Florida Congressmen Back Rosa DeLauro’s Strengthening America’s Families Act

Four members of the Florida delegation have thrown their support behind U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s, D-Conn., “Strengthening America’s Families Act (SAFA)” which, they insist, “would use research and the science of child development to transform the child welfare system.”

U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., John Rutherford, R-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., and Greg Steube, R-Fla., are all cosponsoring the bill.

“There is irrefutable scientific evidence demonstrating the clear link between abuse in young children and long-term, negative impacts on cognitive, physical, and emotional development.  SAFA would support state and local efforts to develop and expand community-based Infant-Toddler Court Teams (ITCTs). These teams, led by judges, work collaboratively to prevent child abuse and address the physical and emotional needs of young children who have experienced trauma. The teams also endeavor to strengthen family support and prevent future abuse. Currently, ITCTs operate 101 sites in 30 states but only serve a fraction of children and families in need. SAFA would address that shortfall and expand capacity throughout the country,” Soto’s office noted. The proposal would “provide seed money to states to develop, stabilize and enhance Infant-Toddler Court Teams; ensure communities and states have the training and technical assistance they need to develop their programs with integrity and deliver evidence-based services; and expand the reach of an already proven successful program to transform how communities and the child welfare system support the wellbeing of infants, toddlers, and families.”

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to add stress and pressure on families and keep infants and young children in their homes, abuse and neglect intensify in both severity and number of cases,” said DeLauro when she introduced the bill last week. “The science is clear: the abuse of our youngest creates lasting trauma and has detrimental impacts on development. Who children become as adults, their ability to succeed, depends largely upon their environment as an infant and child. SAFA provides the tools to transform a system that is failing too many infants, toddlers, and children. The federal government has an obligation to use data to inform public policy, and in this case, enhance the support system of our most vulnerable.”

“The need for SAFA has been amplified during the pandemic,” said Bilirakis. “We know millions of families are under significant increased financial, emotional, and physical strain. Too often those stressors manifest in cases of child abuse. Now that we understand the scientific data regarding the tragic long-term consequences which can result if appropriate intervention is not provided, we have an obligation to create a system of care that will enable children who have already suffered abuse to access trauma-informed care. ITCTs have a proven track record of success, and I want to ensure all abused children have the benefit of accessing this highly effective resource.”

“As a former sheriff, I’ve seen far too many children affected by abuse and neglect,” said Rutherford. “That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Strengthening America’s Families Act, which would improve the child welfare system by better coordinating support services and enhancing Infant-Toddler Court Teams. It is essential that we prioritize the emotional and physical well-being of children by preventing future instances of abuse.”

“As an attorney, I know the support of the judicial system has proven to be a powerful force of good in the lives of young children facing challenging circumstances,” said Soto. “Now more than ever, it is imperative that we redouble our efforts to support and protect the most vulnerable among us. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it is an important investment in the future of our country. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Strengthening America’s Families Act, which will ensure that during a time when our nation’s families are under extreme stress, help will be there for the children who need it most.”

“New research around childhood development can help us better understand and respond to the child abuse and neglect that has skyrocketed with children being home from school during the pandemic,” said Steube. “Children deserve to be loved and protected – and as elected officials, we have an obligation to ensure that our state and local child welfare workers have every resource necessary to fulfill their roles.”

“When I began as a Florida Circuit Judge more than 30 years ago, I didn’t know the impact Judges and Court Teams could have on the trajectory of babies and their families if only we recognized that trauma, child development, and outcomes are inextricably linked,” said former Florida Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper. “Healing intergenerational trauma can stop the cycle. Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to see babies, toddlers, and families heal and thrive.”

The bill has the support of more than 30 organizations. On Thursday, the bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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