Florida

Florida Gov. Rick Scott seeks additional $22.9 million for Department of Children and Families

Gov. Rick Scott 
 MIAMI HERALD
Gov. Rick Scott MIAMI HERALD

Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday he will seek an addition $22.9 million in funding for the state's child welfare agency.

Scott said the additional money, which would amount to about an 8 percent increase in spending, would allow the Department of Children and Families and community based care agencies to hire an additional 272 case managers to reduce caseloads; and "increase availability of safety services for families whose children are at risk of being removed from their home."

"It's absolutely heartbreaking when a child is a victim of abuse or neglect," said Scott, who made the announcement in the wake of the Janiya Thomas case in Bradenton.

"Anytime something horrific happens to an innocent child, we have to stop and think about what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen again. The funding we are announcing today will help us better coordinate care across our state and give us the necessary tools to work toward stopping child abuse," Scott said in a statement.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said, "I appreciate Governor Scott's commitment to making sure we do all we can to protect the most vulnerable children in our state. This funding will increase staffing levels and help caseworkers who are in the communities everyday caring for children."

Scott's announcement comes a day after officials confirmed that 11-year-old Janiya Thomas of Bradenton had been found dead in a freezer in a relative's home.

Her family had a long history of involvement with DCF -- about a dozen encounters since 2004 -- but reports show that agency representatives had not seen the girl since June 2014.

Janiya was not reported as missing to police until Oct. 16, when officials went to her home to take her and four siblings into custody as part of a new child abuse case involving her 12-year-old brother.

The children's mother, Keishanna Thomas, was arrested when she refused to tell officials about Janiya's whereabouts or well-being.

Janiya was found dead two days later.

Thomas is in jail on charges of child abuse, aggravated child abuse and abuse of dead body. The latter is related to the discovery of Janiya's body in the freezer.

For the 2015-16 fiscal year now underway, DCF has a budget of more than $2.9 billion.

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