Child welfare officials on Florida’s west coast are concerned about the sudden and growing number of children who have been removed from their homes in the past year because of parents’ “inability to cope” with their mental health struggles, according to a published report.
In Sarasota County, parents’ inability to care for a child is the third-most common reason that child welfare officials cite as justification for putting the kids into state custody, according to Sarasota Magazine. Often, the children, who are typically 15 to 17 years old, are suffering from trauma-related mental health issues, and family tensions have soared.
In the three-county region that also includes Manatee and DeSoto counties, inability to cope ranks behind only drug abuse, domestic violence and inadequate supervision as the top reasons for the removal of children. In the past year, 85 children have been pulled from their homes in the region because of a caretaker’s inability to cope with a youth’s behavior.
A parent’s “inability to cope” can show up in a number of ways. Sometimes a parent will tell the authorities that they simply can’t continue to provide care. Other examples: A parent declines to pick up a child after a period of court-ordered treatment, or a parent washes their hands of a youth after they’ve been released from jail and won’t let them in the house.
Mental health and child welfare officials in the area are troubled by the emergence of this phenomenon because mental health has deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit susceptible populations especially hard. It’s too soon to know about the staying power of the problem, but they note that it emerged during the coronavirus pandemic.
And the pandemic is far from over in Florida. Based on the number of cases and test positivity rates reported to state and federal authorities, the three counties’ risk levels are considered very high (DeSoto) and extremely high (Sarasota and Manatee).