Miami Mother Demands Answers After Teenage Daughter Found Dead

17-year-old girl was living in DCF group home, woman says

By Neki Mohan – Anchor/Reporter

MIAMI – Police are investigating after a 17-year-old girl was found dead last weekend in Miami.

“I don’t know how she died. I haven’t ID’d her, I haven’t seen a body. They’re telling me that there is no body,” the girl’s mother, Vickie Menard, said.

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Menard said her daughter, Christine McGowan, was found dead last Saturday.

Christine was in the care of a Department of Children and Families group home facility.

Menard said her daughter was the mother of a 3-year-old and had been in state custody for two years.

The single mother of four told Local 10 News that she had hoped the state could help her with Christine, who was determined to rebel.

She said she could not watch her daughter while working to support her family.

“She just didn’t always make the best decisions, but I felt it was only because she was young, not because she was just bad and, you know, too much out of control,” Menard said.

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Menard said she had hoped to be reunited with her daughter and was working with the court for that to happen. She said the two spoke daily, but she never got a call from her on Nov. 9.

She said she found out nearly a week later from the director of Christine’s group home that her daughter was dead.

“I do want answers. I feel like if she was found dead at home near me, everyone and law enforcement would be on me,” Menard said.

Miami-Dade police confirmed that it is investigating the death, but could not immediately provide specifics about the case.

http://www.local10.com/news/miami-mother-demands-answers-after-teen-daughter-found-dead

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BEWARE A FRIENDLY GUY WITH A SALES PITCH

I am sitting here shaking my head and beating myself up for failure to do due diligence when approached by a representative by the name of Travis Lipp to change my credit card processing.

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I was happy with the system I was using but always willing to upgrade to make my business more efficient and to save money on all the necessities of doing business.

Travis approached me under the guise of advertising, and I could see how he tied the credit processing in with advertising via printed coupons from the terminal but in all honesty it was credit card processing.

So he gave the pitch promising lower fees with almost identical service, there was a $15 per month fee that I would be charged but when I figured it in with the prices it was still a better deal.

Signed up and the nightmare began the first weekend we used the service, I am still in contact with the processing company, they seem to be willing to work with me at this time to cancel my services with them.

What this letter is about is Travis Lipp I have called his number, 813-417-6221 again and again, I have left text messages and ask for his assistance in figuring out the huge list of charges and fees that I was told did not exist. I have been patient and polite leaving voicemail after voicemail text after text. When he wanted my money he was far more attentive. I want to have a serious discussion about all of the fees, and late deposits that are in direct contrast to his promises.

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So I am writing everyone who would be dealing with Travis Lipp to use caution and to check reviews, and not just jump in based on a friendly guy who just wants to make a living and help small business succeed.

Check out this site to get in depth information and check out Eliot Management Group and their ratings.

https://www.cardpaymentoptions.com/credit-card-processing/worst-merchant-accounts/

Once again Eliot is working with me at this time, I will update this after my account issues are resolved.

Feel free to contact me and ask more questions, and TRAVIS LIPP in Tampa Florida, Sales Representative for Eliot Management Group please contact me, return a call or text. I would love to talk with you to find out if you were misinformed by the company, or just lied to me.

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Father Begins Hunger Strike In Response To Alleged Harm Of Children Under DCF Care

On Sunday evening, Raymond Schwab sat down to eat a meal of beans, rice, fried plantains and a salad.

He suspects it may be his last meal for awhile. Schwab, whose children have been under the supervision of the Kansas Department for Children and Families for almost a year, began a hunger strike Monday.

The drastic move was precipitated by news of his son being sent to a psychiatric residential treatment facility.

Raymond and his wife, Amelia Schwab, received the notification by email on Thursday from KVC, a private agency that has a contract with the DCF. In December, KVC also notified the Schwabs of a hotline report alleging abuse of three of their children.

“(The hunger strike) is a lack of not knowing what else to do before our kids go through more,” Amelia Schwab said.

“It’s a nonviolent protest against injustice,” Raymond Schwab said.

The couple spent Monday at the Kansas Capitol trying to reach the governor and other legislators about their case. They were joined by Odalis Sharp, of Auburn, and seven of her children. The “Sharp Family Singers” recently gained national attention for singing during the anti-government occupation in Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that ended in the fatal shooting of LaVoy Finicum on Jan. 26. Victoria Sharp, one of the older Sharp children, reportedly witnessed the shooting.

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The troupe broke into song several times Monday at the Capitol, gathering onlookers.

“Our family is here to stand by (the Schwabs),” Sharp said.

Sharp herself has had two cases with the Department for Children and Families.

“We have a broken system,” she said. “Families are being robbed of their children and the state is abusing them.”

The Schwab’s problems began in April 2015 as they prepared to move their family to Colorado from Topeka. During that time, they were accused of emotional abuse and five of their six children were removed. Their eldest is an adult. In July, the DCF concluded that the abuse allegations were unsubstantiated, but the children have yet to be returned.

Raymond, a veteran, alleges it is because he has used medicinal marijuana to treat chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Having made the move to Colorado, his use of marijuana — for medicinal or recreational purposes — is legal. However in Kansas, it is prohibited.

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Determining whether an allegation is true is separate from a recommendation to remove children from the home, said Theresa Freed, communications director for the DCF.

Freed also said she had been advised of Raymond Schwab’s hunger strike. The department isn’t able to comment on specific cases.

“Our interest is the privacy and confidentiality of children in the cases, not in arguing with people publicly,” said Freed.

The Schwabs don’t deny the need for investigating allegations. However, the system needs reform, Amelia Schwab said.

Raymond would like judges to have less power in the decision to remove children. He also would like to see more transparency in the process.

The Schwabs and the Sharps rely heavily on their faith. Amelia Schwab said they have to keep faith.

Sharp, who always reads scripture before leaving her house, said, “It’s going to take God’s hand.”

Last week, the Schwabs had a supervised visit with their children. Amelia Schwab said the visits are difficult because the children are confused about what is happening, but Raymond and Amelia aren’t allowed to talk about the case with them.

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The couple also is allowed a one-hour, supervised phone call once a week. Amelia said it has been difficult for them to miss events such as holidays and birthdays.

Raymond Schwab said he has stopped using cannabis so that he can pass a urinary analysis test and that the hunger strike will end once his children are returned.

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Harvard Finds Florida Among Most Politically Corrupt States In U.S.

Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics is out with a fascinating new report measuring legal and illegal corruption in American states, and Florida does not fare particularly well.

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The deep dive is here, but here’s the short take:

  • Illegal corruption is “moderately common” in Florida’s executive branch.
  • Illegal corruption is “very common” in the state’s legislative branch.
  • No state has a high ranking for illegal corruption in its judiciary.

When it comes to “legal” corruption, Florida falls into the “very common” category in both the executive and legislative branches.

Florida is also listed as one of America’s most corrupt states, along with Arizona, California, Kentucky, Alabama, Illinois, New Jersey, Georgia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Rhode Island, and Texas.

The Safra Center compiled its corruption rankings in part by surveying news reporters covering state politics across  the country, in addition to the investigative reporters covering issues related to corruption during the first half of 2014.

http://floridapolitics.com/archives/191150-harvard-says-florida-one-of-americas-most-politically-corrupt-states

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State Settles With Family Involving Bell Tragedy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. —  The Florida Department of Children and Families has reached a settlement agreement with the families involved in the Bell Tragedy.

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 DCF and two other private companies – who provide child welfare services – will dish out a total of $750,000 to the families involved in the 2014 shooting.

 “For us, we’re glad the settlement could be settlement was reached so we could all have closure and move forward,” Partnership for Strong Families spokesperson Jenn Petion explains.

As part of the settlement, the families have agreed to not sue the state or its contractors for wrongful death among other complaints.

 DCF will pay $450,000, Partnership for Strong Families will pay $250,000 and Deverux $50,000.

 Records show the Spirit home was investigated more than a dozen times for child abuse and neglect concerns. In 2003, Don Spirit served three years in person after shooting and killing his 8-year-old son – which was ruled an accident.
dcf31“There will still be horrible people who do horrible things to children,” Petioin explains, “but that doesn’t mean we will ever stop reviewing our processes and challenging ourselves to do even more to protect our community’s most vulnerable kids.”

The incident prompted DCF to retrain the staff at their Chiefland office and 1,600 investigators statewide.

TV20 reached out to DCF for comment, they referred us to a statement that was made last year which explained how officials would review improvements to better protect children.

http://www.wcjb.com/local-news/2015/10/state-settles-family-involving-bell-tragedy

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Kansas Parents Slam DCF For Allegedly Mishandling Cases

WICHITA, Kan. — Kansas parents whose children have been taken from them are slamming the state.

They’re accusing the Department for Children and Families of abusing its power and putting their kids in dangerous homes.

dcf kanAfter months of trying to find someone who would listen to their cries for help and calls for change, parents, grandparents and concerned community members gathered for a special meeting on the Wichita State campus Thursday night.

During a listening session, they each shared their DCF experiences with representatives from the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services.

“It has been an emotional travesty what has happened to my family,” said Jarus and Lara Pore.

The state took away the Pores’ three kids in May, when a neighbor found their two-year-old wandering alone outside. They say trying to regain custody has been a nightmare.

“The entire time, we’ve been lied to. There’s no communication or advocate for the parents to know or expect what’s coming up,” Lara said.

In 2010, Therasa Owen lost her two daughters, who suffer from a form of Muscular Dystrophy, because the state said the family’s religious beliefs were hurting the girls’ education and health.

“[One of my daughter’s] life is at risk the longer she stays out of the home because she’s developed seizures in a new part of the brain,” Owen said.

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Latisa Micheaux says social workers deemed her unfit to care for her grandchildren because of a misdemeanor on her record from 1981. She says she hasn’t been told where they are and worries they’re being abused.

“All I know, is the last time I seen my grandson, he had bruises all around his lower back from the foster parents,” Micheaux said.

Not only do these families want to be whole again, they say they want DCF officials to be held accountable for the mishandling of their cases.

“DCF, all of the foster care agencies, and the courts need to be investigated thoroughly because families are being torn apart,” Owen said.

“They’re suffering now, more than they ever have in their whole life because of the damage,” Micheaux said.

The state has refused to comment on individual cases. Now, the DOJ will investigate each parents’ complaint, and then let the group know whether they have a case against the state. If the DOJ believes they do, the group plans on filing a class action lawsuit

http://www.kake.com/home/headlines/Kan-parents-slam-DCF-for-mishandling-cases–323176171.html

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Violent Sexual Predators Held Indefinitely – For A Profit

Posted: Jun 09, 2015 8:46 PM EST Updated: Jun 09, 2015 8:46 PM EST
Andrea Praegitzer, NBC-2
6/9/15 — ARCADIA, FLa. — There’s only one place in the entire country where violent sexual predators are committed indefinitely that is run by a for-profit company.

ArcadiaIt’s in Arcadia, Florida – on the outskirts of town, past historic buildings and rows of antique stores that tourists often visit.

Despite receiving a state award for cost effectiveness, some national civil liberties groups say the Florida Civil Commitment Center is on their radar because it’s being run under a $272 million contract by a for-profit company – one with a criticized performance record and a purported conflict of incentives.

Records from the state show the facility has been understaffed, with undertrained staff, running the program where most detainees are released before completing the full treatment regimen.

Courts control the releases, state authorities said, adding the company running the facility – Correct Care Recovery Solutions – is under a corrective action plan for staffing issues and is doing a good job overall with a difficult population.

ACCESS DENIED

The men held at the Florida Civil Commitment Center have been described as the “worst of the worst.” Up to 720 of them can be held at the facility.

[Florida Civil Commitment Center detainee list here]

We asked for a tour but were told by the Department of Children and Families – which oversees the program and contract with Geo Group and now Correct Care – that they no longer do tours due to “security issues and other concerns.”

Correct Care, which runs the facility, also declined our request to go inside to tour of the facility and would not comment on our questions for this story. The company would only say: “it is our policy not to comment on treatment or patient related matters.”

It is not a prison, but it looks similar to one from the outside and from the sky. The men inside have all been considered so dangerous they weren’t allowed back into society after their prison sentences ended.

So they were committed by the state – involuntarily and indefinitely – at the Florida Civil Commitment Center.

These are all men who were convicted of a sexually violent offense and suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder. They have been referred for the program and are considered likely to commit another violent sex crime. They’re committed through court and a jury.

The Arcadia program is not just the only one of its kind run by a for-profit company in the entire nation – it’s also apparently the largest program of its kind.

With 20 states committing people deemed violent sexual offenders – Florida has the most committed, according to a study from the state of California, which takes second place.

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“Florida is the only state whose entire SVP program is being run by a private company,” Shan Jumper, president of the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Programs Network, said in an email. “A few other states contract out pieces of their operations (psychological treatment or testing, community release supervision) to private companies.”

UNDERSTAFFED, UNDERTRAINED, UNDERPERFORMING?

Contract oversight reports from DCF point to issues with staffing levels that are too low, and staff that are undertrained.

Here are just some of the deficiencies detailed in recent contract oversight reports from 2013-2014 provided by DCF:

– 8 of 27 employee records reviewed from the full 298 employees at the facility did not have documentation that they’d completed all the courses required for annual in-service training.

That was an improvement, though, from the 2012-2013 report showing 26 of 27 employee records reviewed did not have documentation of all courses required for annual in-service training.

– The basic orientation training required for the employees prior to providing direct services did not include abuse reporting.

– Job vacancies included:

*An executive office employee from January through May

*2 business support employees from January through March of 2014

*30 treatment mental health employees vacant in March, then 27 in April and 25 in May

*3 security supervisors vacant from January through May 2014

*9 security officers vacant in January, down to 8 in February; 4 in March; 3 in April and 2 in May

dcf46Correct Care is involved in corrective action plans with DCF addressing these deficiencies.

One of the Corrective Action Plans notes: “The facility has developed a robust recruitment and retention program including the hiring of a corporate healthcare recruiter to fill vacancies. The facility HR department is working with department managers to schedule interviews and hire the most qualified candidates to serve our resident population.”

Florida’s Director of the Sexually Violent Predator Program, former prosecutor Kristin Kanner, says the company is spending more on staffing now than in the past. “We’re going forward and they have made moves to amend the contract… The staffing is in the residents’ favor for more treatment and more treatment programs.”

The state’s contract with Geo Care was amended for a name change to Correct Care.

The contract was also amended so that Correct Care no longer needs to submit all policies it develops to the Florida DCF for approval.

Bob Libal is the executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin Texas, which is a non-profit fighting to end for-profit incarceration – claiming no one should profit by the imprisonment of human beings.

MichiganHe described Correct Care as a spin-off of GEO, which he notes is “deeply embedded in Florida.”

Overall, Libal says there “appears to be a conflict of incentives” at play and the center is on the radar of his organization and others like it.

Geo has also made headlines elsewhere recently for misspending millions in a troubled prison it runs, according to an April report on a Department of Justice audit.

The Virginia ACLU called privatizing civil commitment of sex offendersunwise.

“Unlike state-run facilities, the bottom line for for-profit prisons is to make money, and the best way to do that is to cut costs,” according to a release from the Virginia ACLU. “Studies show that private facilities, for example, have higher staff turnover, less experienced staff, and often fewer staff than state facilities.”

The Florida ACLU did not respond to our requests for comment.

Kanner says the predominate goal is offender treatment and rehab at Florida Civil Commitment Center. “I don’t think there is a conflict of interest,” she said.

The Florida Civil Commitment Center recently made headlines when a man being held there was sent back to prison for 100 years after he was found with numerous images of child pornography on a flash drive and an MP3 player.

No one from Correct Care would tell us exactly how this happened. Kanner said she has not asked specifically about how it happened but it is not surprising to her that it did.

“This is not a glaring problem at the center,” said Kanner. “I don’t think anything having to do with their staffing had anything to do with it.”

There was also an escape from the Arcadia center in 2008. No one ever said how Bruce A. Young got out – but he was ultimately captured within a week.

dcf222From 2004 to 2009, DCF was sued in a federal class action lawsuit alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the facility. The suit was settled and dismissed in 2009 because the conditions and treatment opportunities improved.

ONLY FOR-PROFIT CONTRACTS

The state has paid GEO Group – which changed its name on the contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families last August to Geo Care and is now named Correct Care – $68.8 million to run the facility. The total contract, executed in 2006, is for more than $272 million set to expire in 2019.

Even though the nation’s other states that commit violent sexual predators don’t entirely involve for-profit companies to run their programs, Florida’s governor has been a proponent of the private company running the facility in Arcadia, citing cost savings.

Meanwhile, GEO has made millions off the Arcadia facility.

The company increased revenues between 2006 and 2007 by $14.2 million just from the Florida Civil Commitment Center, according to the company’s 2008 annual report.

tricky ricky1A few years later, in 2012, Gov. Rick Scott endowed GEO Group with the State of Florida Governor’s Savings Award – for its “commitment to fiscal responsibility by implementing bold and innovative cost-saving business practices while increasing the effectiveness of state government operations.”

Gov. Scott’s office declined to specify what exactly the bold and innovative cost-saving business practices were – and how GEO increased the effectiveness of government operations.

A spokesperson for Scott’s office would only say in June that award is no longer being given and declined to say why.

Indeed, the daily cost for one person at the Florida Civil Commitment Center is less than other similar programs throughout the country.

“I don’t think the state could do any better job than they’re doing,” said Kanner.

Under a contract, the state pays a daily rate of $102.28 to Correct Care for up to 680 residents – that’s in addition to $18,333 per month for additional clinical therapists.

The daily rate can fluctuate, though based on how many people are being held. If there are more than 680 people, the daily rate dwindles to $69.90.

If there are less than 650 residents, the daily rate goes back up to $102.28 – which has been the case for the 2014-2015 fiscal year through March of 2015.

The State of Washington was the first to civilly commit violent sexual predators and has never considered privatization. Officials there say the state spends between $335 and $1,057 per day on its civilly committed sex offenders at four different facilities – but note their costs are significantly affected by the facility’s location – on an island in Puget Sound accessible only by barge or ferry.

It costs $49.49 per day for an inmate in a Florida prison.

The facility hasn’t always been in Arcadia, but it has always had a private company operating it under contract with DCF.

Moreover, the state has never considered in-sourcing this back to state control and management, nor has a contract audit ever been done, the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System shows.

The program began in the Martin Treatment Center and was mostly run by Liberty Behavioral Health Care. At that time, GEO was still involved – holding sexually violent predator detainees awaiting commitment proceedings in a unit of the South Bay Correctional Facility.

In 2000, a move was made to Arcadia, under the contract with Liberty Behavioral Health. There were reports of lax security that ended in violence, the introduction of contraband and disorder inside. In 2004, inmates moved into the yard and lived there for months until they were forcibly removed by hundreds of officers.

After that, DCF terminated its contract with Liberty and entered into a new one with GEO in 2006.

GEO also got a design-build contract to construct a new facility for the program in Arcadia, which is owned by the state and made GEO millions.

The construction of Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia increased GEO’s revenues by $22.1 million, according to the company’s 2008 annual report.

Correct Care declined to say what its most recent profit margins are. The company also runs three other facilities in Florida. South Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center in Florida City was publicly run until 2005, when it became the first privately-managed forensic mental health facility in the country.

Correct Care has also operated South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines since 1998. It was the first facility of its kind in the nation to be completely privatized.

They also run Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center in Indiantown.

TWISTED TIES?

Private company profits aside, close ties between the governor and GEO’s CEO have been scrutinized.

Tricky Ricky

Tricky Ricky

Last July, for example, it was reported that GEO CEO George Zoley was hosting a $10,000 per person fundraiser at his Boca Raton home for Scott’s re-election campaign and the Republican Party of Florida.

People from GEO Group and Correct care are listed on the latest lobbyist directory for the Legislature.

The company’s contract with the state to run the Arcadia facility prohibits the use of contract funds to lobby the Legislature.

Kanner notes she is also a legislative lobbyist along with many people in the state’s capital.

“I don’t think it’s a problem,” Kanner said. “I’ve never been present where my program was discussed where Correct Care was lobbying any legislator so I don’t see it as a problem.”

GOOD JOB?

Data on recidivism – or repeat offense after release – was provided by DCF. It shows a rate of recidivism of 8.6-percent for people who completed the treatment and went on to do another sexually motivated crime.

“You could look at 8.6 and say it’s not working – or at 91.4-percent and say it is working,” said Kanner, who believes it is “pretty successful.”

“They do a really good job with the treatment program,” she said.

Meanwhile, Washington’s more expensive program appears to show an impeccable record of success.

“As of April 30, 2015, the SCC has no record of any unconditionally or conditionally released residents who participated in treatment who have committed a sex re-offense,” said Mindy Chambers, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. “The court has revoked the release of 11 of 74 residents conditionally released to a Less Restrictive Alternative due to violations of release conditions, not re-offense. Most of these individuals eventually returned to the Less Restrictive Alternative after corrective intervention, with a subsequent unconditional release.”

At the Florida Civil Commitment Center, the recidivism rate from this facility for a new sex conviction is not much different than the rate of recidivism from prisons – 3.3 percent for Arcadia’s civil commitment center, compared to 3.8 percent after regular detention release.

The treatment program takes at least six years to complete, though confinement is indefinite unless or until a court lets them out. Every year, the detainees get an annual review on the anniversary of their commitment date.

Most of the men are released by courts before completing the entire treatment regimen.

Of around 820 men released from the program; only about 15-percent completed through the end stage of treatment. At least 1,700 have been committed throughout the course of the program, with dozens also at the facility awaiting the trial to officially commit them there.

Failure to complete treatment is an indicator of recidivism, according to Kanner. “I think that is potentially a problem.”

http://www.erietvnews.com/story/29280908/violent-sexual-predators-held-indefinitely-for-a-profit

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Better staff is key to reforming Department of Children and Families

The Florida Department of Children and Families has been plagued by controversies in recent years, putting the lives of the state’s most vulnerable children at risk.

dcf46Problems came to light most recently through an impressive investigation by the Miami Herald and a grand jury report that led to a massive reform bill in the state Legislature last year.

Typically, such investigations are followed by calls for more funding. Check.

There are calls for more staff to reduce the case load of staff investigators. Check.

But a true solution is more basic than that. Anyone in business knows that you can’t operate efficiently if you can’t find and retain good staff.

“No issue has a greater effect on the capacity of the child welfare system to effectively serve vulnerable children and families than the shortage of a competent and stable workforce,” reported the Child Welfare League of America.

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Yet reforms in DCF will never take place until the department reduces its massive rate of turnover.

At one point in the Northeast Florida region, it was a jaw-dropping 50 percent. Now it is at 30 percent, still too high, said David Abramowitz, Northeast regional secretary for DCF.

There is no way to operate effectively when inexperienced staff are reporting to inexperienced supervisors.

MANY GRADUATES AVAILABLE

Florida typically graduates 1,500 people or more from its 14 schools of social work each year. But many of them must leave the state, tragically.

The bachelor’s of social work degree requires a structured internship with extensive supervision by a master’s level social worker and many hours of coursework.

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Yet in the past, DCF only allowed a wide variety of experience that implied a lack of respect for the social work degree.

This does not respect the incredible demands on child welfare investigators, which combines the hard talents of investigating families in crisis with the soft skills of providing services to families.

“They are exposed to people in places and under conditions that most of us could never imagine,” reported a Miami-Dade grand jury.

Turnover in the social work profession began to receive public attention in the 1970s. Christina Maslach created a way to test for it with the Maslach Burnout Inventory. A book titled “Burnout Among Social Workers” co-edited by Maslach was published in 1987.

Michigan

Research showed that more experienced social workers were less prone to burnout.

Loving kids is not enough, said Pamela Graham, director of the Bachelor’s of Social Work and Professional Development Program at Florida State University.

Many of FSU’s interns did not stay with DCF after being hired, according to a legislative staff analysis.

A FSU survey looked for reasons:

■ Poor management and administration.

■ Poor professional support.

■ A lack of respect and not feeling valued by upper management.

■ Too little teamwork with employees.

Investigators often work long hours, entering unsafe neighborhoods at late hours, but did not feel enough concern from their supervisors.

Too often staffers are placed in a position where “they don’t know what they don’t know,” Graham said, supervised by people who aren’t much help.

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AVOIDING BURNOUT

Neither pay nor caseloads are the real issues, she said. It’s about creating a highly skilled professional class of employees.

A report from the American Public Human Services Association lists strategies to prevent burnout and turnover.

■ Good supervision from someone who cares about the worker as a person.

■ Increased training, education and technological support.

■ An agency mission that makes workers feel important.

■ Dependable management support and commitment to workers.

The new state legislation will begin building that professionalism along with an institute based at Florida State to research best practices.

Currently only about 10 percent of DCF investigators statewide have social work degrees; it’s about 6 percent in the Northeast region.

It may take till 2019 before 50 percent of DCF staff have social work degrees.

It might take a decade to build a department that is fully professionalized.

Abramowitz said he is doing a much more thorough hiring job. New employees are being told that being an investigator may mean working nights and weekends. Since January, there have been 800 applications for DCF jobs and just 25 people have been hired, he said, a reflection of higher standards.

In a telephone interview, Graham said that DCF has made good strides in hiring social work graduates for entry level positions. The more difficult issue is to find qualified supervisors. An entry level employee who is being poorly supervised is likely to leave, she said.

Abramowitz said he is increasing training for supervisors and also is willing to hire out-of-state to find quality supervisors. DCF is filling eight Critical Child Safety Practice Expert positions in the 20-county Northeast Florida region.

The people who fill these positions will be responsible for conducting rapid safety quality assurance reviews of cases involving children deemed to be at high risk for critical injuries and death.

Despite all these difficulties, he said, child safety is not negotiable.

But for far too long, employee qualifications were negotiable.

http://jaxairnews.jacksonville.com/opinion/editorials/2015-04-16/story/better-staff-key-reforming-department-children-and-families

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Woman Charged With Falsifying Records

SEBRING — A former family case manager supervisor for a social service agency dealing with foster children and children at risk for neglect or abuse may have falsified records to boost statistics, according to a warrant released Thursday.

Woman Charged With Falsifying RecordsLindsay Bass, 30, 4757 E. Avon Pines Road, Avon Park, was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and charged with two felony counts of falsification of records. She claimed on two occasions to have visited with families, but had not done so, the warrant indicates.

At the time of the alleged falsification of records, Bass worked at One Hope United, an agency that among other things deals with placement of foster children, training of prospective foster parents and helping families where a risk exists of abuse or neglect of children. One Hope is a Florida Department of Children and Families that provides services in Hardee and Highlands counties.

An employee at One Hope told authorities that “Bass was only concerned with her unit having the top statistics for the OHU office,” the warrant said.

OHU officials refused to comment on the situation.

“Due to privacy procedures meant to ensure the protection and confidentiality of the children who may be affected, it is One Hope United’s policy to not comment on such cases,” OHU Executive Vice President Barbara Moss said in an emailed statement. “Any situation that raises concerns about impropriety is quickly investigated and rectified. As always, One Hope United is serious about its commitment to strengthening families and protecting children.”

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The warrant said that OHU Director Michelle Ramirez reported to the DCF Office of Inspector General that Bass in May 2014 falsely documented entries involving a family. The warrant said the complaint was that Bass said she attended a court hearing in Okeechobee County on May 27, 2014, but claimed it actually occurred the following day. Ramirez also reported that Bass said she made a home visit to a family in Port St. Lucie on May 28, but that did not occur.

Another One Hope employee said that while Bass claimed to have accompanied her on a visit with the family, that never occurred, the warrant said.

The employee said that after they attended a judicial hearing, Bass wanted her to state in the records that it was actually a home visit, the warrant said. The employee said she refused to do so.

Members of the family involved did not recall Bass visiting them, the warrant said.

http://highlandstoday.com/hi/local-news/woman-charged-with-falsifying-records-20150521/?page=1#sthash.0lgYYX7N.dpuf

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