Deputy DCF Secretary David Fairbanks issued a letter to all foster parents regarding recent events, including the request for foster parent records by the Sarasota Herald Tribune. The text of the letter is below:
September 11, 2018
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is committed to ensuring the safety of all children, especially those involved in the child welfare system. The department’s most valued partners are the wonderful people who make the choice to bring a child into their homes and their hearts, with an understanding of the high levels of trust and responsibility that are being placed upon them.
It is with deep sorrow that I must inform you that a foster parent was injured in a horrific attack last month by a biological parent of children in her care. As our most valued partners in child welfare, we too understand the level of trust that foster parents across the state place with the department when it relates to protecting their personal information and I can assure you that no information about this foster parent was released by DCF.
As many of you are aware, a public records request was recently submitted to the DCF Office of Communications by the Sarasota Herald Tribune for a list of names for all licensed foster parents and corresponding counties. Our office worked closely with DCF’s legal counsel and the newspaper to explain the type of information being requested and how this could affect the states’ licensed foster parents.
Because we are unable to ensure that the release of this information will not jeopardize the safety of foster parents or the children in their care, DCF will not be releasing any information regarding foster parents in Florida. Also, we will seek legislative action during the upcoming legislative session to put further protections in place for Florida’s foster parents. This legislative action will balance the need for transparency to ensure accountability within Florida’s foster system while still allowing the department to protect the safety of children, which is always our number one priority.
As you are aware, foster parent’s identifying information in the wrong hands can lead to unsafe situations for foster parents and the children in their care. The State of Florida remains committed to protecting foster parents and will continue our fight to keep their information confidential.
David L. Fairbanks
Department of Children and Families
FloridaFAPA Executive Director Trudy Petkovich said, “DCF has informed us that they expect some fall out from not honoring the records request, but we fully support their effort to stand up for our caregivers and the children in their homes.”
FloridaFAPA is joining DCF and others in urging the legislature to strengthen the language protecting our families and records pertaining to those homes. Our goal is to have these records gain protection (public record exemption) under Chapter 119 of Florida Statutes in the next legislative session.