MELBOURNE, Fla. – April 15 2014 – 19 residents of Brevard County have returned from Tallahassee where they met with state legislators to advocate for a strong, community-based care system for abused and neglected children. The trip was conducted in conjunction with Children’s Week, an annual recognition of important children’s issues in Florida that calls to attention to childhood health, safety and development.
The team of travelers, which included a foster family, an adoptive family and a former foster youth who is now an adult participating in Brevard’s Independent Living program, were joined by board members and staff from Brevard Family Partnership, Brevard County’s lead agency for child welfare and Brevard C.A.R.E.S. its child abuse prevention and family preservation organization. The team with met with key members of both the House and Senate, as well as with members of the Governor’s staff for policy and legislative affairs. Their message was that Brevard and Florida’s system of care for abused, neglected and abandoned children must be adequately funded and staffed in order to provide the necessary programs and services that keep children safe and families together.
“With an emphasis on improvements to child welfare services in this year’s legislative session, it was imperative that we brought a strong team who could share their personal stories and why maintaining a strong, local system of care is so important to the health and welfare of the community,” said BFP’s director of communications, Geo Ropert, who led the team. “From our youngest to our most senior team members, each had a compelling story to tell that we believe made an impact on those who heard it.”
Brevard is hoping that changes in legislation will enhance its ability to provide front-end “wraparound” services to more families experiencing stressors or circumstances that could lead to child abuse or neglect before the situations rise to that level, and continue to improve its foster care and adoption programs. It is also hoping that the legislature will allocate more funding for direct services and additional caseworkers which will enable the agency to maintain the high quality system of care for which it has become known. Cuts to child welfare in past years have left many community based care agencies with scarce resources to build capacity and care for the children and families coming into their systems.