Florida's Child Abuse Hotline Under Fire

There are disturbing results from an internal audit at the Department of Children and Families. It shows the agency dropped the ball in about one third of child deaths in 2003. DCF found 12 of the 35 deaths could have been prevented by the child welfare system.

To get to the bottom of the problem, a state house committee visited the abuse hot line Wednesday morning. Lawmakers came away suggesting DCF needs better funding.

As abuse hotline operator Carla Adams took a call, Rep. Bill Galvano and other members of the house committee responsible for the Department of Children and Families listened in.

More than a thousand times a day, the phone at DCF rings with potential tragedy waiting on the other end of the line. Over 400,000 calls a year come into the hot line, which must then dispatch someone to check out complaints. The cases are often difficult. One in 20 calls to the hot line go unanswered, often for a lack of an operator or because the caller got tired of waiting. The chairman of the committee thinks the agency may need more money.

The agency is under new leadership, and lawmakers now have a better feel for what it’s like to be on the front line of one of the most difficult missions facing the state. Whether or not that knowledge makes a difference won’t be known for months.

In Georgia, if you suspect child abuse, you should contact the Department of Family and Children Services in your county.