Florida has obligation to improve child protection

March 23, 2014 

A recent investigation into the deaths of 477 children who were known to be at risk by DCF shockingly revealed the abysmal failure of DCF and its community partners to protect these children.

The reality is that as DCF reduced the number of children in its dangerous, burgeoning out-of-home care system from 50,000 in 2002 to 16,000, it failed with its private partners to take action to protect community children that investigators determined were in harms' way.

Recently, Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo has been open and invited collaborative solutions to address these failures, and the Florida Legislature is considering several measures that could create the reforms advocates have been demanding for years to protect both community children and children taken into state care as well.

Under the current law, when state workers investigate reports of abuse, they must close their investigations within 60 days, no matter the finding of future risk.

Proposed legislation would require lead agencies to monitor safety plans with interventions and services specifically tailored for each child and family beyond the 60-day investigation period if protective investigators determine that there is high future risk to children.

Additionally, the Legislature needs to ensure that children who are placed in state care are also safe from the dangers of over-crowded foster care, including child-on-child sexual abuse, and have permanent families in one year, as state law requires.

Florida must protect both the children in the community and those that must be in state custody as well. It's not just DCF's and its community partners' job. It's their moral and legal obligation.

Howard Talenfeld

Fort Lauderdale

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