New DCF Campaign Educates Parents About Caregivers

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Associated Press News Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Child welfare officials are launching a new campaign encouraging parents to educate themselves about who they are leaving their children with.

The Florida Department of Children and Families' campaign will target parents and guardians of children under the age of 4 who rely on child care and may be using a caregiver they know little about.

State officials say more than 25 percent of child protective investigations last year involved a non-relative caregiver as the alleged perpetrator. This represents more than 12,000 incidents of verified maltreatment at the hands of a non-relative caregiver in 2013.

DCF is partnering with more than 30 statewide agencies and organizations in the public awareness campaign, which includes networks of pediatricians and child protective investigators.

News Release: Florida Department of Children and Families

TALLAHASSEE—The first stories in the Miami Herald’s series that launched Sunday look at some of the many challenges the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and statewide partner agencies face in working with struggling families and at-risk children. DCF, with support from Governor Rick Scott, is continuously working to protect children.

Key initiatives DCF has undertaken to improve child safety.

Methodology for more thorough decision-making: DCF is implementing a new Safety Decision-Making Methodology that will improve the type and amount of information Child Protective Investigators (CPI) gather to make decisions on behalf of at-risk children including improved tools that support the assessment of safety and risk. Governor Scott’s $31.9 million proposed budget increase for DCF CPIs and an additional $8 million for CPIs in
Sheriff’s offices will provide the staff resources needed to successfully
implement the methodology. Funding for child protection has increased each year since Governor Scott took office.

Outside expert analysis: DCF partnered with Casey Family Programs, the nation's largest operating foundation focused entirely on improving child welfare systems, to review child deaths in 2013 and provide expert analysis on investigative services and practices. From these findings, DCF is implementing new protocols to keep children safe.

Better prediction for prevention: DCF commissioned a study to review five years of child fatalities that DCF will use to help investigators better
predict the needs of families in crisis. Florida is one of the first states
in the nation to introduce predictive analytics into the practice of child
welfare. The data show that since 2010 there has been a decline in child fatalities due to abuse or neglect and that prior in-home services provided by DCF or one of many statewide partners reduce the odds of child death by 90 percent.

Monitoring addiction treatment compliance/Family Intervention Specialists: Every region has substance abuse experts called Family Intervention Specialists (FIS) who work with child welfare professionals. To ensure compliance with drug rehabilitation services, last year DCF implemented a FIS alert system in the child welfare computer program. The system sends electronic alerts to the CPI or Case Manager to inform them if the parent is making excellent, acceptable, inadequate or no progress. The CPI or case manager is required to take action to protect the child when poor progress is reported.

Children’s Legal Services receiving frontline training: In order to better
understand the challenges that CPIs face in working with struggling
families, all Children’s Legal Services attorneys are receiving core CPI
training that includes hands on, in the field experience to enhance
collaboration and support investigators.

Increasing accountability in safety plans: DCF hosted a statewide training session on safety planning. The training reached more than 1,000 child welfare professionals. DCF has made several policy and IT changes to support improved safety planning including:

  • Investigations cannot be closed with an open safety plan unless
    transferred to case management for monitoring.

  • Investigative safety plans must be reviewed within 24 hours by a

  • Safety plans must be supportable, monitored and regularly verified.

Response to high risk cases: DCF management have been trained on real-time quality assurance to quickly identify cases with issues that pose the greatest risk to a child before it is too late. Governor Scott’s proposed budget recommends 26 additional staff to expand real-time quality assurance statewide.

“Who’s really watching your child?”
DCF will launch the “Who’s really watching your child?” campaign tomorrow, Tuesday, March 18 with a press conference at The Capitol. The campaign will target parents and guardians of children ages 0-4 who need child care in order to work and may be using a caregiver they know little about. The Casey Family Programs report showed this type of situation is often unsafe and may lead to child abuse, and even child death. In partnership with more than 30 statewide agencies and organizations, the campaign will provide public awareness; parenting programs; child care initiatives; pediatrician support; and child protective investigator, case worker and child care provider training.

Focusing on children most at risk: Governor Scott’s proposed budget will fund the expansion of the paired CPI pilot DCF launched last year. This very successful pilot program is used to target cases involving children under 4 who are most at risk. Paired CPIs result in a more vigorous assessment of child safety and family needs and a quicker response in delivering services.

The cases DCF investigates are only the cases that are reported. Far too many are never reported. In Florida, any individual who suspects that a child has been abused by any person is required to report to the Florida Abuse Hotline. If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected report online at or call 1-800-962-2873.

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