Herald -Tribune by Daphne Chen and John Kennedy
March 12, 2019
TALLAHASSEE — A bill proposed by the Florida Department of Children & Families that would conceal the names of foster parents from public view will be heard for the first time by a House subcommittee Wednesday.
The bill is a response to a records request made by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and GateHouse Media last July as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct on the part of foster parents.
Co-sponsored by freshmen lawmakers Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, and Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, the proposed legislation would mean that the press and members of the general public will no longer be able to access the names of foster parents for any reason, making it harder to uncover wrongdoing.
According to Roach, also a Guardian ad Litem volunteer who works with abused and neglected children, the measure is necessary to protect foster parents from reprisal from biological parents.
He cited an incident in Miami in August in which a biological mother and her 17-year-old male accomplice barged into a house where two of her children were being cared for by an elderly foster mother. When the 77-year-old woman struggled to keep the intruders from taking the children, the accomplice shot her several times, severely injuring her leg.
“In this case, the safety and security of foster parents should trump” concerns about oversight of foster parents, Roach said.
Critics of the measure, however, said the bill shields DCF from accountability while doing little to actually protect foster parents.