Florida Senate - 2014                                    SB 1258
       By Senator Garcia
       38-00772-14                                           20141258__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to foster care; amending s. 409.145,
    3         F.S.; providing additional caregiver responsibilities;
    4         requiring background screening and drug testing of
    5         potential and current caregivers; providing additional
    6         criteria under which a child may be removed from a
    7         foster home; authorizing the Department of Children
    8         and Families to withhold financial assistance under
    9         certain circumstances; amending s. 409.1753, F.S.;
   10         providing additional duties of the department with
   11         respect to children in foster care; providing
   12         requirements governing caseworkers and child
   13         protective investigators; providing responsibilities
   14         of the department’s regional managing directors and
   15         the state foster care program manager for monitoring
   16         compliance with the act; providing an effective date.
   18  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   20         Section 1. Paragraphs (a) through (c) of subsection (2) of
   21  section 409.145, Florida Statutes, are amended to read:
   22         409.145 Care of children; quality parenting; “reasonable
   23  and prudent parent” standard.—The child welfare system of the
   24  department shall operate as a coordinated community-based system
   25  of care which empowers all caregivers for children in foster
   26  care to provide quality parenting, including approving or
   27  disapproving a child’s participation in activities based on the
   28  caregiver’s assessment using the “reasonable and prudent parent”
   29  standard.
   30         (2) QUALITY PARENTING.—A child in foster care shall be
   31  placed only with a caregiver who has the ability to care for the
   32  child, is willing to accept responsibility for providing care,
   33  and is willing and able to learn about and be respectful of the
   34  child’s culture, religion and ethnicity, special physical or
   35  psychological needs, any circumstances unique to the child, and
   36  family relationships. The department, the community-based care
   37  lead agency, and other agencies shall provide such caregiver
   38  with all available information necessary to assist the caregiver
   39  in determining whether he or she is able to appropriately care
   40  for a particular child.
   41         (a) Roles and responsibilities of caregivers.—A caregiver
   42  shall:
   43         1. Participate in developing the case plan for the child
   44  and his or her family and work with others involved in his or
   45  her care to implement this plan. This participation includes the
   46  caregiver’s involvement in all team meetings or court hearings
   47  related to the child’s care.
   48         2. Complete all training needed to improve skills in
   49  parenting a child who has experienced trauma due to neglect,
   50  abuse, or separation from home, to meet the child’s special
   51  needs, and to work effectively with child welfare agencies, the
   52  court, the schools, and other community and governmental
   53  agencies.
   54         3. Respect and support the child’s ties to members of his
   55  or her biological family and assist the child in maintaining
   56  allowable visitation and other forms of communication.
   57         4. Effectively advocate for the child in the caregiver’s
   58  care with the child welfare system, the court, and community
   59  agencies, including the school, child care, health and mental
   60  health providers, and employers.
   61         5. Participate fully in the child’s medical, psychological,
   62  and dental care as the caregiver would for his or her biological
   63  child.
   64         6. Support the child’s school success by participating in
   65  school activities and meetings, including Individual Education
   66  Plan meetings, assisting with school assignments, supporting
   67  tutoring programs, meeting with teachers and working with an
   68  educational surrogate if one has been appointed, and encouraging
   69  the child’s participation in extracurricular activities.
   70         7. Work in partnership with other stakeholders to obtain
   71  and maintain records that are important to the child’s well
   72  being, including child resource records, medical records, school
   73  records, photographs, and records of special events and
   74  achievements.
   75         8. Ensure that the child in the caregiver’s care who is
   76  between 13 and 17 years of age learns and masters independent
   77  living skills.
   78         9. Ensure that the child in the caregiver’s care is aware
   79  of the requirements and benefits of the Road-to-Independence
   80  Program.
   81         10. Work to enable the child in the caregiver’s care to
   82  establish and maintain naturally occurring mentoring
   83  relationships.
   84         11. Accompany the child to the department’s local child
   85  protective investigator office for an annual private interview
   86  with a child protective investigator. The caregiver shall be
   87  interviewed separately from the child. If the investigator
   88  detects signs of abuse or neglect, the child may be removed from
   89  the foster home and taken into the custody of the department as
   90  provided in s. 39.401.
   91         (b) Roles and responsibilities of the department, the
   92  community-based care lead agency, and other agency staff.—The
   93  department, the community-based care lead agency, and other
   94  agency staff shall:
   95         1. Include a caregiver in the development and
   96  implementation of the case plan for the child and his or her
   97  family. The caregiver shall be authorized to participate in all
   98  team meetings or court hearings related to the child’s care and
   99  future plans. The caregiver’s participation shall be facilitated
  100  through timely notification, an inclusive process, and
  101  alternative methods for participation for a caregiver who cannot
  102  be physically present.
  103         2. Develop and make available to the caregiver the
  104  information, services, training, and support that the caregiver
  105  needs to improve his or her skills in parenting children who
  106  have experienced trauma due to neglect, abuse, or separation
  107  from home, to meet these children’s special needs, and to
  108  advocate effectively with child welfare agencies, the courts,
  109  schools, and other community and governmental agencies.
  110         3. Provide the caregiver with all information related to
  111  services and other benefits that are available to the child.
  112         4. Require the caregiver to undergo level 2 background
  113  screening pursuant to chapter 435 and a drug test before a child
  114  may be placed with the caregiver. The caregiver shall undergo
  115  the screening and drug test annually after the child is placed
  116  with the caregiver. A person who tests positive for a controlled
  117  substance as a result of a drug test required under this
  118  subparagraph is ineligible to participate in the foster care
  119  system. If the caregiver tests positive for a controlled
  120  substance as a result of a drug test required under this
  121  subparagraph, the child may be removed from the foster home and
  122  taken into the custody of the department as provided in s.
  123  39.401.
  124         (c) Transitions.—
  125         1. Once a caregiver accepts the responsibility of caring
  126  for a child, the child will be removed from the home of that
  127  caregiver only if:
  128         a. The caregiver is clearly unable to safely or legally
  129  care for the child;
  130         b. The child and his or her biological family are
  131  reunified;
  132         c. The child is being placed in a legally permanent home
  133  pursuant to the case plan or a court order; or
  134         d. The caregiver does not comply with the requirements of
  135  subparagraph (a)11., in which case the department may withhold
  136  financial assistance until compliance is verified; or
  137         e.d. The removal is demonstrably in the child’s best
  138  interest.
  139         2. In the absence of an emergency, if a child leaves the
  140  caregiver’s home for a reason provided under subparagraph 1.,
  141  the transition must be accomplished according to a plan that
  142  involves cooperation and sharing of information among all
  143  persons involved, respects the child’s developmental stage and
  144  psychological needs, ensures the child has all of his or her
  145  belongings, allows for a gradual transition from the caregiver’s
  146  home and, if possible, for continued contact with the caregiver
  147  after the child leaves.
  148         Section 2. Section 409.1753, Florida Statutes, is amended
  149  to read:
  150         409.1753 Foster care; duties.—The department shall ensure
  151  that, within each district:,
  152         (1) Each foster home is given a telephone number for the
  153  foster parent to call during normal working hours whenever
  154  immediate assistance is needed and the child’s caseworker is
  155  unavailable. This number must be staffed and answered by
  156  individuals possessing the knowledge and authority necessary to
  157  assist foster parents.
  158         (2) A caseworker shall conduct a monthly unannounced visit
  159  to the foster home.
  160         (3) A caseworker may not be assigned more than 15 cases per
  161  month. For each case assigned to a caseworker, the caseworker
  162  shall contact administrators and staff of the child’s school to
  163  verify the safety of the learning environment.
  164         (4) If the caseworker responsible for the child for whom a
  165  report is submitted pursuant to s. 39.201 does not proceed with
  166  a full investigation within 5 working days, the caseworker shall
  167  be suspended for 1 week without pay. If another violation is
  168  reported, the caseworker shall be evaluated for possible
  169  demotion or termination.
  170         Section 3. The regional managing director of each region of
  171  the Department of Children and Families shall monitor the
  172  circuits comprising the director’s region and review each
  173  circuit’s caseload, policies, and procedures for compliance with
  174  ss. 409.145 and 409.1753, Florida Statutes, as amended by this
  175  act, and report his or her findings to the state foster care
  176  program manager of the department’s Child Welfare Program. If
  177  the state foster care program manager determines that a circuit
  178  is not in compliance, a written warning shall be issued to the
  179  regional managing director for the circuit. After three
  180  warnings, the state foster care program manager shall conduct an
  181  annual evaluation of that circuit until compliance is verified.
  182  Caseworkers and other employees of the department shall be
  183  monitored to ensure that foster care families and the children
  184  under their supervision have appropriate care and guidance while
  185  in the state foster care system. The state foster care program
  186  manager may impose sanctions for noncompliance with the
  187  requirements of ss. 409.145 and 409.1753, Florida Statutes, as
  188  amended by this act.
  189         Section 4. This act shall take effect July 1, 2014.