Among Florida foster child abuse attorneys and child advocates from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to throughout the state, it’s no secret that the Florida Department of Children and Family’s experiment in privatization of child welfare services has been a failure. Hundreds of children, many known to DCF officials to be at risk, have died at the hands of caregivers while agency supervisors or employees stood by. Many others suffered horrible sexual abuse, physical abuse or emotional trauma.
Now, a recent study reveals the failed experiment of privatization of child welfare stretches nationwide.
In its investigative report, Fostering Profits, online news organization BuzzFeed News identified sex abuse and blunders in screening, training, and overseeing foster parents at the nation’s largest for-profit foster care company.
Court documents revealed that abuse at one facility contracted by National Mentor Holdings resulted in “blunders in screening, training, and overseeing its foster parents” were “not limited to a few tragic cases but are widespread.”
The report also found that “Few states make their evaluations of foster care providers public. But government assessments from three states show that Mentor has had troubling deficiencies in selecting, training, and monitoring its foster parents and foster homes,” according to BuzzFeed.
What’s worse, board members of the billion-dollar, for-profit corporation either denied any knowledge of the issues or declined to be interviewed by BuzzFeed.
This is a horrible reality that is apparent in Florida as well. While the organizations that oversee foster care cases are different, many suffer the same shortcomings. Some foster parents are poorly screened or background checked to ensure they’re safe to be around children. Caseworkers are ill-trained or under-prepared to manage their case loads. Supervisors are too overwhelmed to manage their subordinates.
The result: Foster kids and other at-risk children are sexually abused, physically harmed, mentally scarred – even killed – in events that are grossly under-reported or denied altogether by agency officials.
To be sure, many foster parents are caring individuals who provide loving, stable homes to the children they take in. But the reality that permeates the child welfare system is one of abusive caregivers who seek only the check that comes from the state or corporation contracted to provide for the kids.
Whether for a billion-dollar corporation or a foster parent seeking a monthly stipend, when money is the driver, the children lose – every time. This is the experiment of child welfare services. No wonder it’s failing nationwide.