The Florida Department of Children and Families, the agency tasked with running multiple programs designed to provide much-needed support to families throughout the Sunshine State, recently provided the state legislature with an update on its progress in implementing the extensive reforms called for in last year's child-welfare reform law.
Specifically, Secretary Mike Carroll appeared before the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee last Thursday to provide a status update, which revealed that while the agency is succeeding in carrying out these reforms, there is still much more work that needs to be done.
What are some of the measures the DCF has taken regarding the 2014 reforms?
According to Carroll, one of the more noteworthy accomplishments has been the agency's now immediate dispatch of investigative teams -- known as Critical Incident Rapid Response Teams or CIRRTs -- to investigate any and all child fatalities involving families that have a documented history with the agency.
Indeed, CIRRTs has prepared and filed 30 reports since January 1, determining that one-third of these incidents involved domestic violence and one-half involved substance abuse issues.
Has the DCF made progress in preventing child fatalities?
Carroll's testimony indicated that the number of child fatalities in Florida has averaged 438 since 2007, and that thus far there have been 369 fatalities in 2015, meaning the state is poised to once again fall somewhere within this range.
What's behind these discouraging figures?
Statistics show that the vast majority of these child fatalities can be attributed to accidental drowning and accidental suffocation in co-sleeping situations.
What's the DCF doing to address this?
Carroll informed the committee members that in addition to public awareness campaigns, his agency is now working alongside both Florida Healthy Families and the Department of Health in order to provide more direct education to at-risk families on preventing accidental drowning and suffocation.
What does the DCF have planned for 2016?
Some of the primary agency objectives identified by Carroll for 2016 include improving service networks, and providing better mental health and substance abuse services to high-risk families.
Stay tuned for more updates on the progress being made by the DCF in this critically important area.
If you have questions or concerns related to child custody or visitation, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.