Today, Governor Ron DeSantis issued the following statement upon learning of the findings of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) report regarding the tragic case of Jordan Belliveau, Jr.
Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have arrested Doreece J. Hines, 31, of 1333 Sunset Blvd., Daytona Beach, on two counts of falsifying records.
Hines was employed as a child protective investigator for the Department of Children and Families. She has been terminated.
In April 2017, agents launched an investigation into allegations that Hines had falsified documents in the Florida Safe Families Network. Hines was assigned a case involving a child with bruises on the child’s body. The investigation revealed Hines documented she made a visit to the child’s home and spoke with a parent to determine if the child was in present danger. It was later found no visit to the child’s home or conversation took place. Hines entered incorrect information in her case notes and later tried to change those notes.
Hines also failed to follow protocol and notify law enforcement and the child protection team about her case.
She was booked into the Volusia County Jail. The Office of the State Attorney, 7th Circuit, will prosecute.
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) will open the first Disaster SNAP (or Food for Florida) sites this week and reminds Floridians seeking disaster food assistance of important details prior to visiting a Food for Florida site. To qualify for the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program, individuals must have lived or worked in one of the 48declared counties on September 5, and NOT be a customer in the regular food assistance program.
Individuals and authorized representatives are strongly encouraged to pre-register online. Pre-registration is a brief application process that adds your information to the system in advance of your local site visit. This application is available here, at the Food for Florida website. Pre-registering on the day prior to visiting your local Food for Florida site will allow for faster processing of your application on-site.
All Food for Florida dates and locations will be posted on the Site Locations link on the Food for Florida website. Service at site locations will be organized by day according to the first letter of your last name. Each site’s alphabetical serving order is listed on the site locations webpage. This program is not first come, first serve. Everyone’s application will be taken and processed at their appropriate county location.
One EBT card per eligible household will be issued so only the applicant needs to visit the local Food for Florida site in person. Additional individuals attending may contribute to longer lines and extended service times.
To make your visit to your local Food for Florida site as convenient as possible, remember these important items:
- Fill out the initial application the day before visiting your local site via the pre-registration link at the Food for Florida website.
- Only one applicant needs to visit the site in person as only one EBT card will be issued per eligible household.
- Visit the local site on the indicated date for your last name.
- Current food assistance participants should not visit the local Food for Florida site or pre-register; additional September/October benefits will be added to your EBT card within five days of your county’s Food for Florida site opening.
Food for Florida sites will open across the state over the next five weeks to serve eligible Floridians who lived or worked in the 48 counties FEMA declared for Individual Assistance following damage from Hurricane Irma. Sites are opening on specific dates based on the infrastructure required to support a Food for Florida operation, such as venue size, power, and accessibility, as well as community resources available to purchase and safely store food.
For more information, visit the Food for Florida website.
DCF TO INITIATE DISASTER SNAP FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM IN 48 COUNTIES
~Food for Florida sites will assist individuals and families recovering from Hurricane Irma~
TALLAHASSEE – The Department of Children and Families (DCF), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will implement the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program in 48 counties to assist victims of Hurricane Irma. Details on local Food for Florida sites will be posted on the Food for Florida website as they become available.
“We are working around the clock to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Irma damage,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. “We will continue to stand side-by-side with those who need us as they get back on their feet. We encourage those in need of food assistance to pre-register if possible through the website so we can quickly serve those in need.”
To qualify for the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance program, applicants must have lived or worked in one of the counties declared for FEMA Individual Assistance on September 5, and not be receiving food assistance through the regular Food Assistance Program. Additionally, eligible individuals and families must have suffered a disaster-related loss, such as damage to their homes or self-employment property, loss of food, reduction or loss of income, or have incurred other disaster related expenses. Applicants must also be financially eligible. DCF will provide or mail Electronic Benefits Transfer cards to eligible individuals and families to use at authorized USDA food retailers. The program counts only income and expenses from September 5 through October 4, 2017.
Food for Florida pre-registration will be available on the Food for Florida website and open for people in need of food assistance in eligible counties through October 30. Food for Florida sites in Pinellas, Bradford, Union, Alachua, Lake, Sumter, and Citrus counties will open next week. Individuals who lived or worked in these counties can pre-register beginning today at 2:00 p.m. Pre-registration for other eligible counties will be available prior to the local sites opening. Individuals, families, and authorized representatives that pre-register must still visit a Food for Florida site, listed on the Food for Florida website, to be interviewed. Individuals may also apply at the Food for Florida site locations without pre-registering. You must have a valid Florida Driver License or Florida Identification card.
Visit the Food for Florida website for more information on pre-registration, site locations, and hours of operation.
TALLAHASSEE – The State of Florida, in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this week provided $133 million in Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for current food assistance recipients in areas most severely impacted by Hurricane Irma. On September 15, DCF received a waiver of regulations from the USDA to make the mass benefit replacement possible.
This effort, coordinated by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), helps current food assistance households that lost food destroyed by the storm or due to power outages. The action provides aid to nearly 1.5 million households in 52 counties.
Households received 40 percent of the amount of their regular September benefits amount. Benefits were automatically loaded into each household’s Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) account and households can use the benefits in USDA authorized retailers.
More information about food assistance is available at www.myflorida.com/accessflorida/.
The Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Fostering Success Program, in collaboration with the Barry University School of Social Work in Miami, recently held a commencement ceremony marking the completion of two-week professional life skills and employment readiness program for the young adults participating in the program.
Twelve former foster youth participated in an immersive developmental and professional job skills training opportunity to help better prepare them for the workforce. Participants were housed on campus, paired with a mentor, and participated in training which focused on personal and professional development, public speaking, cultural diversity, and technology in the workplace.
“We are thankful for the partnership with Barry University to provide an additional opportunity for our youth to develop their professional skills,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. “This is the future of Florida’s workforce; it is imperative that we continue to support skills training for young adults in Florida’s child welfare system. We look forward to following their journeys and watching them grow in and outside of the workplace.”
The program operates jointly between DCF, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Youth (ages 18 and up) participating in the program have the opportunity to gain professional work experience in a supportive environment by obtaining employment in a paid entry-level position in a participating state agency.
“We appreciate Representative Albritton and the Florida Legislature for giving us the opportunity to help pilot this program,” said FDACS Director of Administration Joey Hicks. “This program not only provides an environment for growth and learning for the young adults in the program, but it equally benefits our employees who participate as mentors. With the added support of DCF and FWC, we’re already seeing increased opportunity for these young adults in personal and professional skill development.”
The program’s goal is to help emancipated foster youth develop the habits, attitudes, and skills they need to get and keep a job, become self-sufficient and economically stable, and reach personal success. The program also offers its participants developmental skills training, mentoring services, and any needed additional support, such as transportation, housing, and food assistance.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to welcome seven bright young people to the FWC from the Fostering Success Program,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “This program provides multiple benefits. We’re able to provide participants with high-quality on-the-job training that prepares them for a future career. And it allows us the opportunity to immerse them in our conservation mission. Not only does this support the FWC’s efforts to create the next generation that cares about conservation, it may also lead participants to consider a career path at the FWC.”
The Fostering Success program was established in 2014 to help reduce and prevent the unnecessary struggles experienced when aging out of the foster care system by providing life and job skills education, job placement services, and collaborative efforts to strengthen and expand community partnerships.
“It is such a blessing to our young people emerging out of foster care to have opportunities to build careers in our state agencies, with Barry University equipping them,” said Representative Albritton. “When we started the program, I only dreamed and hoped that this simple idea would yield so much good. Simply put, I’m deeply blessed to be part of Fostering Success team! THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT!”
The Fostering Success Program is currently only operated within the city of Tallahassee and administered by DCF, FDACS, and FWC.
Governor Rick Scott today directed the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to meet with communities to identify additional strategies to fight the rising opioid usage cases in Florida. The Attorney General’s Office will also be participating in these workshops. At the Governor’s direction, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll, Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip and FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen will travel to counties facing an increase in opioid-related deaths and host community workshops with local leaders, law enforcement, health directors, treatment providers and community members.
Governor Scott said, “Growing up, substance abuse was something that impacted my own family and I know firsthand what a heartbreaking burden this can be on families who have to deal with this. Behind every case of drug use is a family hoping and praying for a solution. One death caused by substance abuse is one too many, and today I have directed the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to travel the state and hear directly from communities on what resources they need to help with this growing problem. Opioid abuse is happening across our nation and it is crucial that we hear what our local communities are doing to fight the rising use of opioids and how we as the state can continue to help.
“Drug abuse has the potential to affect entire families, including innocent children. I have directed Secretary Carroll to specifically focus on children whose caregivers are struggling with addiction and what resources counties need in order to protect these kids. We are committed to doing everything we can to keep Florida safe, and I look forward to continuing to work with our federal, state and local partners to ensure our communities have the resources they need in their fight against opioid use.”
Community workshops will provide important opportunities for the state to directly hear the specific needs of affected communities as well as provide information on existing resources, best practices, and grant opportunities. Workshops will be hosted in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange County. More information on dates and locations will be announced soon.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “I have dedicated my career to fighting drug abuse—first as a state prosecutor and now as your attorney general. As our fight against this national opioid epidemic continues, we know we cannot just arrest our way out of this problem. That is why we have worked to decrease the price of life-saving medicine to treat addicts. We will continue to vigorously prosecute drug traffickers and explore options to help users recover, as we travel the state to identify additional strategies to address the opioid crisis and save lives.”
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “Stopping the introduction, sale and use of illegal opioids remains a primary focus of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. I look forward to participating in the community meetings to ensure we are working with all stakeholders to address this growing problem.”
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said, “Substance abuse can have a catastrophic impact on individuals and their families if left untreated. The rising toll of opioid abuse in the state is spreading into communities across Florida and affecting all generations. We must come together to ensure that communities have the tools they need to fight and prevent these addictions.”
State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Celeste Philip said, “Substance abuse and addiction are complex and often tragic health conditions that negatively impact children, families and communities at large. We know that adverse childhood experiences can have effects on lifelong health outcomes. There is an emerging body of evidence of the benefit of early interventions to prevent lifelong negative impacts to mental health, like substance abuse. As a department, we are beginning to incorporate this approach to our work in communities and we stand ready to support DCF and to be part of the solution.”
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its community-based care providers recognize January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Florida received 1,892 reports of human trafficking – a 54 percent increase from the previous year. The increase in reported allegations of human trafficking was due in large part to increased training and the recently launched Human Trafficking Screening Tool (HTST) developed as a collaborative effort between DCF, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.
“The increase in reports of human trafficking is evidence that the coordinated effort across state agencies to train professionals is increasing awareness and bringing more of these cases to light,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Florida must continue to create and implement a continuum of services that addresses all aspects of a survivor’s life including physical, social, emotional and spiritual health.”
More Floridians are recognizing the signs of human trafficking and reporting it to authorities. In addition to improved reporting tools, the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking – Secretary Mike Carroll is the Vice-Chair – has implemented specialized training for first responders and other child welfare professionals to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report it.
In March 2015, DCF and DJJ launched the human trafficking screening tool used by DJJ Juvenile Assessment Center Assessors, DCF and sheriff’s offices’ child protective investigators, and community-based care lead agencies to report incidents of suspected human trafficking. In the first year of implementation, 3,500 screenings were completed with 1,289 (37 percent) of screenings resulting in calls to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The top five counties to generate potentially trafficked youth under this screening process included Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
Local, statewide and national partnerships, including state agencies, service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, the judicial system and concerned citizens, are driving the fight against human trafficking in Florida.
“Florida must continue the hard work begun on behalf of those who are often the state’s most vulnerable citizens. We cannot falter in our fight of this heinous crime,” said DJJ Secretary Christina K. Daly. “Every day that we work to increase awareness of human trafficking is another potential victim saved through our combined efforts.”
DCF tracks human trafficking by three primary categories: sexual exploitation by a non-caregiver, such as an adult entertainment club or escort service; sexual exploitation by a parent, guardian or caregiver; and labor trafficking, also referred to as slavery or servitude.
Human Trafficking Awareness Month is recognized every January. For more information on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, as well as how to report it, visit: www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/human-trafficking.