Last Chance To Get It Right

With a little luck — and a lot of legislative backbone — the children in care of the Department of Children & Families will be better shielded from harm by the time state lawmakers turn out the lights on their two-month session in Tallahassee on Friday.

And if that’s the case, it’s because most lawmakers were likely shamed, embarrassed or dragged into doing something because of the Miami Herald’s eye-opening, stomach-churning series Innocents Lost. That was the intent.

But Innocents Lost has shaken loose an unintended consequence, too: DCF is, basically, hiding the true number of children who have died at the hands of abusive or neglectful caretakers. It’s an insidious — and, incredibly, official — policy that should end immediately. Lawmakers must make sure that it does on this final day of the session by inserting a mandate for transparency, accuracy and urgency in reporting child deaths.

Again, DCF’s leaders are talking the talk about keeping children safe. But they are furiously backpedaling from that stance — and last week were working overtime to weaken the more-stringent rules of operation that Senate lawmakers rightly imposed.

DCF, showing that it has learned little from the comprehensively reported deaths of 477 children — it’s more now — sought to strip the child-safety language from the Senate bill aiming to force the agency to more carefully monitor children it leaves in at-risk homes. It also sought to get rid of a layer of oversight of the department relating to child deaths, eliminate language that would have tightened child-safety protections and deep-six a requirement that members of DCF’s Rapid Response Teams travel to the site of a child’s death to conduct a case review.

During a year in which lawmakers are drooling over the state’s $1.2-billion surplus, DCF — and Gov. Rick Scott — insist that too many of these provisions to keep children alive are just too expensive. The irony is rich, isn’t it?

Commend state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, the bill’s sponsor, heavy-lifter Sen. Denise Grimsley and their colleagues for swatting down DCF’s foolish attempt and unanimously approving the stronger bill. Miami-Dade Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, however, warrants a swat himself for filing that 140-page amendment to water down the bill.

DCF’s clampdown on transparency and disclosure is simply, and sadly, more of the same. In advance of the stories of the 477 children who died on DCF’s watch being published, the agency curtailed the scope and the detail of child deaths by delaying the release of official incident reports and making sure that they were as terse as possible.

As reported by Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch, last fall, an administrator for South Florida and the Treasure Coast stopped filing the required “critical incident reports” to DCF headquarters. After the stories were published, he belatedly submitted the files — some months old — of more than 20 children who died.

Administrators now delete what they deem confidential information from public records — including most details of a child’s death. They harm themselves by failing to include critical details. Overly exuberant redactions make it impossible for the public to gauge DCF’s performance.

DCF’s newly appointed leader, Mike Carroll, clearly has his work cut out for him. So does the Legislature. House lawmakers failed to vote on the Senate bill Thursday. They must not squander their last opportunity to get it right and save children’s lives.

Mike Carroll

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1 comment to Last Chance To Get It Right

  • Luna

    This says what needs to be said i suppose.

    I do wonder about you though, are you genuine or is this merely a political ploy. many parents who have dealt with you directly, have already decided you don’t mean it because your actions have not proved you mean it. Anyway, all stats i did, were from investigating and talking to real people who have been in the system, as well as what was said to them, and paperwork, etc etc etc… it took a lot of work, however their needs to be an end to social workers having what is basically ‘immunity’, if they commit a crime they need to be held responsible ESPECIALLY when they put children at risk.

    I lost my children even though i had years of medical records to prove i didn’t have what they said i had, a mental illness they said i had in order to sever my rights. I did everything they asked of me, made my visits, had good reports from the parent aid, did the therapy they asked of me. Sir, they kept my children even though their was literally nothing accept the doctor hired by cps to do one eval who decided to lie because he, like others, said only what cps wanted to hear. My court appointee and the rest went to lunch together after trial. Left together while i cried. their is no jury though their needs to be. Everyone in that court room had knowledge the judge had a specific bias when they claimed ‘mental health in any case.

    In the beginning of my case they took my children first, had me sign paperwork ‘consenting’ later and under threat of harm to my children and under threat of ‘losing’ my children and just letting the case fall through the cracks with my children unaccounted for. I was threatened and my children’s safety was used as a weapon to force me to sign. Not even a gun to my head could have made me sign that paper, only under threat of my children’s safety being compromised on purpose.

    My rights were severed on the basis that i have a disorder i have never had, that i still to this day have never been diagnosed with by anyone accept the one they chose to do the sham of an evaluation. he did this knowingly and on purpose as i would have had no emotion at all, no worry, no nothing, if i had what he said i had. I never have and i actually broke down crying, so i know he knew. It isn’t the type of thing you misdiagnose someone with on accident.

    In my case, my lawyer who filed the appeal hasn’t contacted me or called me back since she informed me she was filing the appeal over a year ago.

    My case is the common case not only in Arizona where i live, but in other states as well, California being just as bad as Arizona.

    Children taken on such grounds that are so completely wrong should be returned to their families, and rights severed on such flimsy and not even solid grounds should be immediately reversed. Forced adoptions should not be allowed. The department should not receive funds based on the amount of children it takes or places, at all as they have shown to the nations parents and children alike, they cannot handle the responsibility. In cases like mine, the children should be returned home as if they would in a case where the children were kidnapped by anyone else, it should not be excusable or arguable simply because its cps when they have not met the burden of proof and are making flimsy arguments that have nothing to do with parenting at all. In my case, they had to attack me because their wasn’t anything actually wrong with my parenting, so they basically made it like a college hazing or like the immature teen girls in high school who write things on the mirror in lip stick. At this point, cps lies and that needs to change.

    Mandatory recording at all times during all visits and in all meetings with parents and children alike should be implemented. It has worked with police in the state it started in, and it needs to be done with all cps workers and in all cps/dcf related interactions and anything regarding the welfare of the child or children.

    Their also needs to be the same for the judges and lawyers, because their is a huge issue where lawyers and judges alike have a conflict of interest quite severe. As i said, everything related with cps. Foster homes need to also be monitored in such ways. Sound for the bath and bed rooms,and basically a nanny cam type set up everywhere else. This is what needs to be done for the safety of the children. Group homes should have something much the same as foster homes, along with all people who work at the group home being required to wear a device that records. All dcf/cps buildings/offices need to have recording equipment, and not not necessarily telling the workers about it as they are technically government employees and government employees are subject to such anyway. It simply needs to be done and not simply have a place where it CAN be done. Also, companies that work with cps, need to do the same and all recordings need to be part of the records a parent can request and need to be part of what the judge/lawyers receive. This should include tape recorded visits of course with sound included. The right to make their case public record, should be protected to both children and parents. This includes the workers faces, as many parents already do. This i highly suggest gets put into place because their are workers who specifically target parents who talk about what they do, and use their children as weapons in retaliation against them for speaking up. The rule about staying silent, needs to be taken off. It has facilitated too much abuse done by government workers/cps workers.

    A task force should be set up to specifically, enforce the law when cps workers in any capacity, break them or otherwise endanger a child or children when it could otherwise have been prevented. For instance, my lawyer knew i had been threatened but went before the judge and told her i hadn’t, lying to the judge and also more than once refusing to submit evidence she felt ‘the judge won’t like’. Court proceedings should be about the children not about what the judge does and does not like.

    Also, many workers do not do their paperwork and instead back date it, a system needs to be put into place that makes this impossible for them to do. They do this often, and it NEEDS to be done.

    This is what NEEDS to be done. Unfortunately people cannot be trusted with this much power.

    Oh, speaking languages that are made up, between any amount of people, should not be aloud either, as it basically leaves room for them to coordinate. ALL cps workers cells, should be subject to having their calls monitors and recorded, every last call. E mails should be part of all of this monitoring as well.

    ALL of this is necessary and if congress can’t do it, i guess they don’t mind children dying. The citizens of American don’t want obamacare, but we DO want our children to be safe from both foreign and domestic threats, and unfortunately this one comes from our own government. More children die in cps care and are injured IN cps care, than at with their parents.

    One more thing i need to say right in this, one of the urgent issues. In AZ their is this stupid thing they have, where they can basically claim you will do something in the future even though you have never abused your children and have always done whatever necessary to protect your children. they need to be bared from taking children based on what they THINK will happen. It only leaves room for more ‘thought crimes’ as they are called among those who advocate and have been through it. In criminal court ‘circumstantial evidence’ would not be accepted, they need solid evidence. The same should be for ‘family court’ and in these cases, we also need a jury. These cases should require the same amount of proof as criminal court and the judges should be made to follow this instead of being left get away with murder, as should the lawyers as well.

    Transparency is a big issue that needs to be had, and enforced throughout all of this.

    Also, this system would create jobs, more jobs means more people paying taxes and less people on welfare as well as a more stable economy. This would mean stability for families as well. This being as more people would be needed to fill said positions. If congress is smart, they will do it and create a task force to implement it. At least it creates more jobs unlike obamacare, hell, it even costs a helluva lot less. -_- AND its something the American people actually WANT and would vote for if given the chance to do so.

    I spent a long time writing something like this that left not the holes cps uses, based on what people need and what families need and the abuse often doled out by cps.

    This should be an issue democrats, republicans, and independents alike unite on as it pertains to everyone, to protect the families of America from tyranny, both foreign and domestic.

    My sons names, Rowan, and Rohan. They are Irish Twins. I miss them, i love them, and i lose sleep every single day. Their is never a moment i am not thinking of them and worrying about them, wondering about them and if they are safe and their is never a moment i am not tormented just like everyone else in my same situation.

    We need to have congress take a step back and look at things from ALL angles, not just jump the gun. At this point you need more credentials to stand against cps, than you need to be a foster parent or even adopt from an agency and many of them are pretty strict so its not hard to imagine the plight of many many families. This should not be the way it is. We should ALL be on the same page in this. To protect our children, and all the children of America.

    -Luna(Legal name: Stephanie Lynn Campbell)

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