Sheriff Sadie Darnell at a Paws On Parole Unleashed Graduation

A Message From Your Sheriff


The Federal Family First Prevention Services Act — passed as part of a budget bill in 2018 and set to take effect October 1 — will overhaul our country’s child welfare system. The law provides more funds for treatment and prevention services, with the stated goal of keeping families together while preventing children from entering “the system,” however Florida immediately loses roughly 90 million federal dollars that support services that are caring for children tonight.

As Sheriff, I am concerned. What happens when this law takes effect next month, without adequate transition funds in place for the children in programs today? Incredible work from the state and community partners in foster parent recruiting has increased available and qualified homes, however the loss of current foster homes remains extremely high. Florida already has a shortage of suitable foster homes for at-risk children, and losing quality residential group homes through a lapse in federal funding only creates additional hardship for all involved in protecting our most vulnerable children.

As Sheriff, my peers and I have seen firsthand the tragic results when children are left with abusive parents, or placed with relatives unsuitable or unable to care for a child.  As Sheriffs, we recognize that high quality, family-style residential group homes are just as vital to the child welfare system as traditional foster homes, especially when large sibling groups are affected.

I support the work and mission of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, a family-style residential group home. Florida Sheriffs witness how the program, and the model of care, can change lives and prevent juvenile delinquency. Our Sheriffs Association founded the Youth Ranches in 1957, and since opening our first residential campus, the Youth Ranches have provided safe and loving homes to thousands of Florida’s neediest children.

As the implementation of this poorly written legislation draws near, Florida needs more time to develop a plan to adjust to the Family First Prevention Services Act, and we encourage voters and members of Congress to support the State Flexibility for Family First Transitions Act (S. 107), introduced by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and the companion House bill H.R. 3116 introduced by Representatives Don Bacon (R-NE) and Katie Hill (D-CA). This bipartisan bill provides states with a two-year extension and allows them time to comply with Family First and assess how residential group homes benefit our children before simply eliminating them as part of the continuum of care. We thank Senator Rick Scott for signing on to S.107 and Florida Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor, Bill Posey, Val Demings, Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, and Greg Steube for signing on to the House version of the bill H.R. 3116.

Please contact your Federal and State Representatives:

I urge you to encourage them to support the State Flexibility for Family First Transitions Act (S. 107). We all need the two-year extension to ensure the best decision(s) are made for our children and youth.

NOTE: This article was also submitted to the Gainesville Sun and can be viewed on their site at: