Editorial: DCF chief takes steps to open up agency

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll is taking steps to reverse recent policies that would have shielded much of the agency’s work from the public record.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll is taking steps to reverse recent policies that would have shielded much of the agency’s work from the public record.

Florida’s most vulnerable children deserve to have an empowered, enlightened public that can hold state officials accountable for their safety. Just days into his new role as the Department of Children and Families’ interim secretary, Mike Carroll is taking steps to reverse recent policies that would have shielded much of the agency’s work from the public record. This is a sound move that puts children’s safety first.

The Miami Herald sparked an intense debate about child welfare issues in Florida this spring after it published its Innocents Lost series. The yearlong investigation detailed the deaths of 477 children who perished in Florida since 2008 after having some contact with DCF. The series revealed systemic problems in the agency, including overworked caseworkers who did little followup with at-risk families and toothless safety plans that provided little protection for children.

In the wake of the series, legislators created sweeping child protection reforms. Gov. Rick Scott called for the hiring of 400 new child protection investigators. And DCF pledged its continued commitment to Florida’s children and to transparency. But behind the scenes, the agency did just the opposite. According to a Heraldreport earlier this month, the DCF adopted a policy that allows it to delete what it calls confidential information from the public record. This essentially scrubs its files of most of the information surrounding a child’s death, including the child’s age, details of the investigation and record of any prior DCF involvement. In response to the Herald’s article, DCF said it had simply taken steps to protect the privacy of others who might be involved in a child’s case, such as a surviving sibling. In reality, it would make it impossible to investigate their performance again like the newspaper did.

On Monday, Carroll ordered the creation of a position in the state office of Child Welfare to oversee reporting, data gathering and response to child deaths. He also called for the streamlining of incident reporting and vowed that once the new system is deployed, it will be shared with the public in ways that do not violate traditional confidentiality. This is what the agency should be doing: opening its records rather than cloaking portions of investigations even if the law allows it.

The Herald’s series was scathing in its analysis of DCF’s shortcomings. The comprehensive look at an agency in trouble resulted in sweeping legislative reforms and more than $59 million in new money proposed for child protection issues. Government agencies should embrace openness, especially when it involves efforts to protect children and youth. Children benefit when the entire community looks out for their safety.

Original article

Share this article:


Related Posts

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.

Skip to content