DCF Announces Strong Child and Family Wellbeing Initiative to Better Support Families – State of Reform
Department of Children and Families (Department) Secretary Shevaun Harris announced last week the creation of a Family Navigator initiative to improve the safety and well-being of children in Florida after a report of child abuse or neglect potential.
After reviewing past child protection cases and reports to determine commonalities and further assess current practices, the Ministry developed a new model to address gaps in the child protection system, including building engagement and ensuring families receive the right support services at the right time. This new model will strengthen the Department’s engagement efforts with families, further promoting safe and resilient families.
“Building on the recent momentum of historic funding for Florida’s child welfare system, the Department has brought together industry leaders from all parts of our system to help create supports to improve the well-being of Florida families,” said Secretary Shevaun Harris. “With the rollout of Family Navigators, the Department will use these clinicians to meet with families where they are to help parents and children heal from trauma and overcome mental health and addictions issues in order to ‘help promote safe and resilient families.’
Over the past several weeks, the Department has worked with child protection and behavioral health officials across the state to develop a new strategy, which will improve support for child protection investigators (CPI ) to improve outcomes for Florida families.
“Secretary Harris’s push to improve the engagement and support we provide to families in the system is the right way we should approach protection and prevention,” said Wilmine Merilan-Louis, Supervisor of Child Protection Investigations, Broward County Sheriff’s Office. “We need to continue to examine our practices and determine what is working and where we can make improvements. Our state’s children deserve this kind of innovation and leadership, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office is energized by this new model and forward-thinking.
“Ensuring our survivors have the resources they need to thrive in the community is our top priority,” said Dr. Gail Patin, President and CEO of Hubbard House. “We know that the partnership between providers, advocates and the state is essential to improving the system. We are encouraged by the leadership of the Ministry and thank them for convening today’s panel and the Family Navigator initiative.
“The integration of behavioral health and child well-being is the foundation of our mission at Citrus Health,” said Maria Alonso, COO of Citrus Health Network. “Our vision will only come to fruition if we integrate our services holistically with our families to further ensure their well-being. This announcement from the Department is an encouraging step forward, and we are delighted to be part of the implementation. »
“When working with a family in crisis, it is imperative that the right supports are not only offered, but used to stabilize and enhance recovery,” said Mike Watkins, CEO of Northwest Florida Health Network. “It is clear that through intentional collaboration with community partners and with recommendations from Secretary Harris, we can ensure Florida families not only have access, but are committed to the appropriate and timely assistance that they need and deserve, which will help them overcome the challenges they have. are presented “.
“A cornerstone of the field of psychiatry relies on evidence-based methods, and working with an administration that values improving accountability for mental health and addictions care providers is encouraging for us to hear,” said Dr. Courtney Phillips, Director of Behavioral Health, Palm Beach County Health Care District. “Most importantly, in order to improve the well-being of Florida families, we must employ a model shift that focuses on implementing 24/7 access to care. addiction treatment, available throughout the patient’s life because of its chronic nature”.
“As someone with lived experience of the system, I know that in concrete times of need, positive social connections and understanding can make all the difference to a family,” said Victoria Camper, parent representative. “This model has the ability to support families through authentic engagement and service coordination.”
A key part of ensuring child safety and family well-being is activating community resources, supports and mental health treatment services in a timely and appropriate manner. As trained clinicians, Family Navigators will work alongside the IPC and the family to quickly help assess, locate, and provide essential services to ensure the family unit is stabilized, safe, and on the path to building health. a resilient family unit. The Florida Child and Family Welfare System will continue to invest in the full embodiment of a trauma-responsive care system where the department, community care organizations, and governing entities come together to provide more meaningful services that promote positive outcomes to improve overall, long-term family well-being.
The Ministry will create a new Family Navigators resource:
- Create a Family Navigator resource that focuses on supporting family wellbeing, understanding the needs of families dealing with complex family dynamics, addictions and mental health crises.
- Through the deployment of the Family Navigator, the Department will implement a statewide behavioral health care model to immediately triage cases to provide “early engagement and early treatment” to help families at high risk.
- The Family Navigator will deploy strategies designed to quickly engage families with services, work closely with providers to liaise with services, and provide follow-up and support to monitor effective service delivery.
The Department will also implement the following additional actions:
- Begin family risk assessment immediately after beginning an investigation.
- Integrate second-level consultation services for child protection investigators for cases with higher risk propensity for better decision-making.
- Strengthen accountability of all state addiction and mental health treatment providers to ensure that families in the child welfare system who are identified as having high needs have access to essential services .
- Maximize appropriate resources to require managing entities to have a strong provider network that, within 72 hours, can provide immediate addiction and mental health services.
- Unite community partners and providers to ensure more meaningful resources and services are available and lead to behavior change.
- Prioritizing historic funding with more than $27.1 million for mental health and $73.9 million for addictions to ensure Florida families have access to essential supports and services.
- Standardize the Department’s program for newborns exposed to substances to expand best practices to help mothers with substance abuse disorders recover and provide safe and healthy environments for their infants.
- Revise departmental child protection and behavioral health care policies to reduce time to access services and improve overall state practices to support behavior change and the well-being of Florida families.
These actions will ensure that the Department works to activate communities across our state to wrap vulnerable families in intensive support to keep children in a safe and united home. Along with the Department’s broad programs, partners and providers, the Office of Child and Family Welfare will work to tightly integrate safety and well-being into the system of care to improve capacity family services and supports.
This press release was provided by the Florida Department of Children and Families.