Every parent goes through hard times. Maybe you come down with a serious illness. Or you lose your job and your housing. Or perhaps you end up in the hospital for a lengthy stay.
Usually, all this means is that the other parent has to take over for a while. However, if you are raising your child all by yourself, the situation becomes much more complicated.
Your child could be taken in by the foster care system. You could even lose custody.
Florida lawmakers are hoping to change the temporary foster care system in order to give struggling single parents more options. If a new bill passes, parents would be able to allow “host” families outside of their extended family members to care for their children while they are seeking help.
The bill is called the Temporary Care of a Child Act. It allows church groups and other nonprofit organizations to match struggling parents with host families that temporarily care for children. The bill relies on volunteers to set up communication with host families, as well as to serve as host families. In order to care for a child, the host families would have to pass a background check, and would only be able to host children for up to 90 days.
If this bill is passed, a struggling parent would not have to give their child to the state foster care system. Instead, they would be able to let their kid stay with someone they know and trust until they can get back on their feet.
Supporters of the bill argue that it will help to ease the pressure on Florida’s child welfare system. There are a lot of children in the system, and new parents who want to adopt or foster kids can have trouble navigating its complexities. For some, this process is so daunting that they end up deciding not to foster or adopt.
Critics, however, say that the bill leaves a lot of unanswered questions. While Florida does include eligibility requirements for both hosts and parents (parents with a history of neglect or abuse, as well as parents in a custody battle, cannot participate, for example), but there is no licensing required for groups that want to match families. Family lawyers argue that parents without custody should be allowed to host a child as well, but the bill says nothing about this.
What Does This Mean For You?
The Temporary Care of a Child Act has the potential to provide struggling parents with an alternative to foster care, and reassure them that they can maintain custody of their child while still seeking help. However, a program like this is not as simple as the bill is currently making it out to be.
If you are a single parent who might benefit from this program, make sure you consult with a family lawyer before doing anything. Even after the bill passes, there will still be kinks to work out and loopholes to close up.
If you are an adult who is considering adopting or fostering a child, look into this program. This is a great way to start learning about childcare and navigating Florida’s child welfare system. The program does not have strict requirements, and would allow you to temporarily improve the lives of both a child and a struggling parent. A family lawyer can help you through the process of adoption, or to navigate the child welfare system.
If you are in an organization that would like to participate in this program, or can add professional input, talk to your representatives. As mentioned above, there are still unanswered questions. For the bill to pass, lawmakers will be seeking those answers from professionals and people with experience in this system.