The department shall contract for the delivery, administration, or management of care for children in the child protection and child welfare system. In doing so, the department retains responsibility for the quality of contracted services and programs and shall ensure that services are delivered in accordance with applicable federal and state statutes and regulations.

(1) The department shall enter into contracts with lead agencies for the performance of the duties by the lead agencies pursuant to s. 409.988. At a minimum, the contracts must:

(a) Provide for the services needed to accomplish the duties established in s. 409.988 and provide information to the department which is necessary to meet the requirements for a quality assurance program pursuant to subsection (18) and the child welfare results-oriented accountability system pursuant to s. 409.997.

Terms Used In Florida Statutes 409.996

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Testimony: Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.
(b) Provide for graduated penalties for failure to comply with contract terms. Such penalties may include financial penalties, enhanced monitoring and reporting, corrective action plans, and early termination of contracts or other appropriate action to ensure contract compliance. The financial penalties shall require a lead agency to reallocate funds from administrative costs to direct care for children.
(c) Ensure that the lead agency shall furnish current and accurate information on its activities in all cases in client case records in the state’s statewide automated child welfare information system.
(d) Specify the procedures to be used by the parties to resolve differences in interpreting the contract or to resolve disputes as to the adequacy of the parties’ compliance with their respective obligations under the contract.
(2) The department must adopt written policies and procedures for monitoring the contract for delivery of services by lead agencies which must be posted on the department’s website. These policies and procedures must, at a minimum, address the evaluation of fiscal accountability and program operations, including provider achievement of performance standards, provider monitoring of subcontractors, and timely followup of corrective actions for significant monitoring findings related to providers and subcontractors. These policies and procedures must also include provisions for reducing the duplication of the department’s program monitoring activities both internally and with other agencies, to the extent possible. The department’s written procedures must ensure that the written findings, conclusions, and recommendations from monitoring the contract for services of lead agencies are communicated to the director of the provider agency and the community alliance as expeditiously as possible.
(3) The department shall receive federal and state funds as appropriated for the operation of the child welfare system, transmit these funds to the lead agencies as agreed to in the contract, and provide information on its website of the distribution of the federal funds. The department retains responsibility for the appropriate spending of these funds. The department shall monitor lead agencies to assess compliance with the financial guidelines established pursuant to s. 409.992 and other applicable state and federal laws.
(4) The department shall provide technical assistance and consultation to lead agencies in the provision of care to children in the child protection and child welfare system.
(5) The department retains the responsibility for the review, approval or denial, and issuances of all foster home licenses.
(6) The department shall process all applications submitted by lead agencies for the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children and the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance.
(7) The department shall assist lead agencies with access to and coordination with other service programs within the department.
(8) The department shall determine Medicaid eligibility for all referred children and shall coordinate services with the Agency for Health Care Administration.
(9) The department shall develop, in cooperation with the lead agencies, a third-party credentialing entity approved pursuant to s. 402.40(3), and the Florida Institute for Child Welfare established pursuant to s. 1004.615, a standardized competency-based curriculum for certification training for child protection staff.
(10) The department shall maintain the statewide adoptions website and provide information and training to the lead agencies relating to the website.
(11) The department shall provide training and assistance to lead agencies regarding the responsibility of lead agencies relating to children receiving supplemental security income, social security, railroad retirement, or veterans’ benefits.
(12) With the assistance of a lead agency, the department shall develop and implement statewide and local interagency agreements needed to coordinate services for children and parents involved in the child welfare system who are also involved with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and other governmental organizations that share responsibilities for children or parents in the child welfare system.
(13) With the assistance of a lead agency, the department shall develop and implement a working agreement between the lead agency and the substance abuse and mental health managing entity to integrate services and supports for children and parents serviced in the child welfare system.
(14) The department shall work with the Agency for Health Care Administration to provide each Medicaid-eligible child with early and periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment, including 72-hour screening, periodic child health checkups, and prescribed followup for ordered services, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and vision care.
(15) The department shall assist lead agencies in developing an array of services in compliance with the Title IV-E waiver and shall monitor the provision of such services.
(16) The department shall provide a mechanism to allow lead agencies to request a waiver of department policies and procedures that create inefficiencies or inhibit the performance of the lead agency’s duties.
(17) The department shall directly or through contract provide attorneys to prepare and present cases in dependency court and shall ensure that the court is provided with adequate information for informed decisionmaking in dependency cases, including a face sheet for each case which lists the names and contact information for any child protective investigator, child protective investigation supervisor, case manager, and case manager supervisor, and the regional department official responsible for the lead agency contract. The department shall provide to the court the case information and recommendations provided by the lead agency or subcontractor. For the Sixth Judicial Circuit, the department shall contract with the state attorney for the provision of these services.
(18) The department, in consultation with lead agencies, shall establish a quality assurance program for contracted services to dependent children. The quality assurance program shall be based on standards established by federal and state law and national accrediting organizations.

(a) The department must evaluate each lead agency under contract at least annually. These evaluations shall cover the programmatic, operational, and fiscal operations of the lead agency and must be consistent with the child welfare results-oriented accountability system required by s. 409.997. The department must consult with dependency judges in the circuit or circuits served by the lead agency on the performance of the lead agency.
(b) The department and each lead agency shall monitor out-of-home placements, including the extent to which sibling groups are placed together or provisions to provide visitation and other contacts if siblings are separated. The data shall identify reasons for sibling separation. Information related to sibling placement shall be incorporated into the results-oriented accountability system required pursuant to s. 409.997 and into the evaluation of the outcome specified in s. 409.986(2)(e). The information related to sibling placement shall also be made available to the institute established pursuant s. 1004.615 for use in assessing the performance of child welfare services in relation to the outcome specified in s. 409.986(2)(e).
(c) The department shall, to the extent possible, use independent financial audits provided by the lead agency to eliminate or reduce the ongoing contract and administrative reviews conducted by the department. If the department determines that such independent financial audits are inadequate, other audits, as necessary, may be conducted by the department. This paragraph does not abrogate the requirements of s. 215.97.
(d) The department may suggest additional items to be included in such independent financial audits to meet the department’s needs.
(e) The department may outsource programmatic, administrative, or fiscal monitoring oversight of lead agencies.
(f) A lead agency must assure that all subcontractors are subject to the same quality assurance activities as the lead agency.
(19) The department and its attorneys have the responsibility to ensure that the court is fully informed about issues before it, to make recommendations to the court, and to present competent evidence, including testimony by the department’s employees, contractors, and subcontractors, as well as other individuals, to support all recommendations made to the court. The department’s attorneys shall coordinate lead agency or subcontractor staff to ensure that dependency cases are presented appropriately to the court, giving consideration to the information developed by the case manager and direction to the case manager if more information is needed.
(20) The department, in consultation with lead agencies, shall develop a dispute resolution process so that disagreements between legal staff, investigators, and case management staff can be resolved in the best interest of the child in question before court appearances regarding that child.
(21) The department shall periodically, and before procuring a lead agency, solicit comments and recommendations from the community alliance established in s. 20.19(5), any other community groups, or public hearings. The recommendations must include, but are not limited to:

(a) The current and past performance of a lead agency.
(b) The relationship between a lead agency and its community partners.
(c) Any local conditions or service needs in child protection and child welfare.
(22) The department shall develop, in collaboration with the Florida Institute for Child Welfare, lead agencies, service providers, current and former foster children placed in residential group care, and other community stakeholders, a statewide accountability system for residential group care providers based on measureable quality standards.

(a) The accountability system must:

1. Promote high quality in services and accommodations, differentiating between shift and family-style models and programs and services for children with specialized or extraordinary needs, such as pregnant teens and children with Department of Juvenile Justice involvement.
2. Include a quality measurement system with domains and clearly defined levels of quality. The system must measure the level of quality for each domain, using criteria that residential group care providers must meet in order to achieve each level of quality. Domains may include, but are not limited to, admissions, service planning, treatment planning, living environment, and program and service requirements. The system may also consider outcomes 6 months and 12 months after a child leaves the provider’s care. However, the system may not assign a single summary rating to residential group care providers.
3. Consider the level of availability of trauma-informed care and mental health and physical health services, providers’ engagement with the schools children in their care attend, and opportunities for children’s involvement in extracurricular activities.
(b) After development and implementation of the accountability system in accordance with paragraph (a), the department and each lead agency shall use the information from the accountability system to promote enhanced quality in residential group care within their respective areas of responsibility. Such promotion may include, but is not limited to, the use of incentives and ongoing contract monitoring efforts.
(c) The department shall submit a report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by October 1 of each year, with the first report due October 1, 2017. The report must, at a minimum, include an update on the development of a statewide accountability system for residential group care providers and a plan for department oversight and implementation of the statewide accountability system. After implementation of the statewide accountability system, the report must also include a description of the system, including measures and any tools developed, a description of how the information is being used by the department and lead agencies, an assessment of placement of children in residential group care using data from the accountability system measures, and recommendations to further improve quality in residential group care.
(d) The accountability system must be implemented by July 1, 2022.
(e) Nothing in this subsection impairs the department’s licensure authority under s. 409.175.
(f) The department may adopt rules to administer this subsection.
(23)(a) The department, in collaboration with the Florida Institute for Child Welfare, shall convene a workgroup on foster home quality. The workgroup, at a minimum, shall identify measures of foster home quality, review current efforts by lead agencies and subcontractors to enhance foster home quality, identify barriers to the greater availability of high-quality foster homes, and recommend additional strategies for assessing the quality of foster homes and increasing the availability of high-quality foster homes.
(b) The workgroup shall include representatives from the department, the Florida Institute for Child Welfare, foster parents, current and former foster children, foster parent organizations, lead agencies, child-placing agencies, other service providers, and others as determined by the department.
(c) The Florida Institute for Child Welfare shall provide the workgroup with relevant research on, at a minimum, measures of quality of foster homes; evidence-supported strategies to increase the availability of high-quality foster homes, such as those regarding recruitment, screening, training, retention, and child placement; descriptions and results of quality improvement efforts in other jurisdictions; and the root causes of placement disruption.
(d) The department shall submit a report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by November 15, 2017. The report shall, at a minimum:

1. Describe the important dimensions of quality for foster homes;
2. Describe the foster home quality enhancement efforts in the state, including, but not limited to, recruitment, retention, placement procedures, systems change, and quality measurement programs, and any positive or negative results;
3. Identify barriers to the greater availability of high-quality foster homes;
4. Discuss available research regarding high-quality foster homes; and
5. Present a plan for developing and implementing strategies to increase the availability of high-quality foster homes. The strategies shall address important elements of quality, be based on available research, include both qualitative and quantitative measures of quality, integrate with the community-based care model, and be respectful of the privacy and needs of foster parents. The plan shall recommend possible instruments and measures and identify any changes to general law or rule necessary for implementation.