Monday, July 2, 2007

Child welfare suffers when we privatize the system

St. Petersburg Times
Published July 1, 2007

Failures persist in child welfare June 24, story

Dr. Alvin Wolfe's letter:

Melanie Ave's article [Failures persist in child welfare] was a painful, detailed and documented look at what has gone wrong with Florida's foster care system. Of course, no single article can cover every aspect of a set of problems so vast and complex. I would add two points to Ave's excellent presentation.

First, don't think that because annual funding per child grew "from $9, 800 in 1998 to $18, 000 in 2005" that Florida is spending enough on the protection and care for our children at risk.

Under privatization, we are paying chief executive officers and chief operating officers at rates for executives in private business, much higher than we used to pay our public administrators and civil servants supervising the investigators and caseworkers.

Infrastructure costs have skyrocketed under privatization. When protective investigators and caseworkers were state employees, the cost of liability was minimal because the state is self-insuring. Now, each private firm that employs investigators and caseworkers buys expensive professional liability insurance, paid for by us, the taxpayers. Do readers need to be reminded that insurance companies are doing very well?

Second, there is no longer any local community input into this privatized child protection system that goes under the label, "community-based care."

Before privatization, each local district had a health and human services board composed of citizens who advised local administrators and had direct communication with the secretary at the state level. There is no such community input now. As is clear from the Ave article, the agency under contract to provide services is not even necessarily local. A subsidiary to Sarasota Family YMCA has the contract for Pinellas, and had responsibility for the child in Lake County.

In running our child welfare system like a business we have given up some efficiency and we have given up public accountability.

Alvin W. Wolfe, Ph.D., Lutz

No comments: