Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Legislative Delegations to Meet on Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Issues

Aug 14, 2013


Following the deaths of several South Florida children monitored by the state Department of Children and Families this year, State Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), Chair of the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee, and as Chair of the Broward Legislative Delegation, is hosting a tri-county delegation meeting with the Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Legislative Delegations to find solutions to the issues plaguing the agency. The meeting will be held Tuesday, August 20, from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM at the Performing Cultural Arts Theatre at the Broward College South Campus, Building 68B, 7200 Pines Blvd. Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.

A panel of child welfare experts will be on-hand, including:

  • Secretary Esther Jacobo – Interim Secretary, Florida Department of Children and Families
  • Kurt Kelly – President of Florida’s Coalition for Children
  • Andrea Moore – Attorney and former Director of Florida’s Children First
  • James Walker – Assistant Program Administrator for Child Protective Investigations at the Broward Sheriff’s Office

Discussions will be between the Legislators and the panel, and include input from the Public. “The death of seven children in less than three months in our State is simply unacceptable,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel. “We need to identify where the problems exist within the system and address them immediately.”

In the case of each death, the Department was aware of allegations of abuse and neglect at the hands of their caregivers and in each case the Department failed to remove the children from their custody. Prior to news of the most recent death, DCF Secretary David Wilkins resigned his position and has since been replaced by Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo.

Secretary Jacobo and the panel will be on hand to answer several other questions including:  How thorough and to what extent is DCF involved in families? What issues are common to all these cases that may indicate systemic problems? What is the relationship between the DCF and Community Based Care (CBCs) entities? How was the new assessment tool by DCF for investigators developed and has it been field tested? Are there alternative assessment tools?

Furthermore, several of the incidents involved children no more than six years old.  Senator Sobel believes more stringent standards may need to be implemented for younger children who cannot adequately express their concerns to Child Protective Investigators working their cases.

“When cases involve children under six years old, how can these kids clearly communicate what’s happened to them to the investigators?” asked Sen. Sobel.  “I believe we may need to consider stricter requirements in cases where we can’t get reliable input from the child due to their age.”

Public testimony is welcome. For more information, residents are urged to call Sen. Sobel’s office at 954-924-3693 or the Broward Legislative Delegation office at 954-357-6555.