In a partisan stand against the Affordable Care Act, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) and GOP lawmakers are turning away much-needed federal funds aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect. According to Linda Merrell of the Florida Child Healthcare Coalition, the state has missed out on up to $52 million in federal funding — $3.4 million of which Scott turned down this year and millions more in grants available under Section 2951 of the Affordable Care Act for home health visits.
The money is sorely needed. In 2010, the state legislature cut a staggering 43 percent of the budget for its Healthy Families Florida program, which provides home visitation services to both expecting parents and parents with newborn children in order to prevent future instances of abuse. As a result, Healthy Families was forced to scale back, dropping services for 5,800 children in 3,500 high-risk families.
But according to the annual study by the State Committee Child Abuse Death Review Committee, Florida should be beefing up its support of Healthy Families Florida to save its children, not cut its funding. After reviewing the deaths of 197 children statewide due to abuse and neglect, the committee offered its recommendations to Scott and the state legislature:
“#2 Fully Fund Healthy Families Florida - Support the Department of Children and Families 2011-12 Legislative Budget Request to restore Healthy Families Florida funding to the 2009-10 funding level…
With scarce resources, it is even more critical that the Governor and Legislature prioritize funding for programs and services that show consistent positive results and yield the greatest possible return for the recovery and future economic prosperity of Florida and its citizens. Healthy Families Florida, the state’s only nationally accredited, community-based home visiting program is one of these programs. [...]
Florida’s taxpayers pay an estimated $64,377 a year to care for an abused or neglected child, while Healthy Families Florida prevents the costs of child abuse and neglect for only $1,671 a year per child, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
A rigorous five-year independent study and follow up study shows that Healthy Families prevents child abuse and neglect, keeping families together and children out of the child welfare system — 98 percent of the children served by Healthy Families are abuse free.”
Even though this report landed on the desks of Walker, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon (R), and Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) on Jan. 10, 2011, the legislature voted this year to keep the Healthy Families budget at 2010′s depressed level.
By refusing to provide, pursue, or even accept funding for child-abuse prevention programs, Scott and his GOP allies are sacrificing Florida’s children in order to cling to a partisan talking point.