The following is an opinion piece from Howard Talenfeld, President of Florida’s Children First and the founder of Talenfeld Law.
When Senators Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, the Chairman and Ranking Member respectively of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, released findings from a two-year investigation into foster care privatization, it did more than reveal “abuse, neglect and system failures at every level.”
It confirmed what Floridians have known for years, though Florida did not respond to senators’ request for information. As implemented in Florida in many jurisdictions around the country, privatized foster care is an experiment that has failed.
Launched in 2015, of the 33 states that did respond, Senate investigators found failures and flaws in state and federal oversight structures and data collection have made it difficult to impossible to “monitor the operations of the child welfare system, especially its private providers,” according a joint statement from the senators.
This has led to foster children being physically, sexually, and emotionally abused. Countless children have died at the hands of their foster parents or caregivers, who often have little oversight by private contractors concerned more about profits than child care. The situation has only been made worse by the nation opioid epidemic, investigators found.
“It is outrageous and heartbreaking that so many vulnerable children experience neglect and abuse within our foster care system,” Wyden said. “The ultimate indictment of this system is there is so little oversight that the government can’t even confirm the gaps that caring advocates tell us are getting worse.”
A series of bipartisan recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Congress, and the states could help address child welfare systems’ shortcomings.
Further, legislation announced today – the Child Welfare Oversight and Accountability Act of 2017 – hopefully will further address systemic issues by strengthening oversight and accountability of child welfare systems and individual providers, improve training for caseworkers, and providing incentives for more children in foster care to be placed with family members.
Florida cannot hide from findings that reveal that nationally and at home, privatized foster care is a failure.