TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would create the Department of Children and Families (DCF) as a standalone department in the executive branch to deal with children’s welfare and family support programs was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 38-1, and received final legislative approval from the Assembly by a vote of 71-7, with one abstention.
“Child welfare and family support need to be a top priority in this and every government,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health panel. “By crafting a standalone, cabinet-level department to consolidate New Jersey’s child safety net and family support programs, we are meeting our obligations to children in need in the Garden State.”
The bill, S-2069, would establish the DCF, and transfer the current Office of Children’s Services, in the Department of Human Services (DHS), as well as the licensing of child care centers, youth residential programs and resource family homes, into the new department. The new department would be responsible for DYFS (the Division of Youth and Family Services), the Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, which provides mental health services up to age 21, the Division of Community Partnerships, which works with community agencies to help kids avoid substance abuse, and foster care and residential programs. Under the proposal, the DHS would retain its mission in regards to mental health programs, Medicaid, and programs to help the developmentally disabled.
“Our recent progress in reforming DYFS to put it to work for our most vulnerable kids is promising, but a standalone department will push us light years ahead of where we are right now,” said Senator Vitale. “We are making steps towards a positive outcome for children in need, but the DCF will move reform along the path much more quickly. When it comes to kids in danger, even a moment’s delay can mean the difference between life and death, and the DCF will ensure that we have the resources and the commitment to get the job done.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.