The Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Dental Association have reinforced their partnership in an effort to help improve dental care for all children who are in foster care. On Thursday, the Florida Dental Association and its members will offer dental treatment for 50 youth in the local foster care system at no cost.

Last year, DCF made quality dental care of children in foster care a top priority as the agency continues to make certain that these youth receive the same attention and compassion every child deserves.

“Often, youth enter foster care already suffering from serious dental concerns or neglect. We have an obligation to these children to attend to all of their medical needs, including dental care, while we serve as their caregivers,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. “We are proud that the Florida Dental Association will help us ensure that all children, including those in foster care, have access to quality dental services. It’s more than simply good oral hygiene. A healthy smile promotes confidence and self-esteem.”

Last year, DCF began closely monitoring health care services among community-based care organizations across the state who contract with the agency to provide foster care services. Since the initiative began, much progress has been made and there has been a very positive response from providers.

Brevard Family Partnership, which oversees foster care services in Brevard County, leads the state in the percentage of youth now receiving dental care at 94 percent. Statewide, nearly 79 percent of youth in foster care are receiving appropriate dental care. The challenges in Central Florida are greater since fewer than 75 percent of children in foster care have seen a dentist in the previous six months.