TALLAHASSEE—For more than two years the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has been working with the Miami Herald on its upcoming series on children who have lost their lives as a result of abuse or neglect. The series will bring attention to this important issue and give the public a glimpse into what we at DCF already know—far too many children die of abuse and neglect each year.
“The Herald series will give names and faces to these children,” DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said. “DCF knows these names. These cases have been closely studied in our continuous efforts to improve child protection practices.”
Below are some of the key initiatives DCF has undertaken to improve child safety.
- Methodology for more thorough decision-making: DCF is implementing a new Safety Decision-Making Methodology that will improve the type and amount of information Child Protective Investigators (CPI) gather to make decisions on behalf of at-risk children including improved tools that support the assessment of safety and risk. Governor Rick Scott’s $31.9 million proposed budget increase for DCF CPIs and an additional $8 million for CPIs in Sheriff’s offices will provide the staff resources needed to successfully implement the methodology.
- Outside expert analysis: DCF partnered with Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation focused entirely on improving child welfare systems, to review child deaths in 2013 and provide expert analysis on investigative services and practices. From these findings, DCF is implementing new protocols to keep children safe.
- Better prediction for prevention: DCF commissioned a study to review five years of child fatalities that DCF will use to help investigators better predict the needs of families in crisis. Florida is one of the first states in the nation to introduce predictive analytics into the practice of child welfare. www.myflfamilies.com/press-release/department-children-and-families-utilize-evidence-based-risk-analysis-protect-florida
- Evaluating community programs: Services are a key component to ensuring children can remain safely in their homes. In Florida, Community-Based Care (CBC) lead agencies are responsible for providing services to at-risk families in their communities. DCF has initiated a gap analysis to assess the availability and effectiveness of services provided through the CBCs. The results of the gap analysis will be published in the coming months.
- Focusing on children most at risk: Governor Scott’s proposed budget will fund the expansion of the paired CPI pilot DCF launched last year. This very successful pilot program is used to target cases involving children who are most at risk. Paired CPIs result in a more vigorous assessment of child safety and family needs and a quicker response in delivering services.
- Increasing accountability in safety plans: DCF hosted a statewide training session on safety planning. The training reached more than 1,000 child welfare professionals. DCF has made several policy and IT changes to support improved safety planning including:-Investigations cannot be closed with an open safety plan unless transferred to case management for monitoring.
- Increasing accountability in safety plans: DCF hosted a statewide training session on safety planning. The training reached more than 1,000 child welfare professionals. DCF has made several policy and IT changes to support improved safety planning including:
-Investigations cannot be closed with an open safety plan unless transferred to case management for monitoring.
-Investigative safety plans must be reviewed within 24 hours by a supervisor.
-Safety plans must be supportable, monitored and regularly verified.
- Response to high risk cases: DCF management staff have been trained on real-time quality assurance to quickly identify cases with issues that pose the greatest risk to a child before it is too late. Governor Scott’s proposed budget recommends 26 additional staff to expand real-time quality assurance statewide.
These are just a few of the recent initiatives DCF has undertaken to improve investigative practices and protect children. DCF conducts an average of 200,000 child protective investigations concerning approximately 300,000 children each year—protecting children, mending families, and connecting parents with services they need to learn how to protect and nurture their children.
The Miami Herald’s series will bring increased public attention to the important issue of child abuse and neglect. DCF encourages Floridians to take this opportunity to get involved—become a Guardian ad Litem, consider becoming a foster parent, mentor a young parent or at-risk child, or volunteer at one of the many organizations across the state that serves these families.
The cases DCF investigates are only the cases that are reported. Far too many are never reported. In Florida, any individual who suspects that a child has been abused by any person is required to report to the Florida Abuse Hotline. If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected report online at ReportAbuse.dcf.state.fl.us/ or call 1-800-962-2873.