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Hastings, Deutch, Frankel and Murphy send letter to Governor Scott concerning safety of children

Hastings Hastings, Deutch, Frankel and Murphy send letter to Governor Scott concerning safety of children

Congressional Alcee L. Hastings

Hastings, Deutch, Frankel and Murphy send letter to Governor Scott concerning safety of children

    Washington, D.C. — Recently (Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) sent the following letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott after the recent deaths of five children previously involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In each instance, the parents charged with the safekeeping of these children had histories of neglect or abuse but were deemed suitable custodians of the children by DCF investigators.

Joining Hastings as co-signers of the letter were Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-21), Lois Frankel (FL-22) and Patrick Murphy (FL-18).

August 1, 2013

The Honorable Rick Scott

Governor Executive Office of Governor Rick Scott400 S. Monroe St. Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Governor Scott:

The past few weeks have been marred by the deaths of several young children who previously had contact with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). When looking at the function of child protective services and the responsibilities the state has when intervening in families, the foremost precept has always been safety. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding these deaths indicate that at some point, the safety of children lost its status as the prime operating principle of DCF in South Florida.

The facts of several of these cases as reported are disturbing. Not simply for the terrible manner in which these children died, but also for the fact that there were points where had investigators engaged in meaningful intervention, these children might be alive today. These tragic deaths are a signal that something beyond investigator judgment, assessments, forms, and follow through is wrong. We have been through this cycle of death, outrage, and reform before, and we are in the midst of this cycle again.

This cycle too easily devolves into foster care panic, where front-line social workers and investigators fearful of castigation needlessly remove children from their homes. Family preservation and child trauma are important considerations when determining the type of intervention the state will impose on a family. Certainly, there are many cases which warrant in- home services and supervision over removing children from their homes. These considerations should not fall by the wayside and be replaced with a removal fits all mentality.  Conversely, this cycle must not lead to yet another form or assessment for child-welfare workers to fill out that ultimately leads to no real change or reflection.

State Senator Eleanor Sobel called for hearings and you have accepted former DCF Secretary Wilkins’ resignation.  However, hearings may lead only to promises and overhauls that “work” until another scandal occurs. If Florida is to have a responsive, functional child-welfare system, the response to this string of deaths must lead to comprehensive reforms both with DCF and Florida’s treatment of children in general.

Governor Scott, we urge you to convene an independent panel to study child well-being within the state and make recommendations as to how we go about making Florida a state that truly nurtures and cares for its youngest. Florida must recognize and embrace prevention measures and become proactive. The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet’s vision statement is that “[a]ll children in Florida grow-up safe, healthy, educated and prepared to meet their full potential.”

As of now, Governor Scott, the headlines do not reflect that vision. In addition to the apparent break down of child protection in South Florida, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed suit against the state, alleging that it institutionalized 200 children with disabilities. The suit paints a picture of a state that would rather save its treasure than provide funds for home based care. Governor Scott, if the state is to grow and thrive in the manner we all want, we must devote ourselves fully to our youngest citizens.

Florida prides itself on its Sunshine Laws. It is time to shine light on the conditions our children are enduring.  Thank you for your attention and time for this request.

Sincerely,

Alcee L. Hastings, Member of Congress ; Ted Deutch, Member of Congress; Lois Frankel, Member of Congress and Patrick Murphy, Member of Congress .

 Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

 

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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