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New Report Shows Counties Suffer in Caring for At-Risk Children

September 16th, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

A recent report issued by child-welfare professionals has found Miami-Dade and Monroe counties’ efforts and systems to protect vulnerable and at-risk children suffers “major problems.” The news comes on the heels of a recent investigative report that found that almost 500 kids statewide had died or suffered wrongful death while under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Every day, kids under state watch or in the care of its community based care providers suffer physical, emotional or sexual abuse. For all the money spent on child welfare services in Florida, these truths are stark and saddening.

The most recent report was issued by experts enlisted earlier this year by the Department of Children and Families and its Interim Secretary Mike Carroll. The system is strained by a rise in kids in state care, and the DCF and its network of service providers are struggling to handle the burden.

Miami-Dade and Monroe counties outpace the state in the children receiving in-home services, the report noted. In those two counties alone, numbers rose more than 63 percent; statewide, the figure was 1% between May 2013 and July 2014. Read a news article on the report here.

Meanwhile, names like Nubia Barahona, Rilya Wilson and others are seared into our collective memories as children who suffered and died after finding their way through the state child welfare system.

The reality is that the Florida Department of Children and Families has increasingly relied on private, community-based care providers to deliver services to these vulnerable populations. At the same time, DCF historically has reduced funding for oversight and investigations of the care and services rendered. Moreover, those investigations that are launched lack deliberate purpose. Findings of abuse and neglect rarely are followed up on with demands for corrective action or punitive remedies.

As the numbers of children in the system grow, those DCF employees who are dedicated and committed in their mission to protect kids are overwhelmed. Employee turnover is high among DCF child-protective investigators, Children’s Legal Services lawyers and case managers.

So the problems persist. Neglect and abuse are systemic. Remedies are few. Suffering is great. Interim Secretary Carroll told one reporter he hopes to look within the organization for remedies. “I think together we’ll get it better, but it’s going to take some time.”

For kids suffering in the system, time is the one precious commodity they lack.

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