Families suffer when Sheriffs Youth Ranches and other group homes get a bad rap

Editor’s note:  My wife and I were licensed and received our training at the Sheriffs Youth Ranches in Pinellas County, FL


As we enter a new decade, there is no shortage of discussion about the future of our child welfare system.

The Florida Department of Children and Families is working on a plan to shorten the amount of time kids spend in the foster care system while, at the same time, trying to find solutions for places like Hillsborough County, where a significant number of youth refuse foster care placement. We have serious challenges ahead that will require bold policy solutions and different ways of thinking about child welfare reform.

Adding to the challenges we face is the implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act, which, as a result of the law’s restrictions on using residential group homes, is making it harder to place children in safe environments. Without additional reforms, it’s easy to foresee our child welfare system getting worse — with a growing shortage of placement options, siblings being split up and more children being left in dangerous situations.

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