DCF Secretary Resigns, Interim Secretary Named

Photo: Resigning Secretary, David Wilkins
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Press Release: Office of Governor Scott

TALLAHASSEE – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Esther Jacobo as interim Secretary of the Department of Children and Families. Esther Jacobo replaces David Wilkins who resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector and to provide more attention to his foundation.

Governor Scott said, “David did a great job in leading the state’s top child protection agency and his service is deeply appreciated. I have no doubt that Esther will increase accountability in the Department and enhance child protective services in order to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Esther Jacobo, of Miami, most recently served as the Regional Managing Director for the Southern Region of the Florida Department of Children and Families, which is comprised of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Under the position, Jacobo supervised the delivery of an array of Child Welfare services to children and young adults, including foster care, adoptions, support services, prevention initiatives, child protective investigations, and young adults on the road to independence. Jacobo also oversaw the Department’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program, which is dedicated to the development of a comprehensive system of prevention, emergency/detoxification, and treatment services. Other services within the Department’s portfolio include funding of programs for refugees and the homeless.

In February of 2008, Jacobo began serving at DCF as Statewide Deputy Director of Children’s Legal Services (CLS) where she was responsible for statewide litigation practices of CLS in Miami Dade and across the state.

In January 2001, she served as the Division Chief of the Domestic Crimes Unit at the State Attorney’s office. There, Jacobo supervised all domestic violence prosecutions in Miami-Dade County, participated in community-based initiatives to assist victims of domestic violence and developed protocol to be used in both the felony and misdemeanor courts with regard to these cases. During that time, she also prosecuted several domestic violence homicides.

Jacobo received her Law Degree from St. Thomas University in Miami in 1992. That same year she was appointed as an Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County by Janet Reno and remained in that office until April 2007.

Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The head of Florida's child welfare agency is stepping down.

Thursday's sudden announcement comes after the Department of Children and Families has been under fire recently for a handful of child deaths.

Secretary David Wilkins said he is leaving to pursue opportunities in the private sector and to provide more attention to his foundation. Miami's regional managing director Esther Jacobo will fill in as interim secretary.

DCF recently fired a child protective investigator for forging documents about a mother's substance abuse program in the months before a child's death.

The private contractors that oversee foster care have also criticized Wilkins lately, accusing him of trying to exert too much control over them, which they claim undermined the goals of the privatized system.

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