payment of $5,000 per child to state employees who adopt children from the foster-care system and $10,000 per child for those who adopt children who also have special needs.

Panel Questions DCF on Slain Girl's Death

Feb 18, 2015

  A Florida House panel Tuesday heard details of a report on the death of 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck, whose father is accused of dropping her off a bridge into Tampa Bay.

The report found, in part, that abuse hotline counselors at the Department of Children and Families had ignored two calls in the last week of the girl's life. It also found that the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which conducted a child protective investigation of the family in 2013, did not refer either Phoebe or her father, John Jonchuck, for services.

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