By Mike Vasilinda
July 15, 2013
Two years after the high profile death of a child in a pickup truck, the state Department of Children and Families is unveiling an intensive new strategy for keeping kids safe. The transformation change comes as the department is under fire for four Miami Dade child deaths in May.
Child abuse investigator Letitia McClellan and case manager Sheyla Ferguson walk into the unknown every day. “Have you been teaching her how to change him?” asked Letitia McClellan, Child Abuse Investigator
On this day, they are checking up on a baby in foster care. The baby’s mother has mental health issues and can’t care for the infant. “What did she say about not cooperating with the referral?” asked McClellan. The woman replied “She doesn’t, I don’t think... I don’t know if she understands really.”
The case might be handled very differently in the future. Everyone involved with child protective services is undergoing 8 days of specialized training in a method that is 180 degrees different from current methods.
The goal of the new program is to do away with check lists and actually listen to the client.”We’re looking at family functioning, the parenting, the discipline. Just entire family as a whole,” says McClellan. “We are moving away from a compliance. Yes, you know, they complete one or two classes. More towards do we see a behavioral change in their parenting,” adds Sheyla Ferguson Case Manager.
DCF Secretary David Wilkins says every investigator in Florida will now be using the same playbook. “Now we have the technologies, and the data collection activities occuring. So that we can really measure which programs work and which situations. Before that we just didn’t collect that kind of information,” says David Wilkins DCF Secretary.
There are some fears more children will be taken from their homes, or the caseloads will go up as investigators spend more time with each family. But Wilkins says pilot programs don’t bear out those fears.