DCF to Cut 500 Jobs, Wilkins Promises No Front-line Workers Cut

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida

Tallahassee, FL - While promising not to cut any front-line workers, Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins notified employees on Monday that nearly 500 administrative employees around the state will see their positions cut as the agency tries to slash its budget.

The cuts will be above and beyond the elimination of 280 vacant positions, an agency spokesman said.

In the wake of one of the most high profile child abuse cases in recent years, the February murder of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona in which her adoptive parents have been charged, DCF officials had talked this legislative session about beefing up front line workers.

And while Wilkins didn’t address in his memo to 13,000 employees whether the agency will be able to increase staffing in child protection services, he promised there will be no cuts in that part of the sprawling welfare agency.

“As I have said before, we will not balance our budget on the backs of front-line workers who are acting as first responders for children, adults and families in need,” Wilkins said in the memo. “However, we have many opportunities to improve our administrative operations. By consolidating many back office services, improving automation and simplifying many of our processes, we will be able to reduce approximately $48 million from our operating budget which translates into the reduction of nearly 500 positions statewide.

“We anticipate that some of these employees will be able to stay with the department, performing other duties,” Wilkins continued. “For those who will not be able to remain, we are providing transition assistance.”

DCF, always one of the most scrutinized state agencies because of the nature of its child protective duties, has also always been one of its most controversial for the same reason. But its reach goes far beyond child welfare and adoptions, likely its most high profile missions.

The agency handles duties ranging from food stamps and handing out grants to churches that do marriage counseling to providing services to refugees from other countries.

Sen. Nan Rich, the Democratic leader in the Senate, and one of the most vocal advocates for children’s services in the Legislature, said that even if the agency doesn’t cut front-line child services workers, something would have to give with a cut as large as the one Wilkins announced – and even if it is in the lower profile parts of the agency, it will have an effect.

She noted that morale at the agency has improved in recent years – and that it has had successes, such as having the lowest error rate in the nation in the food stamp program.

“And you get there by having employees who are committed to their jobs and not overwhelmed because 500 of their colleagues have been cut,” said Rich, D-Weston. “Even if they’re not front line workers, how much more can you dump on people who are already doing a full day’s work every day? There’s only so much you can do, and then you undermine morale….There’s been a dramatic turnaround (in better morale) and this is exactly the opposite direction of what we should be doing.”

Wilkins acknowledged in his memo the likelihood that DCF workers – like many state workers – are beleaguered.

“I know this has been a frustrating period of uncertainty, and I appreciate the professional focus you have maintained as lawmakers struggled to balance our state’s budget,” Wilkins wrote. “As you know, the road to economic recovery cannot be traveled by asking taxpayers to pay more during these difficult times.

“Gov. Rick Scott and our lawmakers have vowed to trim the state budget while maintaining a level of personnel that will allow critical services to remain undisturbed,” Wilkins continued. “Due to your hard work and performance, our Department has earned the respect and praise of our Legislative leaders for your daily diligence and devotion to helping our friends and neighbors and communities.”

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said that the 500 workers must be doing something that would be missed when they’re let go.

“I think it’s going to have some sort of effect, and you have to wonder what it will be,” Pafford said.

The Legislature has sent Scott a budget that dramatically cuts several agency’s budgets, eliminating a $3.75 billion shortfall, and further reducing revenue with some small tax cuts. Scott plans to sign the budget late this week.

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  • by really Location: tallahassee on May 24, 2011 at 06:00 PM
    "No Front-line Workers Cut" is a lie.
  • by Anonymous on May 24, 2011 at 12:35 PM
    Maybe you should call Rick Scott the the next time instead of the police.See what that gets you......probably laid off...if you work.
  • by HUH? Location: tallahassee on May 24, 2011 at 11:39 AM
    Cutting state jobs doesn't help - it makes matter worse. Those that lose their jobs will be standing in unemployment lines. The charities around here will also suffer as most state workers donate to United Way and other charities yearly (some more often). So, no state job, less money to charity, longer unemployment lines- can someone explain to me how this can be good for Florida as a whole? Oh, lets not forget the jobs which will now be 'contracted out' are going to cost the state at least twice as much more - I have seen some of these contracts and know that $100,000 spent on a contract job which could have been done in-house for the state workers' measly 35,000 yr salary..go figure....
  • by Carol Location: Panama City on May 24, 2011 at 11:10 AM
    So when they enact the law that says everyone who gets Temporary Aid for Needy Families has to take a drug test - and every grandma and grandpa who take care of their children ...and every single mother who spends six hours a day looking for work - or going to school or doing unpaid volunteer work for the government in return for the benefit they receive... has to come out of pocket $20 for a urine test BEFORE she can get her whopping $280 per month check...where does THE MONEY FOR THAT come from? They say that people who PASS the drug test will be reimbursed. If a parent does test positive for ANY drug for which they are not prescribed - there will be additional tests - their children will be taken away from them - and the government will have to pay for those services (by law) until the results are sorted out. We know the company that was put into Governor Scott's wife's name has that contract - and will receive the money Aren't they still married? How can that possibly be ethical? Will that money be put into an account that Governor Scott never touches - or sees? Where does the money to administrate this new law come from - if they are cutting all the front line services. We have to cut money from the budget- but still can mandate law that will cost MILLIONS that Governor Scott's Wife will profit from. And if she sells that company...how much more is it worth now with this government contract?? I have NEVER been more ashamed to be a Republican in all my life!
  • by Anonymous on May 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM
    Go Scott, go! How many jobs are you creating in 7...I mean 4 years? How many people are you going to lay off in the process? Your staff doesn't count because in 3 years they will be fired also. Scott is a complete and utter moron.
  • by perry Location: florida on May 24, 2011 at 09:17 AM
    they need to do their job. here in perry fl I know of a 16 year old girl who has a 22 year old male liveing in her grand parents house . she is also pregnant by him but the police and dcf want do a thing about it so I say fire them all and let the parents have control of their kids .
    • reply
      by perry on May 24, 2011 at 12:39 PM in reply to perry
      Hopefully your home gets broken into and there isnt a cop to help you because of your smaller government. idiot.
  • by Randon Govt Employee on May 24, 2011 at 09:16 AM
    We will be watching FSH to see if people who are directly involved with the residents are cut. All state employees know that Senior Management protect themselves at the cost of the front line worker who risk their lives every day meeting the needs of the forensic and mentally ill residents. Already people who are never alone with residents: dieticians, doctors and other professionals receive hazardous duty pay while the UTRS or HSWI who stands there to protect them from the residents does not. In an atmosphere like that how can morale stay high. And no I do not work at FSH.
  • by Cuts Location: Tallahassee on May 24, 2011 at 09:06 AM
    Just like the state, cut where there are not enough people now. Between DOE and DFS, you could eliminate 500 and never notice a drop in services.
  • by Small Business Owner/Taxpayer Location: Florida on May 24, 2011 at 08:57 AM
    I agree with Nunni: Fire DFC legal attorneys especially that female who interviewed me a couple of years ago for administrative secretary position who told me that I was deemed unorgainized because I ran my own successful small business for 15 years designing and selling my own original artwork and garments. I even hired one employee who assisted me. She said artist are creative which makes them unorganized. How insulting to the small business owner who pays her salary through our business taxes! I cleared more profits back then than I would working for the State. This lulu flake of a lawyer creeped me out and needs to go!
  • by tiredalready Location: tally on May 24, 2011 at 06:02 AM
    please cut my job this way i can go on welfare and food stamps and go back to school
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