Florida plans to transition child protection investigations away from sheriffs’ offices

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is planning to take over child protection investigations from seven sheriffs’ offices around the state, according to a new letter obtained by 8 On Your Side from DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris.

Harris writes, “Our child welfare system has evolved. Today, there is a renewed commitment on prevention focused programming, and integrating this function within existing crisis-oriented systems to provide better outcomes for families.”

The letter goes on to say the DCF and sheriffs’ offices are going to submit a proposal the Florida legislature.

“I don’t think it’s the best decision right now,” said Sandy Murman, a former state representative who sponsored the original bill that put the investigations into local hands. “When someone walks in with a badge from a hotline call, it has a lot more credibility.”

In the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee County Sheriffs have a contract with the department.

“It really is a state responsibility,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a statement. “It’s not a local-level responsibility. It just makes good sense.”

The sheriff added that what worked 25 years ago isn’t the best model right now.

“We think it’s a really good move on the part of the department,” said Robin Rosenberg, Deputy Director of Florida’s Children First, a nonprofit helping at-risk kids. “DCF was hampered in their ability to make uniform policy across the state because in those places where sheriffs didn’t want to follow the policy, they didn’t have to do that.”

DCF’s letter says the department will work with the Florida legislature to make a plan for the transition. While there is no exact timeline right now, the letter says changes will happen, “in the coming months.”



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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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