DCF secretary promises changes after child murder

The secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families promised swift changes Monday in how the agency responds to potential child abuse cases, but Mike Carroll said he’s not sure if the changes would have saved Phoebe Jonchuck’s life.

The 5-year-old child was dropped to her death last week from the Misener Bridge in St. Petersburg by her father, John Jonchuck, 25, police said.

“I was sick to my stomach,” Carroll said. “I’m angry and frustrated that we can’t better protect kids.”

See our full interview with DCF Secretary Mike Carroll in the media player above.

Carroll announced that DCF will respond faster to calls in which kids’ lives may be in danger. Instead of the usual 24 hour response time by child welfare agents, they’re required to respond in four hours.

The secretary said he’s assembled a Critical Incident Response Team consisting of child welfare experts, law enforcement, and educators that will review the Jonchuck case and report back in 30 days.

One issue under review is a complaint from Jonchuck’s attorney who warned DCF about her client’s unusual behavior and the possibility of hurting his own child.

Hillsborough County deputies responded but opted not to hospitalize Jonchuck for mental evaluation or arrest him.

Carroll didn’t blame the deputies for their actions but instead pointed the finger at his own agency.

“The buck will always stop with the Department of Children and Families on a child welfare case,” Carroll said.

The secretary said if child welfare agents had responded quickly to Jonchuck’s case, he couldn’t predict whether Phoebe would have survived.

“I don’t know whether we would have even located him,” Carroll said. “But I know this, I would rather have that protocol in place than not.”

The DCF secretary said the issue is complicated, and that people should not expect the problems to be solved overnight.

 “I can tell you systemically that this is not an issue that the Department of Children and Families is going to fix all by ourselves,” Carroll said.

Original Article

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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