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Child Advocates: State Officials’ Lack of Transparency Places Foster Children at Risk

December 23rd, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

When a Miami Herald investigation, “Innocents Lost,” in spring 2014 revealed almost 500 children  had died while under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families and its contracted community based care providers, state child welfare officials promised kids, families, child advocates and child abuse lawyers who fight to protect the rights of abused children that changes would come. Now, another newspaper article questions if those promised changes and reforms have been shelved or shrouded in secrecy.

In its latest investigation, “Transparency Lost,” the paper has discovered that while DCF set aside nearly $50 million to investigators, the state legislature instituted laws designed to help ensure kids “in the system” are protected from abuse, and greater oversights were put in place, enactment and follow-through of those changes has been slow, even thwarted. 

Lawmakers stated that they wanted to see more openness from agency administrators, and mandated a website to track child deaths. DCF, in turn, vowed to learn from its mistakes, even if it meant enduring an occasional public relations beating,” the paper reported. DCF even promised following the deaths of six children shot this fall by their grandfather, “There will never be one child who dies without DCF working to determine what changes can be made or processes improved to prevent further tragedy.”

“In fact, though, reviews of each child death, required under federal law, have become increasingly thin and
decreasingly critical, making it difficult for the public and the news media to gauge DCF’s performance,” the Herald wrote. “At the same time, several respected, highly engaged members of the statewide Death Review Committee, under the auspices of Surgeon General John Armstrong, have been purged.”

This is no time for idle promises from state agency administrators. This is no time for political house-cleaning to purge opposing views. The Florida Legislature delivered significant reforms needed to ensure children are better protected and that their rights are placed first and foremost above the adults accused or known to physically harm or even sexually abuse them.

Meanwhile, as the paper has reported, officials continue a practice of protecting a failed system, shrouding their promises of transparency in a veil of secrecy, putting again at risk the very kids they’re employed to protect.

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