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Amid Two More Child Deaths, Florida DCF Ponders Working with Sheriffs for Investigations

Foster child attorneys and at-risk youth advocates have watched in horror as the Florida Department of Children and Families – and its community based care providers – have been wracked by at least four children’s deaths in the past few months. All were known by DCF and its partners to be in risky settings of abuse or neglect that had been investigated – and determined to be suitable for the children’s safety.

Add two more to the list. Dakota Stiles, a toddler, drowned in a grime-darkened pool at his family’s filthy home, deemed such by investigators themselves. Cherish Perrywinkle, 8, allegedly was raped and strangled by a registered sex offender befriended by her mother. Read the Miami Herald story here.

Sadly, their deaths – but not the agency’s awareness of their situations – came under the watch of interim DCF secretary, Esther Jacobo. She assumed the post after the resignation of then-Secretary David Wilkins.

Now, DCF is considering working with area sheriff’s offices to help investigate allegations of child abuse. The agency already uses sheriffs’ child-protective investigative services in six counties to investigate abuse. It has asked to do so in Miami-Dade, where Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman had stated that “anybody but DCF” to conduct child protective investigations, Jacobo herself cited in her request.

All we can say is, Whatever it takes. Do whatever it takes to ensure kids are safe. Admitting the agency needs help is a laudable first step. Asking for such help is equally admirable.

Let’s hope the steps continue and bring more effective investigative outcomes to identify and act upon dangerous situations, and create safer environments for Florida’s kids.

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