Negron drops foster care damage cap
April 7, 2011 Opponents of a move to cap liability for the private nonprofits that oversee children’s services are breathing easier. When the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services passed the omnibus Medicaid reform bill (SB 1972) Wednesday, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, agreed to drop a provision that would cap awards for pain and suffering by youth in the child welfare system at $200,000 to $1 million and economic damages at $2 million. The measure, still a stand-alone bill in both houses, would also lower the amount of liability insurance required of Florida’s 20 community based care agencies, which contract with the Department of Children and Families to provide foster care and adoption services, from $1 million to $500,000. DCF Sec. David Wilkins on Monday said both he and Gov. Rick Scott support the caps. But the debate has been bitter at times. The February murder of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona in which her adoptive parents have been charged has been a recurring theme, given an independent panel’s charge of “fatal ineptitude” by the child welfare system. But Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood and sponsor of the House version of the measure, HB 1019, has repeatedly warned that lawsuits against the community based care agencies represent “an existential threat.” Chief among the opposition is Florida’s Children First, an advocacy group with plenty of trial lawyers on its board. FCF praised Negron but said it will keep fighting other language in the bill that gives sovereign immunity to providers of Medicaid disability services to foster youth – about 30 percent of those in state care, says FCF’s Christina Spudeas.