The Department of Children and Families has endorsed a new policy to prevent children with disabilities from being placed in nursing homes.
The new policy will require approval from high-level officials before a child can be placed in a nursing home, or moved from one institution to another. DCF will also focus its attention at recruiting more foster care parents with training to care for children with special needs. Currently, 19,000 children are in state care, and 220 children live in nursing homes.
In the past months, the state of Florida has come under fire from the Justice Department for the large number of disabled children in nursing homes, which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Justice Department also criticized the financial incentives provided to nursing homes that house children, sometimes providing double the per-diem for kids compared to elders.
Recently, a 14-year old girl with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder died after arriving at a Miami Gardens nursing home. She was sent to the nursing home against her mother's wishes, and was under the control of DCF.
With the new policy, the DCF is making clear it no longer favors institutionalization. Instead, DCF wants to expand the use of medical foster homes or increase adoption of disabled children.
Currently, the state has requirements that include education for children in nursing homes. However, in recent reports, The Miami Herald has found that children are neglected and often isolated in nursing homes. Inspections have also shown that kids watch television all day, with little to no interaction.
The lack of socialization and isolation can lead to stunted development and psychological disorders. Many of the children currently in nursing homes receive no visitations from family or friends.
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Source: The Miami Herald, "DCF wants its kids out of nursing homes," Dec. 4, 2012.