For nearly three decades, United Way of Miami-Dade and Florida Foster Care Review have worked hand-in-hand to safeguard the well-being and long-term success of children living in foster care.
In 1988, a 140-member citizen task force called the Foster Care Action Project was created by United Way of Miami-Dade to address a troubled foster care system. At the time, a federal law mandated that children in foster care had to be reviewed in juvenile courts every six months, but a backlog in cases made these reviews painstakingly slow, and children languished in the system with no one monitoring their progress or assuring they were receiving services.
Within a year, Florida Foster Care Review was established as an independent nonprofit and tasked with ensuring the successful implementation of the reviews carried out by Citizen Review Panels. The concept of a citizen review – using volunteers as independent monitors of the foster care system – addressed both the need to help the courts with increasing caseloads and to involve communities in the care of foster children.
Today, Florida Foster Care Review continues to recruit and train volunteers to review and monitor cases of children in the state’s foster care during monthly hearings which are held 16 days out of the month in the juvenile courts. Currently, there are 16 Citizen Review Panels meeting one day per month to conduct 10 – 12 reviews and submit their recommendations.
With these recommendations, which become binding court orders, Florida Foster Care Review holds foster care agencies accountable, assists judges in making informed decisions about children and families, and recommends judicial actions and social service interventions to enhance the safety and well-being of children and youth in foster care. It also acts as a resource and change advocate, hosting public education efforts, such as forums and task forces for child welfare stakeholders, and implementing Citizen Review Panel enhancements that directly address pressing concerns.
In the last nine years alone, more than 500 volunteers have contributed over 32,000 hours of service, and have monitored the safety and well-being of over 3,300 children.
Now Florida Foster Care Review seeks to apply its community-based review concept to more intensively promote positive outcomes for abused and neglected children and youth through innovative new programs and initiatives. With United Way of Miami-Dade as a strategic partner in the community providing more than $55,000 in funding, Florida Foster Care Review is now an essential part of the service delivery system.