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Florida announces new scoring system for foster care providers

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Florida announces new scoring system for foster care providers

Children's Network of Southwest Florida ranks seventh-highest out of 20 in state's first scorecard.

Children's Network of Southwest Florida scores

The state has started handing out monthly marks to gauge how well organizations are caring for its 20,000 foster children.

The Department of Children and Families announced Wednesday that it will score the 20 private groups contracted to run the child welfare system on what officials consider to be the 12 most critical safety and wellness measures.

"With any business, whether it's McDonald's or Microsoft, there are benchmark measures they want to meet," said Joe Follick, a DCF spokesman. "If things aren't working well, we want to know that a problem exists and we need to fix it."

Follick said DCF Secretary David Wilkins pushed for the extra accountability.

"Taxpayers deserve to have this kind of information," Follick said.

The organizations have combined budgets of about $755 million, the first scorecard released shows.

The report gave the Children's Network of Southwest Florida, which runs foster care locally, the seventh-highest rank. It serves about 900 children in foster care. The organization scored well on keeping children from re-entering care and seen within 30 days but was on the lower end in preventing multiple foster care placements and obtaining timely medical and dental care.

Network CEO Nadereh Salim said in a statement that she was supportive of the scorecard system. Aimee McLaughlin, a network spokeswoman, said in an email that she and Salim were unavailable to talk Wednesday.

Stan Appelbaum, a founder of the Friends of Foster Children, said the network has worked to recruit more dentists and improve communication with foster parents. Appelbaum is also a Children's Network board member. He said it is difficult to tap stable placements for some of the most troubled children.

"They come in pretty damaged. When a child is moved around as much as they are in the foster care system, I'm not sure that we can blame anyone," he said. "We have to try to improve that."

Another area he'd like to better is the percentage of former foster children with a high school diploma or GED. The scorecard showed that 31 percent of young adults locally had reached that benchmark. The state standard is about 40 percent.

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