Children & Families
Florida’s children are the most precious resource we have, and every child has the right to live in a home where they are safe and protected. Sadly, more than 1,000 Floridian children must be removed from their families each month. We rely on social workers to protect these children and work with the families in order to address the issues so the children can go home. These tireless defenders of Florida’s most vulnerable must be empowered to succeed by ensuring caseloads are manageable and are paid a wage worthy of the important work they do. According to a November 15 report from Florida TaxWatch, the Department of Children and Families experiences a turnover averaging 37 percent statewide, but can run as high as 80 percent in certain areas. Florida’s social workers also make almost 10 percent less than the national average.
If we are to say we are committed to keeping our children safe, we must provide the resources necessary to keep them safe instead of doing “more with less.” TaxWatch’s report also found that real spending on child welfare services has declined since 2008 when adjusted for inflation. While the effective operating budget of the DCF has been declining, the number of children entering the welfare system has been increasing.
We must do more than simply protect our children from abuse and neglect; we must help children start with the tools necessary to be successful and productive members of society. I support increased funding to programs that provide important psychosocial and care coordination to at-risk mothers and children.
As a working parent, I understand how challenging it can be to find high-quality, affordable childcare services. Increasing access to affordable childcare is one of the best investments Florida can make in its future. Using data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Brookings Institute reported that affordable childcare should not exceed 7 percent of family income. There is only one state in the nation, Louisiana, in which the cost of center-based infant care for one child meets that definition for a married couple with the median income for the state.” Almost every family requires two incomes to make ends meet, and I believe that subsidizing child care removes a major source of financial instability for Florida families. I also support increasing paid maternity and paternity leave, which allows parents to spend time with their children during the critical first months.