No more Nubias: Tougher child-protection laws should be the priority


No more Nubias

OUR OPINION: Tougher child-protection laws should be the priority



If state lawmakers really want to prevent any other child in the state from meeting Nubia Barahona’s tragic fate, then they will do everything possible to toughen child-welfare laws before attaching her name to them in her honor. So far, it’s been a mixed bag, legislatively speaking. Some proposals bring a dose of accountability and common sense to make the system better. Others, however, show that some lawmakers need to get real.

One bill in the state Senate would increase the salaries of child-protection investigators. These employees are on the front lines. They labor in high-stress environments confronting troubled families, putting in long hours and making what turn out to be life-and-death decisions. They are expected to get it right every time. When they don’t, the horror stories reveal themselves, as in the case of Nubia, 10, allegedly tortured to death by her adoptive parents, and her twin brother, Victor, barely rescued from a similar horrific fate.

Senate Bill 2044 includes a salary increase for child-protection investigators. Their current starting salary is only $34,000, low enough to qualify a worker, depending on his or her personal circumstances, for food stamps. The bill would raise it to $38,000, a move backed by David Wilkins, secretary of the Department of Children & Families. Good.

Despite the budgetary needs in so many other areas, this proposed increase is not simply throwing money at a problem. According to state Sen. Nan Rich, the pay hike will help (1) stem turnover among investigators, which stands at 37 percent. That’s a lot of experience heading for the door. And (2) attract better qualified workers.

The last thing Florida’s abused and neglected children need are poorly qualified investigators brought on board and making more money. Missing from the bill are specifics regarding credentials and training that would go a long way toward raising the standards of who can — and can’t — be entrusted with this sensitive job. It’s not too late to add tougher criteria. Perhaps the work group established by Mr. Wilkins to make recommendations can weigh in here.

On another front, community-based child-services agencies, charged with responding to the unique needs of their communities around the state are under attack in a misguided attempt to consolidate monitoring and services in Tallahassee. We’ve been down this road before — remember another tragedy: the disappearance, and likely death of Rilya Wilson? — that provoked lawmakers to push responsibility down to the local level, where committed and involved people who knew their community best could serve.

Agencies in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties are doing a superb job of carrying out their mandate. However, there are attempts to eliminate the special taxing districts that keep these agencies funded. In addition, there was an attempt to get rid of the community alliances that provide oversight to the community-based-care agencies, helping them work smarter, more efficiently. It’s another layer of needed accountability and, fortunately, the alliances have been restored.

Some errant legislators are waking up to the grim facts. Many failed to connect the dots that show smaller caseloads help improve child protection. But they got back on board after trying to wriggle out of the standards set by the Child Welfare League of America. The League recommends that investigators be given no more that 12 new cases each month. This provision has been restored. It should stay that way.

Read more here:



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