Herald-Tribune by Nicole Rodriguez
March 25, 2019
A bill backed by the Florida Department of Children and Families that would shield the names of foster parents from the public passed a state House subcommittee Monday after dramatic testimony from several foster parents.
The bill, sponsored by freshman lawmakers Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, and Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, unanimously passed the Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee following statements from foster parents that one representative characterized as “horror stories.”
The legislation was triggered by a public records request last July by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and GateHouse Media for the names of all licensed foster parents in the state as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct on the part of foster parents, which the DCF initially approved, then denied. The measure would exempt the names of foster parents, their spouses, their minor children and any other household members from Florida’s public records laws.
One foster parent urged lawmakers Monday to pass the legislation, adding she was forced to install a home security system after receiving a threat from the biological mother of children in her care.
“It’s very frightening,” she said. “This mother is bipolar schizophrenic and does not take medication.”
Another testified that caregivers do not provide their last name during court hearings in which biological parents are present and some use Google Voice to protect their identities from biological parents to ensure the safety of the children in their care.
“In some cases these parents are working hard to get their children back, but in some cases, they have a violent history, they have drug histories and it’s important for us that we can remain anonymous so that we can really protect these children,” the foster mother said, adding she’s aware of cases where foster parents have been stalked by biological parents.