Florida had already though about privatizing welfare services in the mid 1990s. As a proof of concept, 5 pilot programs were created across the state; only one was successful. Two programs fell out due to funding, one lost its contract due to failure to meet requirements, and the fourth simply could not raise community support. The only area where this privatized program worked was in Sarasota County, a very affluent area of Florida. Their success was attributed to high income, low child rates, and high community involvement. Even today, this original program is operational.
Using data from the past decade, here are a few aspects of Florida’s privatization plan performance:
- In theory, privatization would be cheaper. However, Florida has not had a single year where this is the case. On average, the cost has been an extra $100 million a year.
- The number of children in foster car has fallen and number of adoptions has risen
- Turnover rates for workers on the front lines of child care is 33% within two years, most citing stress
- Average time of return to biological parents has diminished
- Florida still suffers low ratings on preventing child abuse and academic success of kids in the system
- Higher rate of case investigation within the first 24 hours
- Overall, Florida's program is ranked 4th across the United States
All of this is to say their system is not 100%, nor will any system be perfect. There will always be areas of improvement and areas of exceeding expectations. And that’s the reality Georgia faces. Throwing money at the problem is not the absolute solution. But a new allocation of funds may increase performance in places where Georgia is lacking.
What Georgia does not have is a pilot program. Currently, the way the bill stands, we will be jumping head first into this privatized system. The goal and heart behind the change is the same: cases fall through the cracks, children are neglected, and sometimes the death of a child was completely preventable. Each case is the life of an individual. And, collectively, we want what is best for the kids.