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Politics

Upcoming Changes To Florida's Foster Care System

David Wilkins, the head of the Florida Department of Children and Families, says Florida is about to see “the most significant changes in the foster care system since Florida got a foster care system.”

More than 8,000 children are part of the foster system in Florida, and two pieces of legislation are about to change the kinds of opportunities available to them.

Governor Rick Scott just signed into law what he calls the “let kids be kids law,” which eliminates bureaucracy for foster parents. Previously, if a child under foster care wanted to do basic things like go to a slumber party or join the soccer team, a caseworker would have to sign off on it.

“A lot of rules were added into the system, all under the premise of helping protect the child,” sys Wilkins. “But in protecting the child, we in essence isolated them so much that they are not succeeding.”

Before the amount of red tape discouraged foster children and parents alike from getting involved in normal childhood activities.

“We have now empowered the foster parent to a new standard that has been defined, which is a reasonable and prudent parent standard,” Wilkins says.  “You would treat this child like you would treat your child - of course you can take them to soccer practice.”

The second part is the Independent Living Bill, which helps young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 who are continuing their education to remain supported by the foster care system if they choose.

The program provides a scholarship, along with mentoring and tutoring support to allow for a smoother transition into adulthood.

Wilkins says the real point is to benefit the kids. Many policy changes have been focused on administration, but these changes are “kid focused," he says.

According to Wilkins, the changes should make for better, more empowered foster parents, which are always in demand.

“Foster parenting is no longer the little old lady in the shoe."

Wilkins says that they’re actively recruiting families living the American dream - one that the children can learn from and emulate. 

More information about becoming a foster parent can be found at www.fosteringflorida.com