Florida’s child welfare system just received a $200,000 grant to help strengthen its child abuse prevention efforts. But, some question whether that’s enough to help the Florida Department of Children and Families, which they say is faced with systemic problems.
DCF Spokeswoman Alexis Lambert says the funds will be used to help boost services in areas they’ve identified as problems:
“Recently, the department launched a child abuse prevention website, and there’s a lot of data on there that has informed us and can help inform the public on where we need to direct our resources,” said Lambert. “So, we know the leading cause of child fatalities are unsafe sleep, drowning, and inflicted trauma. And, we have programs that are targeted at helping families that are at risk for those things.”
The child abuse prevention website is one of several reforms recently put into law as part of a legislative effort this year. DCF came under fire for a spate of child deaths that occurred under the agency’s supervision, after a series of investigative reports by the Miami Herald.
More recently, DCF came under further scrutiny after a mass shooting in Bell that left eight people dead, including six kids. A report showed the agency had been contacted close to 20 times in the past several years, alleging abuse and neglect in that family. In some cases, the kids even raised those alarms, but they were never removed from the home.
Spokeswoman for child advocacy group, Children’s Lobby, Linda Alexionok, says while she acknowledges that DCF could not foresee the actual massacre by the grandfather, Don Spirit, she says there were several red flags.
“There is absolute evidence based on their report that these children were being harmed, and it is at that moment, where children are being harmed, in which they depend on the state to take action and remove them and/or to fix that environment from harm,” said Alexionok.
So, does she believe the $200,000 grant will help with DCF’s child abuse prevention efforts?
“So, if these dollars are actually used over a system that is going to measure and change what we’re doing to change the outcome in losing children’s lives, then we’re very in favor of that,” she added. “But, the dollars alone trickled in and used towards what is already being done, then the Children’s Lobby would have no reason to believe that we’re going to get a different outcome.”
Alexionok says the new DCF overhaul law is a great first step, especially since more money was put into the budget to hire more child protective investigators. Among the changes the Children’s Lobby recommends is transferring more of the child protective services’ responsibilities to trained local law enforcement who work with children.
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