Helping children and families in Miami-Dade County sometimes means looking beyond the county to state and federal issues that impact them. That’s why The Children’s Trust is always aware of bills coming before the Florida Legislature and monitoring their potential impact and well-being on those we serve. After a successful year of advocating for issues in the state capitol last year, The Trust’s Public Policy team is back at it in the new year looking to impact laws that will affect families.
The 2022 Florida Legislative Session already started and the top priorities for The Trust involve Florida KidCare insurance eligibility requirements, the expunction juvenile arrest records, improving background screening checks, and increasing high-quality early education options for vulnerable children and families.
Increasing access to KidCare
Even before the pandemic, uninsured children in Florida represented a major problem – with one report showing that Miami-Dade ranks among the top 20 counties in the country in terms of uninsured children. Florida KidCare provides children and families low-cost insurance options and this year the state legislature is considering increasing the income eligibility threshold for coverage under KidCare program offsetting the benefits cliff – a situation that results when families no longer qualify for KidCare when they increase their earnings.
Wiping away criminal records for children when they reach adulthood
Transitioning into adulthood is hard enough, but for children who have a criminal record there are additional obstacles when looking for jobs, housing and even getting accepted to college. To ease that transition, the state House and Senate are considering legislation that would require the Department of Law Enforcement to expunge the nonjudicial arrest record of certain minors who successfully complete a diversion program for specified felony offenses, rather than only for misdemeanor offenses.
Better background screening
To better protect our children, The Children’s Trust is advocating that the State of Florida align background screening statutes and processes. By doing so, it would allow individual background screenings to be shared across organizations, align definitions, exemptions and define a standardized appeal process. The bill also would allow the state to apply one set of sanctions for non-compliance and develop a comprehensive system aimed at protecting youth.
More school readiness and early learning programs
The benefits of early learning for children are well documented and the essential role of early learning providers in everyday life was made clear during the pandemic. Even so, wages for early learning professionals are uncommonly low. The Trust spends millions on early childhood investments, better known as Thrive by 5, but knows more must be done to prevent high turnover and staff shortages. That is why The Trust is in favor of a bill to formalize increase payment rates to school readiness providers to ensure Florida’s vulnerable child populations are able to access high-quality early learning.
The Children’s Trust will monitor the progress of these bills and others over the upcoming year. For more, sign up for Capitol Connection, a weekly newsletter that tracks the progress of our legislative priorities and those of the Florida Alliance of Children’s Councils and Trusts (FACCT).