Committed - From WFSU News and Health News Florida
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    From WFSU News and Health News Florida
    How And Why Children Became The Fastest Growing Group Under Florida's Baker Act
About The Project

In Florida approximately 36,000 Kids are Baker Acted Per Year

This article was conceived and produced as a project for the Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being, a program of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2020 National Fellowship.

Parents, law enforcement, child advocates and even schools say something has to give. Florida’s Baker Act was never designed with kids in mind, yet they make up the fastest-growing segment of the population that’s finding themselves Committed.

woman sitting, holding baby picture book
Part One
Committed: How A 6-year-old Revealed Florida's Dysfunctional System Of Baker Acting Kids

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police officer escorting little girl into police car
Part Two
Committed: Kids With Disabilities Increasingly Swept Into Mental Health System Under Baker Act

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Part Five
Committed: Improving Florida’s Baker Act For Children A Challenge

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Part Three
Committed: Schools, Kids And The Baker Act Pipeline

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Hartsield Elementary mural and two teachers posing in front of it
Part Four
Committed: Trauma, Mental Health And The Baker Act

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reports, charts, studies

the data

These three charts illustrate Florida’s youth Baker Act crisis. There is no sole source responsible for the growth in involuntary psychiatric exams for minors. The world has grown more complicated and chaotic; Florida has school resource officers in most schools, and they have the sole authority to transport people who’ve been Baker Acted.

While the state cautions against making causations, the data appears to show correlation between the increase in Baker Acts, and the decrease in youth arrests.

Chart 1 As DJJ Referrals have gone down, child Baker Acts have gone up

Several years ago, the state began trying to decrease the number of children being arrested. In recent years, instead of referring kids to the Department of Juvenile Justice, law enforcement has switched to juvenile citations in an effort to curb the school-to-prison pipeline. But something else has emerged. As the number of Department of Justice referrals has gone down, the number of kids being Baker Acted has risen.

Source: Baker Act Reporting Center/ University of South Florida

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chart 3 Baker Acts and Key Events

This chart shows the correlation between major events, beginning with the 9-11 terrorism attacks, and the rise in Baker Acts among children (those 18 and under). Notable events include the passage of the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act (2002), the shooting at Virginia Tech and the introduction of the iPhone (2007), the Great Recession (2008) and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (2012). It culminates with the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub in 2016.

Source: Florida Department of Children and Families, Nov. 2017. Click on chart to make larger.