Governor Rick Scott today announced Rebecca Kapusta will become the Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families on an interim basis. She will be replacing Secretary Mike Carroll who is leaving the agency effective September 6, 2018 after serving at DCF since 1990. [Read more…] about Rebecca Kapusta Named Interim Secretary of Department of Children and Families
Florida Department of Children and Families
Governor Rick Scott today announced that Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll is leaving the agency effective September 6, 2018. Secretary Carroll has served at DCF and its predecessor Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services since January 1990. [Read more…] about Mike Carroll Leaving Department of Children and Families After More than 28 Years of Service
As the new school year approaches, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is teaming up with the Ticket to Dream Foundation to encourage community members and local businesses to collect school supplies for children in foster care. [Read more…] about DCF Partners with Ticket to Dream Foundation to Promote Statewide Back-to-School Supply Drive Benefiting Children in Foster Care
Governor Rick Scott today directed the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to file a budget amendment to redirect funding for homelessness prevention services. The Florida Legislature provided DCF spending authority in the FY 2018-19 budget for the Challenge Grant, but did not provide dollars needed to fund these important services. [Read more…] about Gov. Scott: DCF to Redirect Funds, File Budget Amendment for Homelessness Prevention Services
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its community partners have joined together to recognize and celebrate foster families and those who support them during National Foster Care Month.
“When you choose to invest in and enhance the lives of children and youth currently in foster care, you are giving them an opportunity to be successful; ultimately strengthening our communities,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Opening your heart and home to a child in a time of critical need is one of the most rewarding roles you can fulfill within your community.”
There are nearly 25,000 children currently in foster care in Florida. Each child needs love, security, and a strong foundation to build their life around. Foster parents change lives and offer hope to children who have been removed from their homes because they have experienced abuse or neglect and cannot safely remain with their parents.
“I so appreciate DCF ensuring children are removed from dangerous and critical situations,” President and CEO of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child, Dr. Jerry Haag said. “We continue to work to meet the desperate need for more foster parents to care for children who are broken physically and/or emotionally and for children who just need a safe space to call home. All children are a joy-filled promise of hope who are worthy and deserving of our greatest efforts.
In partnership with DCF, Florida’s community-based care (CBC) lead and provider agencies, work to recruit, license, and match children in need of foster homes. These organizations also provide numerous services based on the unique needs of children and parents in their communities, including health care, mental and behavioral health services, education, training, and other supplementary services.
“Florida’s foster parents play a vital role in the lives of the children we serve and are a testament to the investment our communities are making in ensuring every child in Florida is in a safe and loving home,” said Florida Coalition for Children CEO Kurt Kelly. “However, as we celebrate these thousands of generous families, we must also remember there are still thousands of children in need throughout the state. We hope by sharing the joy fostering can bring into a home, many more families will step forward.”
Throughout May, the Tallahassee Democrat has featured special guest columns by local foster parents and the difference it has made in their personal lives and community. To view the columns, visit the links below.
Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll today took action to establish specialized oversight of Eckerd Connects, the community-based care, lead agency in Hillsborough County. Child welfare policy and financial experts will be placed on-site to improve child welfare practices, organizational administration, and financial management. In March, Secretary Carroll deployed a team to conduct a comprehensive review of the Hillsborough County child welfare system of care. Today’s actions are a direct result of the preliminary findings by this team.
“We are taking immediate action to address significant issues that have been identified by the review team that has conducted an extensive examination of the local system of care,” said Secretary Carroll. “We have zero tolerance for any management or practices that could result in anything less than excellent care for the children and families we serve. These initial actions will ensure that no time is wasted in correcting deficiencies that must be immediately remedied.”
The review team’s immediate recommendations include bringing a child welfare subject matter expert to work toward systemic stabilization of placements and streamlining the placement process. The preliminary recommendations include 10 directives that address specific issues, such as case management caseload, behavioral health services, and placement availability and stability.
Based on these recommendations, DCF has deployed a nationally-recognized child welfare consultant, Dr. Joyce Taylor, to work directly with Eckerd Connects, on-site, to provide guidance to strengthen their practices and policies. Dr. Taylor is affiliated with Yale University’s Program on Supervision, was formerly the Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, and has assisted other community-based care lead agencies in Florida.
DCF has assigned a financial consultant, Melissa Jaacks, to work directly with Eckerd Connects to review all finances to identify administrative cost savings and develop a sound financial viability plan to avoid future operating deficits. Ms. Jaacks is a certified public accountant, previously served as the assistant secretary for administration at DCF in Florida and the chief of staff of the federal Administration for Children and Families. She also provides financial consulting services for a variety of child welfare agencies.
The review team, which includes independent child welfare experts and department leadership, will provide the department a full report following the conclusion of all activities, including the DCF Inspector General’s management review of placement data and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Child Protective Investigations Division’s child protective investigation related to inappropriate supervision. Following the release of the team’s report, the department will hold a community meeting where the review team will share findings and recommendations with the community.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) today convened the first meeting of the Executive Steering Committee on Executive Order 18-81 in Tallahassee. Governor Scott signed the order on March 26, directing DCF to enhance collaboration with law enforcement in each Florida county to improve the coordination of behavioral health services for individuals in need. To view Executive Order 18-81, click HERE.
“Close coordination of services between DCF, mental health treatment providers, and law enforcement is essential for the success of Florida’s coordinated system of care,” said John N. Bryant, DCF’s Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health. “By bringing together representatives from various organizations who help address behavioral health treatment and safety across state, we can improve service delivery methods and truly make an impact for the citizens of Florida.”
The first meeting of the steering committee was led by Mr. Bryant and the committee reviewed the objectives of the Executive Order, outlined the role of the committee members, developed an action plan for implementation, and discussed the required final report. Mr. Bryant also provided an overview of new funding allocated for crisis services in the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget.
The Executive Steering Committee is comprised of state agency leadership, law enforcement, and education and treatment representatives whose knowledge, insights, and experience will aid in the development of an implementation plan and recommendations on how to best meet the behavioral health and public safety needs of Florida’s citizens. Committee members will also play a vital role in supporting regional and local meetings. Members include:
- John N. Bryant, DCF Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health
- Justin Senior, Secretary, Agency for Health Care Administration
- Rick Swearingen, Commissioner, Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Christina Daly, Secretary, Department of Juvenile Justice
- Rebecca Kapusta, DCF Assistant Secretary for Operations
- Matt Dunagan, Florida Sheriffs Association
- Natalie Kelly, Florida Association of Managing Entities
- Amy Mercer, Florida Association of Chiefs of Police
- Joy Frank, General Counsel, Florida Association of District School Superintendents
This week, Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll directed a review to enhance suicide prevention practices at the three state-operated mental health treatment facilities to ensure every individual in the state’s care has the safest and most appropriate setting to aid in their recovery. The review follows three tragic deaths by suicide at two state mental health treatment facilities in the last month.
Secretary Carroll said, “It is alarming and devastating that three individuals have died at the facilities and we are grieving with their families. While we know that the people we serve are dealing with serious mental illness, I absolutely will not accept any preventable deaths, including suicide, at these facilities. I immediately directed Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health John N. Bryant to have our Chief Hospital Administrator launch an investigation into staff compliance with our requirement to conduct regular visual safety checks and we have initiated a review of environmental management practices at each facility to enhance suicide prevention procedures. Our number one job is to keep those in our care safe and on the road to recovery and we will never stop working to do just that.”
On April 9, Secretary Carroll directed Assistant Secretary Bryant to have DCF’s Chief Hospital Administrator immediately investigate staff compliance with the requirement to conduct visual safety checks in a timely manner at all three facilities, as well as conduct environmental safety reviews for all resident rooms and common areas. At the Secretary’s direction, facility administrators will also consult with treatment staff to evaluate opportunities to improve resident care, including modification of therapy and activity schedules, increasing weekend staffing levels, and enhancing suicide risk recognition and assessment.
Each of the fatalities is being investigated by facility administration and DCF’s Adult Protective Services (APS) program. Two of the fatalities occurred at Northeast Florida State Hospital in MacClenny on March 18 and April 8, and the third occurred at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee on April 7. In compliance with federal and state health privacy law, this is all of the information available for public release at this time. These fatalities are the first since 2015 and the sixth of which have occurred in the past eight years.
Governor Rick Scott today signed Executive Order 18-81 directing the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enhance collaboration with law enforcement offices in each Florida county to improve the coordination of behavioral health services for individuals in need. Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Governor Scott convened emergency meetings with education officials, mental health experts and law enforcement to develop strategies to make our schools safer and improve mental health treatment services in Florida. Today’s Executive Order complements the provision established in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (SB 7026) which increases the sharing of information between sheriff’s offices, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), DCF, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and any community behavioral health providers to better coordinate services and provide prevention or intervention strategies. Read more about the new law, signed by Governor Rick Scott on March 9th, HERE.
Governor Scott said, “After the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I met with legislators, members of law enforcement, school administrators, teachers, mental health experts, and state agency leadership to find solutions which make sure our schools and communities are safe. Last month, I proposed a major action plan, and then signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act to protect our schools, bolster out state’s mental health system of care and keep guns away from dangerous people. Today, to enhance the policies I just signed into law, I am using my executive authority to make sure we are supporting those most in need while protecting Florida families.
“In issuing this executive order, I have directed DCF to closely collaborate with local sheriffs’ offices and police chiefs in each county to further increase communication between these agencies and increase access to substance abuse and mental health services in every community. My goal is to ensure DCF is integrated in every local department, so we have a person working hand-in-hand with law enforcement and dedicated solely to being a crisis welfare worker focused on repeat cases in each community. We will continue ensure that all Floridians have the opportunity to get the treatment they need.”
The Executive Order takes five major steps:
- Directs DCF to convene quarterly meetings in each of DCF’s six regions with sheriffs and police chiefs in the region, the behavioral health managing entities and service providers, school officials, and other stakeholders to improve communication, collaboration, and the coordination of services;
- Mandates DCF, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and sheriffs’ offices to improve cost sharing and integration of funding;
- Allows DCF to include sheriffs’ offices and local law enforcement agencies as eligible recipients of the criminal justice reinvestment grants;
- Directs DCF and the managing entities to ensure sheriffs or their designee have a seat on each managing entities’ board of directors; and
- Establishes enhanced collaboration between DCF, managing entities, and sheriffs’ offices to ensure access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services for those released from county jails.
To view Executive Order 18-81, click HERE.
In recognition of Children’s Week, leaders from the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet came together today on the steps of the Old Capitol to promote the health and well-being of Florida’s children. For the past 23 years, this event has strengthened Florida’s families by sharing a commitment to improving communities through events and outreach efforts. Members of the cabinet addressed its current priorities, including focusing on early childhood development, the effect of substance abuse on children, significant behavioral health issues in children and teens, and child poverty.
“Children’s Week is an important time to recognize and promote initiatives that improve the self-sufficiency, safety, health, and quality of life of Florida’s children,” said Chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet and nationally recognized leader in juvenile justice Wansley Walters. “Working together, agencies, organizations, and communities can have a real impact on enhancing the lives of children and families.”
“Every child deserves to be safe, healthy, and educationally and developmentally on track and an essential element to this is to have healthy parents and a supportive community,” Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll said. “We are committed to the continued integration of substance abuse and mental health services and the child welfare system because early intervention in the life of a struggling family, child, or parent, can make all the difference in their lives.”
“We now know that your ZIP code is a more important predictor of one’s health than your genetic code. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as living in poverty, can have long-term effects on a person’s ability to live a healthful life,” said Dr. Celeste Philip, Surgeon General & Secretary, Department of Health. “Early interventions such as screening for ACEs, teaching children how to cope with toxic stress and promoting trauma-informed care can mitigate these impacts and improve lifelong health and quality of life.”
“By age 2, a baby’s brain has reached 80 percent of its adult size. The quality of experiences from the prenatal stage until a child’s third birthday, i.e. those during the first 1,000 days of life build either a strong or fragile foundation for all experiences that follow,” said Diana Ragbeer, Managing Director, Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe. “After that, early learning or School Readiness programs improve language skills and help reduce the achievement gap, resulting in kindergarten readiness, early grade success, and success in life. Pay attention to the first 5 years of life and you can change everything!”
Children’s Week brings together more than 5,000 children, parents, advocates, teachers, and communities to the Florida Capitol each year to celebrate children and families, highlighting the critical issues they face. This annual event exemplifies how the collaboration of local and statewide organizations come together under “One Voice.”