Recently, Florida officials began a sweeping review of unlicensed “boarding schools” within the state, with seven unofficial placement homes — none of which with state-accepted accreditations or religious-exemption statuses — uncovered.
According to investigators, at least a dozen foster children have been placed in the uncertified homes over the last decade. The state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) said that they will assist such boarding schools with licensing and accreditation, but DCF officials also said the operators of boarding schools that fail to meet state standards could end up in court.
The state investigation stems from a series of Tampa Bay Times reports that recently examined more than 30 facilities within the state, which operated without any state monitoring or accreditation. Due to an exemption for religion-based facilities, a majority of these homes were allowed to legally operate by gaining credentials from private, nonprofit organizations.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that several of the investigated, non-licensed homes had been subject to allegations of maltreatment and abuse, with reports that some children at the facilities had been choked, physically restrained for days and possibly sexually molested.
Florida’s DCF said that it has begun “flagging” non-certified boarding schools and requiring child abuse investigators to obtain proof of credentials when examining abuse complaints at such facilities.
The Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies (FACCA), a nonprofit organization that inspects placement facilities with religious-exempt statuses, said that it will also begin scrutinizing such homes under stricter criteria.