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Abstract

In 1998, the Florida state legislature mandated the privatization of child welfare services. The decision to contract child welfare services to non-profit organizations was instituted in an effort to lower costs and to increase the effectiveness and quality in service delivery. The 1998 initiative came to be known as “Community-Based Care” and was based on the idea of giving local communities incentives to be more accountable for children.

The federal government requires that the safety of all children be the paramount goal for the child welfare system. The purpose of this study was to assess whether Community-Based Care was indeed effective in this principal objective. This study was performed with the researcher’s own developed definition of “safety” and three relative safety performance measures taken from the Florida Department of Children and Families online performance dashboard.

This research focused on the Community-Based Care initiative in District 7 (Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Brevard Counties) and asked the question: are District 7’s children safe under privatized child welfare services? The research indicates that Florida’s privatized child welfare system may be able to keep children safe but significant improvements are still needed. The findings from this study are important. They provide Floridians and national, regional, and local public managers with a significant and unique view on privatized child welfare services, as well as the associated benefits and shortcomings in ensuring children’s safety.

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