9 Investigates: Are leaders doing enough to help child trafficking victims in foster care?

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CENTRAL FLORIDA - 9 Investigates a new report that shows state leaders are not doing enough to help the most vulnerable children in the foster care system.

In 2015, 264 commercial sexual exploitation child victims were in the state’s foster care system. 

Florida paid $3 million to nonprofit agencies that manage the foster care system.

However, state records show the cost for caring for the children is almost $4 million.

“This is a very high-need population,” said Glen Casel, the CEO of Community Based Care of Central Florida. “When you bring in a kid that has been trafficked in some form or fashion, you go from high need to really high need and the kind of challenges these kids face is very complicated, and it is hard to find a path forward.”

In Orange-Osceola, the state appropriated $183,673 for care for sexually exploited children.

However, the cost in 2015 for the 27 children in the two-county area was $239,279.

In Seminole County, where Community Based Care of Central Florida also oversees the foster care program, there were six children in 2015. The state approved $15,306 and the cost was $90,212.

“It really is a big gap in the kind of social services, mental health counseling that is out there, and the kind of need that we see with our kids that have been involved in trafficking, and so finding that specialty care can be as challenging as finding the resources,” said Casel.

“It has been an effort over time to put into place the resources that they need,” said Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D–Orange County).

Members of the Florida Legislature just received a new report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which outlines the shortfalls in the system. 

The OPPAGA report found, “For Fiscal Year 2014-15, lead agencies expended about one-third more than their allocated budget for CSE (sexually exploited) children’s services.”

Funding for the care of sexually exploited children flows out of Florida’s Department of Children and Families and into 20 nonprofits groups across the state.

Lawmakers are expected to address the issue again when they meet in 2017.

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