State Sen. Ileana García takes fight for Florida families to Congress

State Sen. Ileana García takes fight for Florida families to Congress
State Sen. Ileana García

Florida State Sen. Ileana García (District 36), chair of the Children and Families Committee in the Florida Senate, traveled to Washington, DC, recently to spearhead efforts in our nation’s capital for needed reforms and resources to aid the most vulnerable families in Florida.

Senator Garcia issued the following statement regarding the two-day visit:
“During my visit to Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to meet with various experts, policymakers, and advocates who are dedicated to improving the lives of displaced children. We discussed the urgent need for comprehensive support systems that address the mental and behavioral issues these children often face.

“In my three years as chair in Florida of the Senate Children and Families Committee, it’s been disheartening to learn about the countless stories of children who have fallen through the cracks of our fragmented system. Many of them have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect, leaving them vulnerable and in desperate need of assistance. As chair of Children and Families, I am committed to ensuring that no child is left alone in their struggle for a better future.

“One of the key issues we discussed was the importance of early intervention and prevention programs. By identifying and addressing mental and behavioral issues at an early stage, we can provide these children with the necessary support and resources to overcome their challenges. This not only improves their well-being but also increases their chances of leading successful and fulfilling lives.”

State Sen. Garcia met with U.S; Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, Gus Bilarakis, Neal Dunn and Jared Moskowitz, Aaron Bean, Carlos Gimenez and the offices of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott (both of Florida) to explore the need for increased funding and resources that would strengthen the child welfare system in Florida.

Some of the recommendations made included:
Support H.R. 4056 (Bilirakis) – The bill amends title XIX of the Social Security Act to ensure the MD exclusion does not apply to certain settings that provide trauma-responsive services to children and youth.

Support H.R. 3852 (Dunn) – The bill defines a “cottage family home” as a form of large foster home distinct from “congregate care” or “group home.” This allows group homes that are family-style, with live-in parents that utilize a reasonable and prudent parent standard and provide 24-hour care to exempt from the congregate care funding limits of the FFPSA.

FFPSA Family First Prevention Service Act restricts Title IV-E funding of residential group home settings, though well intended, it limits funding to 14 days for children in need of specialized group home settings. It is crucial to invest in programs that provide stable and nurturing environments for displaced children, as well as access to quality healthcare, education, and mental health services. By doing so, creating a safety net that ensures no child is left behind.

Correct FFPSA to include funding for the expansion of Title IV-E to include preventive services.

Continue and strengthen discussions between the Florida Department of Children and Families, providers and families in order to bring both placement and services into compliance with the spirit of FFP.

“Special thanks to Congressmen Neal Dunn and Gus Bilarakis and Congressman Jared Moskowitz for their willingness to work in a bipartisan manner to find much needed solutions for these families,” Sen. Garcia said.

“I welcome the opportunity to advocate for these children and their families at the federal level. Together with my colleagues in the Florida Senate, we will continue to push for policies that prioritize the well-being and future of every child in Florida. By using the hashtag #NoChildLeftAlone, we aim to raise awareness and rally support for this important cause.

“It is my hope that through our collective efforts, we can create a society where every child has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their circumstances. No child should ever feel alone or forgotten. Together, we can make a difference and ensure that every child’s voice is heard, their needs are met, and their dreams are within reach.”

Sen. Ileana García was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2020. She serves on eight committees and chairs the Committee on Children and Families. Her District 36 includes parts of Miami Beach, Miami, Coral Gables, West Miami and western Miami-Dade County.




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