Florida Requires Child Welfare System to Teach Youth in Foster Care Their Rights

Posted August 30, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A middle-aged Black, male facilitator leads a discussion among a small group of Black adolescents — all seated in a circle.

The Nan­cy C. Detert Cham­pi­on for Chil­dren Act, a new Flori­da law, requires case man­agers and oth­er child wel­fare pro­fes­sion­als to teach young peo­ple in fos­ter care about the laws that pro­tect their rights and avail­able resources.

Every six months, young peo­ple in fos­ter care will be informed of their rights relat­ed to their care, safe­ty and health. They also will learn what Flori­da laws say about the ways fos­ter care can affect their day-to-day lives.

The pas­sage of the law is impor­tant for Flori­da Youth SHINE (FYS), a statewide advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion that led five years of advo­ca­cy to advance improved fos­ter care rights edu­ca­tion. Young lead­ers shared their fos­ter care expe­ri­ences with child wel­fare offi­cials and law­mak­ers to secure sup­port for the leg­is­la­tion. The law, which took effect on July 1, 2023, is named for Nan­cy C. Detert, a for­mer state sen­a­tor and long­time children’s rights advo­cate, who died in April 2023.

Legal Knowl­edge Empow­ers Youth in Fos­ter Care

Advo­cates hope that when more young peo­ple know their rights, they will ask for and ben­e­fit from ser­vices they are eli­gi­ble to receive.

We heard from hun­dreds of youths for years that they nev­er knew they had a right to attend school, or par­tic­i­pate in extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties or have their health care needs met,” says Geori Berman Sel­dine, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Florida’s Chil­dren First, the par­ent orga­ni­za­tion of Flori­da Youth SHINE and a Casey Foun­da­tion grantee.

Recent data con­firm the need to shine a light on rights. Many Flori­da teens and young adults in fos­ter care do not receive the resources and ser­vices cre­at­ed to sup­port their well-being and set them up for suc­cess in their tran­si­tion to adult­hood, accord­ing to the Casey Foundation’s Fos­ter­ing Youth Tran­si­tions 2023 brief. In Flori­da, 35% of youths ages 14 to 21 in fos­ter care between 2013 and 2021 received any fed­er­al­ly fund­ed Chafee tran­si­tion ser­vices for which they were eli­gi­ble, the brief estimates.

The new law also removes pre­vi­ous­ly estab­lished lim­i­ta­tions on the ques­tions chil­dren, teens and young adults may ask case man­agers about their rights and the ser­vices avail­able to them.

An Expand­ed Role for Florida’s Fos­ter Care Ombudsman

In addi­tion to cre­at­ing a clear process for edu­cat­ing youth, the law enshrined the Office of the Children’s Ombuds­man. Cre­at­ed by the Flori­da Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies (DCF) in 2016, the office has sev­er­al responsibilities:

  • devel­op the new legal rights curriculum;
  • receive com­plaints from chil­dren and young adults about place­ment, care and ser­vices and assist in medi­at­ing their concerns;
  • iden­ti­fy and explain rel­e­vant poli­cies or pro­ce­dures to chil­dren, youth and their care­givers; and
  • pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions to DCF to address any sys­temic prob­lems iden­ti­fied through its work.

Young peo­ple in fos­ter care will also play a role in the oper­a­tions of the ombuds­man. The Office will con­sult young peo­ple as it devel­ops a plan and pre­pares infor­ma­tion­al mate­ri­als. This col­lab­o­ra­tion will ensure the infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed is age-appro­pri­ate, under­stand­able and rel­e­vant to the young people’s fos­ter care experiences.

Nation­al­ly, child wel­fare sys­tems can do a bet­ter job of ensur­ing young peo­ple are aware of resources and gain access to them,” says Todd Lloyd, senior pol­i­cy asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion. Mov­ing for­ward, we hope more states work close­ly with chil­dren, teens and young adults who have expe­ri­enced fos­ter care to improve ser­vices intend­ed to help them thrive.”

Learn about a mobile app that explains fos­ter care rights

This post is related to:

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families