Jordan’s Law is an endeavor by Florida lawmakers to fix the issues in the state’s child welfare system. No system is perfect, but the gaps in Florida have been exposed by tragic incidents over the past few years. Today, we are exploring Jordan’s Law and how it takes steps to repair a broken system.
As a note, this story contains discussion of child death and injury. These subjects are sensitive for many people, and the details may be upsetting. The Florida Department of Families has an online reporting tool for child abuse. You can also reach out to your local family lawyer with any questions that you may have.
Cases That Inspired Change
Jordan’s Law derived its name from the case of Jordan Belliveau, a two-year-old boy. The incident took place in Largo, Florida two years ago. Jordan was taken away from his biological mother after concerns had been raised about possible abuse. He lived with a foster family for a time, before the court determined it was safe for him to return to his mother. A short time later he was found deceased in the woods near his home.
Unfortunately, Jordan Belliveau is not the only child who lost his life because state employees missed signs. A year before Jordan’s passing, William Hendrickson IV – eight months old – died from heat exposure in his family home. In 2015, Phoebe Jonchuck passed away after her father dropped her off a bridge.
These tragic deaths still happened despite interference from child protective services. In every case, the child was in and out of foster care before being returned to their biological family.
The Goals of Jordan’s Law
The current problem with the Florida child welfare system is that it is entirely overburdened. Currently, employees are expected to juggle approximately 30 cases at once. Despite the heavy caseload, they are only paid about $17 an hour. The high caseload puts not only a mental, but also an emotional toll on employees.
With a lower-than-average rate of pay, the stress is not worth it for many employees. Even those who are passionate about their work cannot balance the stress of money struggles with the stress of work. All of these concerns culminate in an extremely high turnover rate.
Turnover leads to mistakes and miscommunications. When one case handler leaves, there is no way for their replacement to learn every detail of the case. The shift of responsibilities from one person to another is how the ball gets dropped.
With this in mind, Jordan’s Law aims to increase the retention by reducing the stress on state employees. There are three points at which the bill attempts to address the issues that are present in the system.
- Reduce the caseload of state employees by about 50%. Workers would handle a maximum of 15 cases at once. While this is still a lot of responsibility, it is much easier to manage than 30 cases.
- Streamline inter-agency communication. The focuses in particular on increasing communication between first responders, law enforcement, and case workers.
- Increase training for all parties involved. Jordan’s Law would require parents, caseworks, and law enforcement to receive more training about child abuse. A particular focus would be placed on head trauma, which is the leading cause of child abuse deaths in the state.