Florida foster care agencies seek $40 million to tackle staffing crisis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) – Florida’s foster care system is in crisis. Low wages coupled with an already stressful work environment are causing people to leave at record highs. As Capitol News Service reporter Mike Vasilinda tells us, the agencies are asking for a $40 million increase in 2022 to make the workload more manageable.

Going into someone’s home to check on their child’s well-being can be not only stressful but dangerous. COVID has made the already difficult job of child protection workers even more difficult.

“It’s a crisis level right now,” says Kurt Kelly, CEO of the Florida Coalition for Children.

The agency works with all 18 child care providers in the state and more than 70 other organizations that provide care or work with adoptions.

“In some areas we have up to 50 and 60 percent revenue,” Kelly told Capitol News Service.

Due to turnover, the workload of protection workers reaches up to 40 children. National recommendations recommend a workload of 12.

“There has been an increase in anxiety,” says Dr. Christine Cauffield, who is the CEO of LSF Health Systems. It serves 23 counties in northeast and north-central Florida, where cases have soared.

“Cases of domestic violence have increased. Cases of child abuse have increased due to people’s inability to modulate their mental health,” says Cauffield.

A bachelor’s degree is required for social workers. Salaries aren’t competitive, Kelly says.

“And they’re paid less than someone who says, ‘Do you want to oversize this gentleman?'” Kelly says.

Lawmakers are being asked to inject an additional $40 million into the system for wages. The CNS is told that this will reduce the number of cases from forty to fifteen, sixteen or seventeen.

And while no one is saying it out loud, the number of cases more than three times the national norm means children at risk are seeing fewer services. The result was a surge in the number of children Baker took action for their own safety in 2020.

Providers tell us it will take at least six months to stabilize their workforce once the money is provided, which wouldn’t be until July 1, 2022. This means high workloads will be the norm for the rest of the year.

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