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DCF Using New List Of Risk Factors Aimed At Preventing Child Abuse, Death

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The Florida Department of Children and Families plans to use new guidelines to respond more quickly when a child is in danger. The Rapid Safety Feedback program is the result of a study of child injuries and deaths that happened after DCF had begun investigating families.

The new guidelines were developed -- and have already been used -- in Hillsborough County. DCF spokesman Whitney Ray says the agency is now looking to apply them statewide.

First, case workers look for risk factors, including the parents’ age, evidence of drug use or the presence of an unrelated boyfriend in the home.

“They see some of these key risk factors. They flag them. They call an emergency meeting. They get the CPI [Child Protective Investigator] at the table. They call Children’s Legal Services. They make a determination as to what to do next, what is the best thing to do in the interest of the safety of that child," he says.

The risk factors were compiled based on a review of about 1,500 Hillsborough County cases where DCF had gotten involved, some of them ending in the injury or the death of a child.

Former DCF Secretary David Wilkins resigned earlier this year after media reported a spike in deaths of children under DCF’s watch.