Eckerd Community Alternatives — Hillsborough (Eckerd) is the lead Community Based Care agency for Hillsborough County responsible for children served in the child welfare system. Eckerd assumed this responsibility on July 1, 2012.
Eckerd believes that the child protection system should be a resource for families – not a substitute for them – and that healthy, capable children come from healthy, capable families. Everything we do at Eckerd is based on the belief that the children, families and communities we serve always come first – and we embrace four main child welfare principles of Safety, Quality, Accountability, and Transparency. It is our tireless commitment, passion, and systemic approach to each of these that sets us apart and gives us the best opportunity for quality outcomes for children and families.
We will continue to engage and partner with the community to help us build a strong, safe system of care that is truly "community-based".
For their safety and well-being, children removed from their home are placed either in relatives' homes, non-relative's homes, foster homes or licensed placement. It is Eckerd’s priority to place children with relatives when possible and to the closest proximity to their removal home. This helps to ensure stability and normalcy.
The six current location type categories shown in the data table are: 1) Adoptive Home; 2) Group Care; 3) In-Home Care; 4) Licensed Family Care; 5) Non-Licensed Family Care; and 6) Other. The respective definitions for each follow.
According to the Child Welfare League of America, placements in foster care have risen dramatically in the past ten years. Currently, over 500,000 children in the U.S. reside in some form of out-of-home care. African-American children make up approximately two thirds of the foster care population and tend to remain in care longer. Two out of three children who enter foster care are reunited with their birth parents within two years. A significant number, however, can spend long periods of time in care awaiting adoption or another permanent arrangement. Over the past ten years in the United States, there has been a decrease in the number of foster parents (non-relative) available to care for children, resulting in larger numbers of children remaining in institutional settings. The number of relative caregivers ("kinship care"), however, has increased.
Foster care should be thought of as a significant part of the continuum of the child protection system of care in Hillsborough County and the State of Florida. In Hillsborough County there are more than 2,100 children living in out of home care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Children aged 0 - 17 are frequently a part of a sibling group. There is a critical need for quality families who can provide temporary care for these special children. The goal for these children is re-unification; however, many children are unable to return to their birth families. These children will need a foster and/or adoptive placement. Hillsborough County has consistently adopted approximately 300 children yearly, helping them find a forever family.
All child welfare information is entered in the state wide database, Florida Safe Families Network (FSFN). The organization uses Mindshare Predictive Analytics that provides real time access to key variables associated with child maltreatment (information in FSFN). This is accomplished by mining cases for keywords, risk factors, or missing but expected data and then reporting those variables to multiple levels of stakeholders based on predetermined criteria. Examples of criteria include:
This list represents just a few of the potential search items as any information that is entered into any field in FSFN can be mined including free from text. This is a key difference with existing reports as they require a dedicated field with a selected option from a drop down or radio button selection in order to populate as well as the labor/ time intensive process of report creation at the state level. Mindshare reports combine the mined variables based on established combinations into case lists for further review, but they are also configurable at the local level.
Becoming a Licensed Foster Parent could be the most challenging task you have ever considered. This questionnaire will help you to determine if you are eligible and ready to become a foster parent.
IF YOU ANSWERED YES TO ALL THESE STATEMENTS, YOU ARE READY TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A FOSTER PARENT!
Call Eckerd Community Alternatives at (813) 643-KIDS, or your licensing agency, for more information about becoming a foster parent.