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Tasked With Implementing Reforms, DCF Head Talks Renewed Effort To Making Agency Better

DCF's youtube channel

The head of Florida’s child welfare agency says he’s renewing his commitment to making his agency better.

Mike Carroll, the Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary, says he wants to put the focus on four areas, including a look at the services his agency provides.

“We provide services from cradle to grave,” said Carroll, in a recent video vlog. “We serve the very young. We serve the very old. We have substance abuse-mental health services. We deliver day care services. We have child welfare services. We have public assistance services. If we’re going to be great, it’s about coordinating those services and integrating those services in a way we that we optimize the resources that we have, while optimizing the outcomes that we’re achieving that we serve every day.”

In addition, DCF operates Florida Abuse Hotline, leads adult abuse investigations statewide as well as child abuse investigations in most Florida counties.

In recent years, the agency has fallen under scrutiny for a spate of child abuse deaths under its watch. And, the Florida Legislature has put in place a series of reforms that Carroll is tasked with implementing.

Among them is hiring more child protective investigators to help with the caseload as well as increasing the number of CPIs with social work backgrounds.

Jennifer, a child protective investigator, spoke in a DCF video about a day in the life of a CPI.

She says there are certain cases that you always remember. She recalled the case of an eight-year-old girl, who Jennifer says was a straight-A student as well as a sweet child.

“She disclosed a lot of, I would call it, torture as far as they would make her drink hot sauce and hold her nose and dump water on her head and make her go to bed wet and told her they hated her. We ended up removing her and her little brother, and they’re now in foster care. And, what I found shocking about her was even though they had done this to her, she still loved them and still wanted to see them,” added Jennifer.

A similar story in the 2011 case of Nubia and her twin brother Victor Barahona has haunted the agency. There’s even a claims bill seeking the rest of the money owed to Victor, who was the only one of the two siblings to survive the abuse of their adopted parents. Their mistreatment included having their eyes glued shut after hot sauce was put in their eyes as well as beatings and forced to eat feces—red flags, that at the time, were ignored by DCF.

Since Governor Rick Scott’s first term, Carroll is now the third Secretary to take over the agency.

Carroll says DCF must do better in all the services offered, and identified what he calls four core competencies. Those include working better with outside vendors who provide most of the department’s contracted services as well as stakeholders, getting better at managing data, and make sure there are qualified people working for his agency.

“In the end, we can’t do what we do, we can’t be the best at what we do, without having the best possible folks working for this department,” concluded Carroll. Those four things will allow us to remain great in the areas that we’re already great, but it will drive us to greatness in the areas that we need to improve.”

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.