Starting next month, a county in the Florida Panhandle will join six others across the state in taking over the child protective investigative duties of the state’s child welfare agency. Walton County Sheriff’s Office received legislative approval this year and the funds to do just that.
The role of child protective investigators within the Florida Department of Children and Families is to investigate claims of abuse and neglect.
Currently, six sheriff’s offices across the state have made agreements with DCF to take over that role. They are Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee as well as Pasco, Pinellas, and Seminole counties.
And, now, with a legislative change, Walton County Sheriff’s office will join them.
Sen. George Gainer (R-Panama City) spearheaded that effort in the Florida legislature.
“We believe that the legislation will allow for a quicker response and better outcomes because of the close proximity of the sheriff’s personnel being coordinated under a single entity,” he said, during this past legislative session.
And, Gainer says letting Walton County take over the CPI operations will allow for more flexible investigations.
“...because of fewer administrative barriers,” added Gainer. “Walton County Sheriff [Mike] Adkinson and DCF have been working for more than a year to develop a contract that will put in place performance standards and protocol.”
The final step in this process was receiving legislative approval in the form of a budget amendment.
That means the legislature will now be able to transfer funding that normally would have gone to DCF to Walton County Sheriff’s Office—specifically to handle child protection in that area.
There is also now a new provision in state law that not only applies to Walton County, but four other sheriff’s offices across the state that have been doing similar work for nearly two decades.
Before, the statute read, “the sheriff’s offices of Pasco, Manatee, Broward, and Pinellas counties have the responsibility to provide all child protective investigations in their counties.”
Now, with Walton County included, it states those same sheriff’s offices shall provide all child protective investigations in their counties.
That means if DCF sees that any of these counties can’t meet the caseloads or fail in any way, the child welfare agency can take over those CPI services again.
Meanwhile, Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson says his reasons for doing this is simple.
“We’re doing it because it is the ultimately, in the best interest of these kids and that’s the driving factor,” said Adkinson, during a Facebook Live show.
Adkinson adds this will also make it easier for his sheriff’s office to add additional investigators—which will help with caseloads.
“It is tough, hard work. It is very difficult for the men and women who do that particular job,” he added, at the time. “We think by working together, we can provide a better service to the kids, and at the end of the day, that is what we’re about. So, I’m excited that we’re going to have some continuity, finally.”
Walton County Sheriff’s office is currently putting the final touches on its agreement with DCF. The change will officially take effect July 1st.
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