As mentioned in this article, the growing opioid epidemic is unfortunately bringing more children into the Florida foster care system. While substance abuse has historically been a leading cause of children being removed from their home, the complexity of opioid addiction and recovery has only exacerbated the issue and is not unique to Florida. But Florida and Eckerd Connects can be leaders.
In Hillsborough County nearly 4,000 children and young adults receive foster care and related services daily, with 36 percent of removals due in part to substance abuse by the parent. Unfortunately, the child welfare funding model has not kept up with the growth and impact experienced by many communities, particularly those in the Tampa Bay area.
For example, Hillsborough County serves nearly 700 more children and young adults daily in the foster care system than Miami-Dade, yet receives nearly $20 million less in core funding annually. Across the bay, Pasco and Pinellas counties serve as many children and young adults as Miami-Dade, yet those counties receive nearly $28 million less annually than Miami-Dade.
Certainly, the opioid epidemic is tragic, but striking is the fact that Tampa Bay children receive significantly fewer resources to help their families compared to those in Miami. This troubling trend calls for a more equitable child welfare funding model, as well as more funds from the Legislature, so that the community and local agencies can invest in proven strategies that will enable Florida’s vulnerable children and families the opportunity to heal.
V. Raymond Ferrara, Eckerd Connects Community Alternatives, Pasco Pinellas board chair, Clearwater
Joseph W. Clark, Eckerd Connects Community Alternatives, Hillsborough board chair, Tampa