Foster Care System of Care

What is DCF?

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the state agency charged with investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect and ensuring the safety of these children. The department does this by providing support services to children and their families, and in some cases, providing a place outside of the home for children to live while their caregivers work to provide a safe and stable home for them.


The Department of Children and Families contracts with eighteen (18) Community-Based Care (CBC) Partners to provide prevention, intervention, foster care and adoption services to thousands of families in the State of Florida. Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc. is one of these eighteen (18) CBCs. Our Kids is responsible for Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys. Together, the CBCs are doing more than ever to support excellent parenting and to include foster families as partners in their mission to strengthen children and families

What is the role and function of the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF)?

The role and function of DCF is to conduct, supervise, and administer a program for dependent children and their families. The services of the department are directed toward the following goals (Section 409.145(1), F.S.):


  • The prevention of separation of children from their families;
    The reunification of families who have had children placed in foster homes or institutions;
  • The permanent placement of children who cannot be reunited with their families or when reunification would not be in the best interest of the child;
  • The protection of dependent children or children alleged to be dependent, including provision of emergency and long-term alternate living arrangements;
  • The transition to self-sufficiency for older children who continue to be in foster care as adolescents;
  • To establish and administer an adoption program for special needs children to be carried out by the department or by contract with a licensed child-placing agency. (Section 409.166(3)(a), F.S.); and
  • To administer a system of independent living transition services to enable older children in foster care and young adults who exit foster care at age 18 to make the transition to self-sufficiency as adults. (Section 409.1451(1)(a), F.S.).
Who is considered a special needs child?

A special needs child must meet all three of the following criteria:


  • A child whose permanent custody has been awarded to the Department or a licensed child placing agency; and
  • A child who has established significant emotional ties with his or her Foster Parents or is not likely to be adopted due to age, developmental disability, physical or emotional handicap, black or racially mixed parents, or
  • Member of sibling group of any age where two or more are being adopted together; and a child for whom a reasonable but unsuccessful effort has been made to place the child without providing a maintenance subsidy.
What is a Child Protection Investigator?

A Child Protective Investigator investigates allegations of abuse, neglect and abandonment of children by their caregiver. The investigator will interview the child, caregivers, and other contacts to determine whether a child is safe. If a child is not safe, the CPI can remove the child from the home.

What Is Community-Based Care?

Community-Based Care (CBC) is a comprehensive redesign of Florida’s Child Welfare System. CBC combines the outsourcing of foster care and related services to competent service agencies within the community. Thus, there is an increased local community ownership of service delivery and design. This innovative statewide reform increases accountability, resource development, and system performance.

The Department of Children & Families actively negotiates and contracts with respected local, non-profit agencies to provide child welfare services in local communities for children who have been abused, neglected and/or abandoned. Community-based care is designed to transition child protective services to local providers under the direction of lead agencies and community alliances of stakeholders. These groups work within their community to ensure safety, well-being, and permanency for the children in their care.

A statewide network of comprehensive, community-based care agencies have been equipped to manage and deliver services to Florida’s foster youth. Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe the Community Based Care Lead Agency for Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys.

What is Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI)?

Our Kids proudly participates in the Florida Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) to redefine how communities regard foster care and to recruit skilled, dedicated and caring people as Foster Parents. QPI was developed to ensure that every child removed from their home because of abandonment, abuse or neglect is cared for by a foster family who provides skilled, nurturing parenting while helping the child maintains connections with their birth families. The foster family works closely with Our Kids, Full Case Managers, the courts, attorneys, and other to protect the child’s best interests.

How does QPI work?

A state-wide movement to alter the view of foster care, QPI represents a cultural shift in the way foster families function, and how they work with other professionals. With QPI Foster Parents are to be treated as valued members of the team. Foster Parents are professionals and are experts on the children in their home. In addition to respecting Foster Parents, QPI also focuses on allowing Foster Parents to make normal, common decisions as they would for their own children.

What does a Full Case Manager or “caseworker” do?

A Full Case Manager helps provide an array of services to help families cope with complicated situations in the most effective way possible. They help families to identify their goals, needs, and resources. With the support of the case manager, families will understand the behaviors that brought us into their lives and what needs to be different. The Full Case Manager and the family together formulate a plan to meet those goals. They help the family to find resources and facilitate connection with services. The Full Case Manager also maintains communication with the family, the children in care and the Foster Family. The Full Case Manager is required to see and photograph the children in care every 25 days.

A good Full Case Manager will work with the families to determine what is important to them and what they agree would be the most effective way to reach those goals. FCM do not manage people—they help people to manage complicated situations. Simply put, they help to keep the family and the children at the center of services being provided.

What is Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL)?

The Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) provides children who enter Florida’s dependency system with quality advocacy that includes the monitoring of their safety and welfare; pursuing their legal and best interests; and obtaining them a permanent home. Program attorneys, volunteer supervisors, and volunteers facilitate this advocacy, acting as a team. The program’s advocacy team is critical in being able to effectively represent the best interests of the children. When a child is taken into state care and the GAL program is appointed, the advocacy team takes on specific legal and operational responsibilities for the child. The advocacy team meets regularly to review the child’s safety and well-being; they assist the child in navigating the dependency system.

What is Children’s Legal Services (CLS)?

The Statewide Law Firm for Florida’s Children Children’s Legal Services (CLS) is the Department’s law firm representing the State of Florida in child welfare matters. CLS serves a number of functions:

  • Providing counsel advice and technical assistance to the Family Safety program office training Protective Investigators and Community-Based Care (CBC) partners in child welfare legal issues;
  • Coordinating with those Investigators and CBC partners to review potential cases and preparing those personnel as witnesses in filed cases; and
  • Representing the State in court in all Chapter 39 dependency cases, at the trial court and appellate levels.

Their vision is “We envision Children’s Legal Services as Florida’s legal authority on child welfare issues, leading the nation in advocacy of the care, safety, and protection of children and respected for its competence, dedication, and professional expertise.”

Our Community Taking Care of Our Kids