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DCF cuts examined after child deaths, abductions

12:08 AM, Jan 4, 2014   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Interim Director of the Department of Children and Families, Esther Jacobo, told Governor Rick Scott in a private meeting that the state needs to do more to protect its youngest residents.

Now, after a string of high profile child deaths, and perceived missteps by the department, Jacobo is laying out a plan to do it. 

But will it work?

DCF Spokesman John Harrell says the department is doing its best, but bad things do happen.

Last week, when Charity Chatman allegedly abducted her daughter from a DCF supervised visit.

It was just the latest in a string of highly publicized missteps, some blamed on DCF. 

The death of four young children in the last year in South Florida prompted the agency to do something about it. 

"After we had a number of high profile cases like this last year, we went to Casey Families, we approached them," Harrell said. 

The research group studied 40 child deaths where DCF had contact with the family, and found cuts in the department were a major issue.

DCF's budget is down around $20 million from last year alone, and more than 70 positions were cut.

So Jacobo asked the Governor to put that money back and assign two case workers to families in crisis and reduce the caseload of child protective investigators. 

"Our investigators, by nature, are sensitive people. They care deeply about helping, about stopping abuse and neglect. They're very devoted to their jobs, and they work hard and long hours," Harrell said. 

The changes to the caseload and procedure are drastic and would cost money.

Harrell says he's not sure they'll be able to get the money.

The Governor's office refused to comment on the specifics of his proposed budget, which isn't due out for another month.

Until then, DCF will have no idea if it has the funding to institute the changes some people think they desperately need.

First Coast News

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