(1) DUTIES.–A lead agency:
(a)1. Shall serve:
a. All children referred as a result of a report of abuse, neglect, or abandonment to the department’s central abuse hotline, including, but not limited to, children who are the subject of verified reports and children who are not the subject of verified reports but who are at moderate to extremely high risk of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, as determined using the department’s risk assessment instrument, regardless of the level of funding allocated to the lead agency by the state if all related funding is transferred.
b. Children who were adopted from the child welfare system and whose families require postadoption supports.
2. May also serve children who have not been the subject of reports of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, but who are at risk of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, to prevent their entry into the child protection and child welfare system.
Terms Used In Florida Statutes 409.988
- alliance: means the group of stakeholders, community leaders, client representatives, and funders of human services established pursuant to…. See Florida Statutes 409.986
- Care: means services of any kind which are designed to facilitate a child remaining safely in his or her own home, returning safely to his or her own home if he or she is removed from the home, or obtaining an alternative permanent home if he or she cannot remain at home or be returned home. See Florida Statutes 409.986
- Contract: A legal written agreement that becomes binding when signed.
- Dependent: A person dependent for support upon another.
- Evidence: Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.
- Guardian: A person legally empowered and charged with the duty of taking care of and managing the property of another person who because of age, intellect, or health, is incapable of managing his (her) own affairs.
- lead agency: means a single entity with which the department has a contract for the provision of care for children in the child protection and child welfare system in a community that is no smaller than a county and no larger than two contiguous judicial circuits. See Florida Statutes 409.986
- Oversight: Committee review of the activities of a Federal agency or program.
- Pleadings: Written statements of the parties in a civil case of their positions. In the federal courts, the principal pleadings are the complaint and the answer.
- Testimony: Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.
(b) Shall provide accurate and timely information necessary for oversight by the department pursuant to the child welfare results-oriented accountability system required by s. 409.997.
(c) Shall follow the financial guidelines developed by the department and provide for a regular independent auditing of its financial activities. Such financial information shall be provided to the community alliance established under s. 20.19(5).
(d) Shall prepare all judicial reviews, case plans, and other reports necessary for court hearings for dependent children, except those related to the investigation of a referral from the department’s child abuse hotline, and shall submit these documents timely to the department’s attorneys for review, any necessary revision, and filing with the court. The lead agency shall make the necessary staff available to department attorneys for preparation for dependency proceedings, and shall provide testimony and other evidence required for dependency court proceedings in coordination with the department’s attorneys. This duty does not include the preparation of legal pleadings or other legal documents, which remain the responsibility of the department.
(e) Shall ensure that all individuals providing care for dependent children receive:
1. Appropriate training and meet the minimum employment standards established by the department. Appropriate training shall include, but is not limited to, training on the recognition of and responses to head trauma and brain injury in a child under 6 years of age developed by the Child Protection Team Program within the Department of Health.
2. Contact information for the local mobile response team established under s. 394.495.
(f) Shall maintain eligibility to receive all available federal child welfare funds.
(g) Shall adhere to all best child welfare practices under ss. 39.4087, 39.523, 409.1415, and 409.145.
(h) Shall maintain written agreements with Healthy Families Florida lead entities in its service area pursuant to s. 409.153 to promote cooperative planning for the provision of prevention and intervention services.
(i) Shall comply with federal and state statutory requirements and agency rules in the provision of contractual services.
(j) May subcontract for the provision of services required by the contract with the lead agency and the department; however, the subcontracts must specify how the provider will contribute to the lead agency meeting the performance standards established pursuant to the child welfare results-oriented accountability system required by s. 409.997. The lead agency shall directly provide no more than 35 percent of all child welfare services provided unless it can demonstrate a need, within the lead agency’s geographic service area, to exceed this threshold. The local community alliance in the geographic service area in which the lead agency is seeking to exceed the threshold shall review the lead agency’s justification for need and recommend to the department whether the department should approve or deny the lead agency’s request for an exemption from the services threshold. If there is not a community alliance operating in the geographic service area in which the lead agency is seeking to exceed the threshold, such review and recommendation shall be made by representatives of local stakeholders, including at least one representative from each of the following:
1. The department.
2. The county government.
3. The school district.
4. The county United Way.
5. The county sheriff’s office.
6. The circuit court corresponding to the county.
7. The county children’s board, if one exists.
(k) Shall publish on its website by the 15th day of each month at a minimum the data specified in subparagraphs 1.-5., calculated using a standard methodology determined by the department, for the preceding calendar month regarding its case management services. The following information shall be reported by each individual subcontracted case management provider, by the lead agency, if the lead agency provides case management services, and in total for all case management services subcontracted or directly provided by the lead agency:
1. The average caseload of case managers, including only filled positions;
2. The total number and percentage of case managers who have 25 or more cases on their caseloads;
3. The turnover rate for case managers and case management supervisors for the previous 12 months;
4. The percentage of required home visits completed; and
5. Performance on outcome measures required pursuant to s. 409.997 for the previous 12 months.
(l) Shall identify an employee to serve as a liaison with the community alliance and community-based and faith-based organizations interested in collaborating with the lead agency or offering services or other assistance on a volunteer basis to the children and families served by the lead agency. The lead agency shall ensure that appropriate lead agency staff and subcontractors, including, but not limited to, case managers, are informed of the specific services or assistance available from community-based and faith-based organizations.
(m) Shall include the statement “  (community-based care lead agency name)   is a community-based care lead agency contracted with the Department of Children and Families” on its website and, at a minimum, in its promotional literature, lead agency-created documents and forms provided to families served by the lead agency, business cards, and stationery letterhead.
(a) A lead agency must be licensed as a child-caring or child-placing agency by the department under this chapter.
(b) Each foster home, therapeutic foster home, emergency shelter, or other placement facility operated by the lead agency must be licensed by the department under chapter 402 or this chapter.
(c) Substitute care providers who are licensed under s. 409.175 and who have contracted with a lead agency are also authorized to provide registered or licensed family day care under s. 402.313 if such care is consistent with federal law and if the home has met the requirements of s. 402.313.
(d) In order to eliminate or reduce the number of duplicate inspections by various program offices, the department shall coordinate inspections required for licensure of agencies under this subsection.
(e) The department may adopt rules to administer this subsection.
(3) SERVICES.–A lead agency must provide dependent children with services that are supported by research or that are recognized as best practices in the child welfare field. The agency shall give priority to the use of services that are evidence-based and trauma-informed and may also provide other innovative services, including, but not limited to, family-centered and cognitive-behavioral interventions designed to mitigate out-of-home placements and intensive family reunification services that combine child welfare and mental health services for families with dependent children under 6 years of age.
(4) LEAD AGENCY ACTING AS GUARDIAN.–
(a) If a lead agency or other provider has accepted case management responsibilities for a child who is sheltered or found to be dependent and who is assigned to the care of the lead agency or other provider, the agency or provider may act as the child’s guardian for the purpose of registering the child in school if a parent or guardian of the child is unavailable and his or her whereabouts cannot reasonably be ascertained.
(b) The lead agency or other provider may also seek emergency medical attention for the child, but only if a parent or guardian of the child is unavailable, the parent’s or guardian’s whereabouts cannot reasonably be ascertained, and a court order for such emergency medical services cannot be obtained because of the severity of the emergency or because it is after normal working hours.
(c) A lead agency or other provider may not consent to sterilization, abortion, or termination of life support.
(d) If a child’s parents’ rights have been terminated, the lead agency shall act as guardian of the child in all circumstances.