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Archive for August, 2013

Florida’s Child Protection Summit Must Deliver Results, Not Promises

For an organization whose mission it is to protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens, the Florida Department of Children and Families has done a poor job of late. Child protection advocates and children’s rights attorneys who fight cases of physical abuse, sexual abuse, personal injury and even wrongful death have watched in horror as news reports revealed some 20 children had died under the watch or oversight of DCF. While the organization might not have actively been involved in each case, each child had – at some time – been known to the agency.

Now, the agency is looking for answers.

One step is the annual Child Protection Summit in Orlando, which was held this week. It offers DCF a chance to promote and kick-start improvements to the agency. Some called DCF’s current state “one of its periodic low points.” Former chief David Wilkins resigned in August amid reports of the inexplicable surge in child abuse and neglect deaths.



Outrage Widespread As Leaders, Advocates Seek Answers in Florida DCF Children’s Deaths

From Florida to California, outrage and coverage has been widespread in Florida’s ongoing story regarding the abuse and wrongful deaths of 20 children under the watch of Florida Department of Children and Families and their community-based care providers.

This week, Florida Senator Eleanor Sobel, chairwoman of Florida’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, and the South Florida legislative caucus held a Town Hall Meeting to explore the issue. What legislators and attendees learned is that while DCF was outsourcing care of the state’s kids, it was at the same time slashing oversight.

“[DCF] slashed 76 family-safety positions in 2011 as part of statewide budget cuts, including 17 quality-assurance posts, leaving DCF with a ‘fuzzy picture’ of the work performed by child-protective investigators and private, contracted caseworkers,” the San Francisco Chronicle quoted leading child advocacy attorney Howard Talenfeld as saying. Talenfeld is the founder and president of Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier child advocacy organization.

This is the first step in a long journey. It’s one that must be taken by us all – as our children’s lives are at stake.

Florida Senator Eleanor Sobel to Host Town Hall Tuesday to Explore Rash of Child Deaths Under DCF Watch

Due to the recent rash of child deaths, the Legislative Caucuses of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are hosting a tri-county delegation Town Hall Meeting. Department of Children and Families Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo will attend. The details are as follows:

Tuesday, August 20
5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Performing Cultural Arts Theatre
Broward College South Campus, Building 68B
7200 Pines Blvd. Pembroke Pines, FL 33024

According to a press release, “The death of seven children in less than three months in our State is simply unacceptable,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel. “We need to identify where the problems exist within the system and address them immediately.”


An Unspeakable and Hidden Horror: DCF Records Reveal Florida Children Suffering ‘Untold Story of Abuse and Neglect’

Florida child advocates, guardians and attorneys who represent and protect the state’s most vulnerable children from physical abuse, sexual abuse and other harm were horrified with the spate of seven deaths in recent months – children all under the watch of Florida Department of Children and Families.

It appears that was a fraction of the horror happening to the state’s at-risk children.

The deaths of 20 children in recent months – all of whom were known to DCF reiterates the fact that the agency lacks any transparency, quality assurance, data and accountability. It further reinforces the belief of advocates that, as implemented, privatization of services has been a failure – and that DCF has hidden horrific outcomes.

The latest news comes from a Miami Herald investigation that uncovered the deaths of 20 children, all of whom had been reported to DCF as having been abused or living amid potentially violent circumstances.

The news of seven deaths cost former DCF Chief David Wilkins his job. How will DCF respond to the actual tally: That 20 children with child protection histories have died since April?

We applaud Florida Senator Eleanor Sobel for being out front on this situation and calling for this Tuesday’s hearings on this egregious situation. What her committee will discover is that these deaths are the tip of the iceberg. We are still seeing an epidemic of physical and sexual abuse.


‘Transformation’ at Florida Department of Children and Families Ineffective in Protecting State’s At-Risk Youth from Harm, Death

August 15th, 2013   No Comments   Advocacy, Commentary

Florida children’s rights attorneys and child advocates who work to protect at-risk children from sexual abuse, physical abuse and wrongful death have recoiled in horror at the deaths of four children in as many months. That the children died at the hands of caregivers or family is sad. What’s worse is that all were known to administrators at Florida Department of Children and Families and their contracted community-based care providers as being in risky situations. All their cases were closed without remedy.

Now, DCF is promising a “transformation” of its practices.

The missing component here is any lack of coherent protective services for the children. There have been no long-term involvement to ensure the children’s ongoing safety or removal from risky situations. All this, even though investigators in every case identified the risks to the children.