Five Florida Agencies Join Together to Improve Educational Opportunities for Foster Youth
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – The heads of five Florida state agencies formally agreed today to work together to ensure that children in state care receive an appropriate, high-quality and stable education.
Signing the Interagency Agreement to Coordinate Services for Children Served by the Florida Child Welfare System were the heads of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Education (DOE), the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), and the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI). Signers say that the agreement will go a long way toward ensuring that foster children receive the coordinated services and the stability they need to succeed in school and beyond.
“A major predictor of educational success is educational stability, but when children are placed in the care of the state, they frequently are forced to attend a new school, and this can have a devastating effect emotionally and academically,” said DCF Secretary George Sheldon at a joint press conference in Tallahassee. “It is our moral responsibility to ensure that these young people – starting in pre-school and continuing on – are given opportunities that will allow them to graduate with their peers and to successfully pursue post-graduate studies or fulfilling careers.”
The agreement sets 11 basic goals, requires specific actions, and assigns responsibilities to each agency to better ensure that no child “falls through the cracks.” It covers, among other things, the sharing of information among agencies and collaboration on educational stabilization, dependency case planning, early identification of disabilities, independent living skills, post-secondary educational opportunities, and employment training and support services. The agreement also requires representatives to meet regularly to develop interagency strategies and initiatives that enhance the coordination and quality of services and to prepare a progress report every six months.
“The Agency for Workforce Innovation is committed to working closely with our partner agencies to help Florida’s young people become successful adults,” said AWI Director Cynthia R. Lorenzo. “This agreement will help connect young people who have faced significant challenges in their lives with meaningful employment opportunities, in keeping with our priorities of strengthening families and helping reinvigorate our economy.”
APD Director Jim DeBeaugrine said his agency is excited to be a part of this ongoing collaboration to improve services to children in the care of the state. “All of the agencies have a responsibility to do all we can to improve the lives of the state's children,” he said. “I look forward to moving this agreement into action.”
DJJ Secretary Frank Peterman Jr. said that his agency has had an annual memorandum of agreement with the DOE since 2002. “We’ve done this to ensure that the youth in our care are provided with strong educational opportunities,” he said. “I believe this additional agreement furthers this commitment especially to the approximately 300 youth dually served by DJJ and DCF.”
Florida Commissioner of Education Dr. Eric J. Smith said, “Every child, regardless of their individual circumstances, deserves a high-quality education capable of propelling them to future success. Through increased collaboration and partnership, I am optimistic that our efforts will help achieve this extremely important goal.”
The Interagency Agreement to Coordinate Services for Children Served by the Florida Welfare System and detailed information about goals, actions and agency responsibilities is available at http://www.myflorida.com/cf_web/. For additional information on education and workforce services available to teens and young adults, please visit http://www.myfloridayouth.com/