The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) announced Tuesday that it would not comply with a public records request by a local paper asking for details about the identity and location of foster parents in the state.
The decision comes just weeks after a 77-year-old Miami foster parent was shot, allegedly by the mother of children in her care. The incident took place at the home of the foster parent, who survived and is recovering from her wounds.
“Because we are unable to ensure that the release of this information will not jeopardize the safety of foster parents or the children in their care, DCF will not be releasing any information regarding foster parents in Florida,” DCF said, in a statement circulated to its partners in managing foster and adoptive placements. [Florida’s system is mostly privatized, with community-based organizations managing foster homes and other child welfare services].
“Foster parents’ identifying information in the wrong hands can lead to unsafe situations for foster parents and the children in their care,” the statement continued. “The State of Florida remains committed to protecting foster parents and will continue our fight to keep their information confidential.”
The request was made by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, and according to DCF it asks for “a list of names for all licensed foster parents and corresponding counties.”
News of the decision, shared quickly on social media sites for foster parents, prompted a discussion.
“Oh heck no! I worry about my kids’ safety first, and mine second,” said Kentucky foster parent Amanda Shelton, commenting on Foster Parenting Toolbox, a private Facebook group for foster and adoptive parents. “Both would be in jeopardy if anyone could get their hands on my information, including where I live.”
Another commenter, who said she was from Florida, agreed but also said she could understand the Tribune’s interest in investigating after recent stories about “poorly vetted, abusive foster parents.”
The Tribune did not return an email asking if it intends to appeal the decision by DCF.