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Health News Florida
Each day in Florida about 100 kids are involuntarily committed for psychiatric exams under the Baker Act. That adds up to about 36,000 kids a year, and experts say something has to be done. We explore what happens when kids get committed.

About The Data - Committed: Children And The Baker Act

Lead image for Committed series

In Florida, approximately 36,000 kids are Baker Acted per year.

Each day in Florida, about 100 kids are involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluations under the state's Baker Act.

The law wasn't designed for children, yet over the past few years, the number of minors taken for mental health evaluations has increased.

Though the issue has come under scrutiny, solutions to the problem aren’t easy. The reasons why children are committed are often complex.

Parents, law enforcement, child advocates and even schools say something has to change.

Stacked books

The following 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.

Several years ago, the state began working 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 committed under the Baker Act has risen.

As DJJ Referrals Have Gone Down, Child Baker Acts Have Gone Up

Chart shows involuntary examinations, civil citations and arrests for Florida youth under 18
Baker Act Reporting Center/ University of South Florida

Law Enforcement Is Responsible For The Majority Of Baker Acts For Minors

Chart shows the age breakdown for involuntary Florida Baker Act examinations
Baker Act Reporting Center/ University of South Florida

This project was conceived and produced as a collaboration among WFSU Public Media, Health News Florida and the Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being, a program of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism's 2020 National Fellowship.

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