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Florida Family Law - Online Article

DCF’s Policy Of “Family Preservation” Has Resulted In Deaths Of 477 Florida Children…

By Lauren Brusca | Family Law Attorney
Posted on August 1, 2014

The Tampa Bay Times reports that a decision ten (10) years ago by the Florida Department of Children & Families to adopt a policy of “Family Preservation” has resulted in a significant rise in the deaths of children under DCF “protection;” particularly children under the age of five (5). Under the Family Preservation policy, DCF deliberately decided to reduce the number of children in state care by fifty percent (50%), while simultaneously reducing the monitoring and protection services for those children left in the care of their violently abusive, neglectful, drug addicted or mentally ill parents. Not surprisingly, 477 of these children have died since January 2008. The Times and the Miami Herald have examined cases since January 2008 and have found that almost 500 children died who were permitted to remain in the family home by DCF, even after warnings that the children or their siblings could be in danger. The Times and the Herald report that the number of children in out-of-home care in Florida declined by 34.3 percent since 2003, while the number of children receiving in-home supervision or family-preservation services also fell during this period.

The Miami Herald reported that the majority of these children were under the age of 5 (70% were under the age of 2), and most were unable to cry, run or in any way defend themselves. The Times reports incidents such as children smothered by their mothers who passed out under the influence while breastfeeding; children who overdosed on a parent’s drugs; children left too long in hot cars; unsupervised children who wandered into canals and drowned; children savagely beaten; one little girl strangled by a parent’s pet python. DCF’s further reliance on “safety plans” – written agreements by parents – with little or no follow-up or oversight and no mandated counseling or treatment, has been sadly unsuccessful where over eighty (80+) children in Florida have died after their parents signed one or more of the safety plans. Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo’s response was that in her opinion DCF was not broken, only “challenged.” DCF’s mandate, she believes, should remain to “fix” these families.

 

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