Letter to Governor Rick Scott, State of Florida – Safety of Children – Public Statements – The Voter’s Self Defense System – Vote Smart
By: Alcee Hastings, Sr. Patrick Murphy Lois Frankel Ted Deutch – Location: Washington, DC
The Honorable Rick Scott
Executive Office of Governor Rick Scott
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Dear Governor Scott:
The past few weeks have been marred by the deaths of several young children who previously had contact with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). When looking at the function of child protective services and the responsibilities the state has when intervening in families, the foremost precept has always been safety. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding these deaths indicate that at some point, the safety of children lost its status as the prime operating principle of DCF in South Florida.
The facts of several of these cases as reported are disturbing. Not simply for the terrible manner in which these children died, but also for the fact that there were points where had investigators engaged in meaningful intervention, these children might be alive today. These tragic deaths are a signal that something beyond investigator judgment, assessments, forms, and follow through is wrong. We have been through this cycle of death, outrage, and reform before, and we are in the midst of this cycle again.
This cycle too easily devolves into foster care panic, where front-line social workers and investigators fearful of castigation needlessly remove children from their homes. Family preservation and child trauma are important considerations when determining the type of intervention the state will impose on a family. Certainly, there are many cases which warrant in- home services and supervision over removing children from their homes. These considerations should not fall by the wayside and be replaced with a removal fits all mentality. Conversely, this cycle must not lead to yet another form or assessment for child-welfare workers to fill out that ultimately leads to no real change or reflection.
State Senator Eleanor Sobel called for hearings and you have accepted former DCF Secretary Wilkins’ resignation. However, hearings may lead only to promises and overhauls that “work” until another scandal occurs. If Florida is to have a responsive, functional child-welfare system, the response to this string of deaths must lead to comprehensive reforms both with DCF and Florida’s treatment of children in general.
Governor Scott, we urge you to convene an independent panel to study child well-being within the state and make recommendations as to how we go about making Florida a state that truly nurtures and cares for its youngest. Florida must recognize and embrace prevention measures and become proactive.