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New program aims to improve Florida's child welfare system

6:37 PM, Sep 19, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Many Floridians have been outraged by a series of 20 child deaths this year in which the state was aware of previous abuse or neglect, but did not act to remove them from dangerous situations.

Now the Florida Department of Children and Families is considering launching a new child safety program across the state.

The "Rapid Safety Feedback" program is designed to do a better job of identifying specific risk factors that pose a threat to children.

The program was developed after a review of 1,500 cases in Florida's child welfare system.

That review discovered children face greater threats in homes with young parents, when a boyfriend lives there, if there is substance abuse or previous criminal records.

DCF spokesman Whitney Ray says the program is one option being considered to improve Florida's child protection system.

"We've decided to take this program and look at expanding it statewide. It started in one circuit in the Tampa Bay area. It expanded in July and now the secretary has ordered the department to look at expanding the program statewide to look at these risk factors and raise the flag."

The Rapid Safety Feedback program was developed by Eckerd Community Alternatives in Hillsborough County. It was implemented there before the series of child deaths this summer.

The program allows child welfare caseworkers to flag cases that include risk factors.

Ray says then they're able to call emergency meetings of all the partners in a case to make sure they handle it appropriately.

"This won't solve all of our problems but we've learned that we have to be fluid as we're moving toward a more sound and safe child protective system."

Dave Heller

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