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This week marks the beginning of Florida’s 2019 Legislative Session. Legislators have until May 3 – just 60 days – to consider thousands of bills and decide on what issues are most important to Floridians. Having Kids applauds Florida Senator Lauren Book for her commitment to protecting Florida’s children from abuse and rehabilitating those who have suffered through legislative efforts and her work with Lauren’s Kids.

Most recently, Senator Book introduced Senate Bill (“SB”) 90. This bill would establish “early childhood court programs” to “serve the needs of infants and toddlers in dependency court.” Dependency courts hear cases about children who are abused or neglected, and, in Florida, this number is staggering. In 2016 alone, nearly 42,000 children were abused or neglected in the
State of Florida (and these are just reported cases). (We also recently asked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to develop policies, and encourage legislation, that enables judges to issue Fair Start Orders. Read our letter to him here.)

SB 90 would serve a tremendously important need – to have the justice system work to “restructure the way the community responds to the needs of maltreated children” through having court systems that employ a multidisciplinary approach to help heal maltreated children (both mentally and physically) and implements steps to ensure the rebuilding of the child-parent relationship.

Having Kids commends Senator Book for introducing legislation that puts the needs of children and their well-being as a top priority. However, we encourage Senator Book to take her important bill one step farther and include Fair Start Order language as an additional part of this bill. Such legislation would allow judges, in cases of truly egregious child abuse, to issue non-coercive orders preventing abusive and neglectful parents from having additional children for limited time periods like during the period of probation. These orders, in the context of early childhood court programs, would allow parents and their healing children to focus on necessary rehabilitative steps to repair the child-parent relationship and protect future children. Shouldn’t we work to prevent abuse rather than simply react to it? Fair Start orders do just that.

If you live in Florida, please call or send a brief message to Senator Book thanking her for her tireless work on behalf of children and asking her to consider adding Fair Start Order language to SB 90. Reach her at book.lauren@flsenate.gov
or (850) 487-5032.

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