Full Statement From ChildNet Regarding Supervision at Broward Group Homes | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Full Statement From ChildNet Regarding Supervision at Broward Group Homes

This week's feature story in New Times takes a hard look at a usually hidden corner of the state's bureaucracy — the group homes and foster care services that provide shelter for some of Florida's most troubled kids. Allegations of lax supervision have dogged the system, leading to reports of drug use, violence, and prostitution at these facilities — places that are supposed to be providing help to kids who need it most. 

Broward's system is unique: It is completely privatized, with the state contracting out the services related to group homes and foster care to a single nonprofit, ChildNet. This organization in turn monitors the care and subcontracts out services to various local agencies — and it's here, twice removed from the state, that problems allegedly take place.

In response to New Times' questions and the concerns outlined in the piece, ChildNet CEO Emilio Benitez provided the following statement. Due to issues of space, we could not include the full response in the main article, but we've reproduced the statement in full below for any readers who are interested. 

ChildNet and it's contracted provider agencies are committed to keeping children in care safe. It is equally important that we have and maintain a variety of placement options available for children and adolescents in care to provide for their diverse needs.

Children in group homes are there to learn independent living skills and experience normalcy. All children and adolescents are monitored and carefully supervised but residential care facilities are not a juvenile detention facility and these children are not under lock and key.

Working together, ChildNet, our provider agencies, DCF and Broward Sherriffs Office, are all committed to ensuring we are rescuing and restoring child and adolescents who are victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. It is our priority to raise awareness and build community capacity to treat and heal victims and prevent instances of trafficking in the future.

As part of an ongoing commitment by all partners to have a dialogue, share best practices and examine group and residential care, the group care workgroup was convened jointly with DCF to assess the current policies and collaborate on any changes or enhanced measures we need to be taking moving forward to protect all children in our care.

While we are prohibited by law from discussing any particular case, client, or incident, it’s important to know that we are taking the time to reassess the residential model and determine the best path forward to provide a safe environment while serving the intensive treatment needed for these children and adolescents.