Florida’s 28 emergency shelters for troubled adolescents represent a major shift in thinking around the U.S.: earlier intervention when families are boiling over, rather than waiting until the children end up in costly detention or foster care, reprts the New York Times. The system is run by the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, a nonprofit umbrella group, and is financed by the State Department of Juvenile Justice. An evaluation in 2001 by Florida Tax Watch group, found that the network was probably saving the state $15 million a year by keeping vulnerable children out of detention.
The network has been praised as a model and will be studied by Nebraska officials looking to fill the gaps in family service that were revealed when dozens of desperate parents handed unruly preteenagers and teenagers to state custody, forcing a change in the state's safe-haven law. Some 7,000 children pass through the Florida shelters on a voluntary basis each year – uncontrollable children, runaways and chronic truants, usually referred by schools, the police. or parents. Sara Mogulescu of he Vera Institute of Justice said earlier intervention was “what a lot of places are moving toward, and Florida is at the forefront.” Experts described other promising efforts, on a less sweeping, statewide scale, in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, and New York.