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The Florida Statutes

The 2021 Florida Statutes

Title XXX
SOCIAL WELFARE
Chapter 409
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
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F.S. 409.996
409.996 Duties of the Department of Children and Families.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, at a minimum, services are delivered in accordance with applicable federal and state statutes and regulations and the performance standards and metrics specified in the strategic plan created under s. 20.19(1).
(1) The department shall enter into contracts with lead agencies for the performance of the duties by the lead agencies established in s. 409.988. At a minimum, the contracts must do all of the following:
(a) Provide for the services needed to accomplish the duties established in s. 409.988.
(b) Require the lead agency to provide information to the department which specifies how the lead agency will adhere to all best child welfare practices under ss. 39.4087, 39.523, 409.1415, and 409.145.
(c) Provide information to the department which is necessary to meet the requirements for a quality assurance program under subsection (21) and the child welfare results-oriented accountability system under s. 409.997.
(d) Provide for tiered interventions and graduated penalties for failure to comply with contract terms or in the event of performance deficiencies. Such interventions and penalties shall include, but are not limited to:
1. Enhanced monitoring and reporting.
2. Corrective action plans.
3. Requirements to accept technical assistance and consultation from the department under subsection (6).
4. Financial penalties, which shall require a lead agency to reallocate funds from administrative costs to direct care for children.
5. Early termination of contracts, as provided in s. 402.1705(3)(f).
(e) 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.
(f) 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 published 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 annually conduct a comprehensive, multiyear review of the revenues, expenditures, and financial position of all community-based care lead agencies which must cover the most recent 2 consecutive fiscal years. The review must include a comprehensive system-of-care analysis. All community-based care lead agencies must develop and maintain a plan to achieve financial viability. The department’s review and the agency’s plan shall be submitted to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by November 1 of each year.
(4)(a) The department shall collect and publish on its website, and annually update, all of the following information for each lead agency under contract with the department:
1. All compensation earned or awarded, whether paid or accrued, regardless of contingency, by position, for any employee, and any other person who is compensated through a contract for services whose services include those commonly associated with a chief executive, chief administrator, or other chief officer of a business or corporation, who receives compensation from state-appropriated funds in excess of 150 percent of the annual salary paid to the secretary of the department. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “employee” has the same meaning as in s. 448.095.
2. All findings of the review under subsection (3).
(b) The department shall collect and publish on its website, and update monthly, the information required under s. 409.988(1)(k).
(5) 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 under s. 409.992 and other applicable state and federal laws.
(6) The department may provide technical assistance and consultation to lead agencies as necessary for the achievement of performance standards, including, but not limited to, providing additional resources to assist the lead agencies to implement best practices or institute operational efficiencies.
(7) The department retains the responsibility for the review, approval or denial, and issuances of all foster home licenses.
(8) 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.
(9) The department shall assist lead agencies with access to and coordination with other service programs within the department.
(10) The department shall determine Medicaid eligibility for all referred children and shall coordinate services with the Agency for Health Care Administration.
(11) The department shall develop, in cooperation with the lead agencies, a third-party credentialing entity approved under s. 402.40(3), and the Florida Institute for Child Welfare established under s. 1004.615, a standardized competency-based curriculum for certification training for child protection staff.
(12) The department shall maintain the statewide adoptions website and provide information and training to the lead agencies relating to the website.
(13) 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.
(14) 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.
(15) 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.
(16) 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.
(17) 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.
(18) 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.
(19) The department may directly 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, at a minimum, 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.
(20)(a) The department may contract for the provision of children’s legal services to prepare and present cases in dependency court. The contracted attorneys shall ensure that the court is provided with adequate information for informed decisionmaking in dependency cases, including, at a minimum, a face sheet for each case which lists the names and contact information for any child protective investigator, child protective investigator supervisor, and the regional department official responsible for the lead agency contract. The contracted attorneys 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.
(b) The contracted attorneys shall adopt the child welfare practice model, as periodically updated by the department, that is used by attorneys employed by the department. The contracted attorneys shall operate in accordance with the same federal and state performance standards and metrics imposed on children’s legal services attorneys employed by the department.
(c) The department and contracted attorneys providing children’s legal services shall collaborate to monitor program performance on an ongoing basis. The department and contracted attorneys, or a representative from such contracted attorneys’ offices, shall meet at least quarterly to collaborate on federal and state quality assurance and quality improvement initiatives.
(d) The department shall conduct an annual program performance evaluation which shall be based on the same child welfare practice model principles and federal and state performance standards that are imposed on children’s legal services attorneys employed by the department. The program performance evaluation must be standardized statewide, and the department shall select random cases for evaluation. The program performance evaluation shall be conducted by a team of peer reviewers from the respective contracted attorneys’ offices that perform children’s legal services and representatives from the department.
(e) The department shall publish an annual report regarding, at a minimum, performance quality, outcome-measure attainment, and cost efficiency of the services provided by the contracted attorneys. The annual report must include data and information on the performance of both the contracted attorneys and the department’s attorneys. The department shall submit the annual report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives no later than November 1 of each year that the contracted attorneys are receiving appropriations to provide children’s legal services for the department.
(21) The department, in consultation with lead agencies, shall establish a quality assurance program for contracted services to dependent children. The quality assurance program shall, at a minimum, be based on standards established by federal and state law, national accrediting organizations, and the Office of Quality established under s. 402.715, and must be consistent with the child welfare results-oriented accountability system required by s. 409.997.
(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. 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 under 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 under 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.
(22) The department and its attorneys, including contracted 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.
(23) 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.
(24) 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.
(25) 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. 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.
(26) In collaboration with lead agencies, service providers, and other community stakeholders, the department shall develop a statewide accountability system based on measurable quality standards. The accountability system must be implemented by July 1, 2021.
(a) The accountability system must:
1. Assess the overall health of the child welfare system, by circuit, using grading criteria established by the department.
2. Include a quality measurement system with domains and clearly defined levels of quality. The system must measure the performance standards for child protective investigators, lead agencies, and children’s legal services throughout the system of care, using criteria established by the department, and, at a minimum, address applicable federal- and state-mandated metrics.
3. Align with the principles of the results-oriented accountability program established under s. 409.997.
(b) After the development and implementation of the accountability system under this subsection, the department and each lead agency shall use the information from the accountability system to promote enhanced quality service delivery within their respective areas of responsibility.
(c) By December 1 of each year, the department shall submit a report on the overall health of the child welfare system to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(d) The department may adopt rules to implement this subsection.
(27) Subject to an appropriation, for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 fiscal years, the department shall implement a pilot project in the Sixth and Thirteenth Judicial Circuits, respectively, aimed at improving child welfare outcomes.
(a) In implementing the pilot projects, the department shall establish performance metrics and performance standards to assess improvements in safety, permanency, and the well-being of children in the local system of care for the lead agencies in those judicial circuits. Such metrics and standards must be aligned with indicators used in the most recent federal Child and Family Services Reviews.
(b) The lead agencies in the Sixth and Thirteenth Judicial Circuits shall provide performance data to the department each quarter. The department shall review the data for accuracy and completeness and then shall compare the actual performance of the lead agencies to the established performance metrics and standards. Each lead agency that exceeds performance metrics and standards is eligible for incentive funding.
(c) For the first quarter of each fiscal year, the department may advance incentive funding to the lead agencies in an amount equal to one quarter of the total allocated to the pilot project. After each quarter, the department shall assess the performance of the lead agencies for that quarter and adjust the subsequent quarter’s incentive funding based on its actual prior quarter performance.
(d) The department shall include the results of the pilot projects in the report required in subsection (26) of this section. The report must include the department’s findings and recommendations relating to the pilot projects.
(e) This subsection expires July 1, 2022.
History.s. 39, ch. 2014-224; s. 32, ch. 2017-151; s. 7, ch. 2020-152; s. 27, ch. 2021-170.