Florida Department of Children and Families

Changes to Florida’s child-welfare system, sponsored by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Augustine), are finally law after two years of debate in Tallahassee.

Stevenson said her 100-page measure gives investigators more power to keep kids safe.


Study: DCF Must Improve Foster Child Care

Jan 22, 2017

The federal agency has given the Florida Department of Children and Families 90 days to devise a plan to improve care for foster children.

A Florida lawmaker is hoping a claims bill to further compensate a child abuse victim will pass the state legislature for 2017. This will be the fourth year the measure comes before lawmakers.

Court Backs DCF In Nursing Home Expenses Case

Apr 6, 2016

An appeals court Monday sided with the Florida Department of Children and Families in a dispute about expenses for a woman who went into a Tallahassee nursing home after suffering a spinal-cord injury in an accident.

Helping young human trafficking victims and making sure juveniles get the help they need are among the legislative goals of two state agencies that deal with children.

Florida is on pace to have nearly as many child deaths this year as it did before the overhaul of its child welfare system last year. In about a quarter of those deaths, the Florida Department of Children and Families had prior contact with the family. 

Florida Department of Children and Families

More than $100 million in budget cuts at Florida’s state mental have created an environment where patients are being injured by one another, hurting themselves, and in some cases, attacking the workers assigned to protect and treat then, a joint investigation from the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Senate Bill Would Overhaul Foster-Care Placements

Oct 28, 2015
Florida Senate

A bill aimed at reducing instability for foster children has started to move forward in the Florida Senate and would require the child-welfare system to match kids with their best placement options --- rather than, as critics charge, the first beds that are handy.

WMFE

The Florida Department of Children and Families is teaming up with the University of Central Florida to get more social workers with a four-year degree working in child welfare.

DCF, Senators Eye Ways To Bolster Child Protection

Oct 12, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

The chief of the Florida Department of Children and Families told lawmakers Thursday his agency is making progress at carrying out reforms but still has a long way to go.

DCF Reaches Settlement In Bell Killings

Oct 5, 2015
Department of Children and Families

The Florida Department of Children and Families and two private companies have agreed to pay $750,000 to settle legal claims resulting from a mass killing in Gilchrist County last year.

Departed DCF Boss Still Troubled By Bell Killings

Sep 9, 2015

The beginnings of David Abramowitz's resignation from the Florida Department of Children and Families came nearly a year ago, when he learned that six children and their mother had been gunned down in the tiny Gilchrist County town of Bell.

DCF Regional Leader Steps Down

Sep 4, 2015

The Florida Department of Children and Families lost one of its six regional managing directors Wednesday night, when David Abramowitz resigned from his post overseeing child-welfare services in 20 counties in Northeast and North Central Florida.

The head of Florida’s child welfare agency says he’s renewing his commitment to making his agency better.

Children's Advocates Mourn Dead Bills

May 1, 2015
Florida Legislature

Children's issues had a rocky legislative session, thanks in part to its abrupt ending.

One proposal that would have boosted health and safety standards for early-education programs (SB 7006 and HB 7017) died for the second straight year. Supporters said the proposal's failure means leaving some kids in risky situations.

"It was a major disappointment," said Ted Granger, executive director of the United Way of Florida. "The failure to pass these bills ensures that those children are going to be staying in unsafe places for another year."

Department of Children and Families

  The northeast regional office of the Florida Department of Children and Families has formed a child death prevention task force following the deaths of seven infants linked to unsafe sleeping practices, the Florida Times-Union reports.

A man accused of throwing his daughter off a bridge has been found incompetent to stand trial in her death.

John Jonchuck appeared in court Tuesday. The case has been reset for a status check on Feb. 17.

If the court rules in line with the doctors' reports, Jonchuck would likely be sent to a hospital for six months before his case returns to court for another status check.

Jonchuck was arrested Jan. 8 after authorities said he dropped 5-year-old Phoebe more than 60 feet off a bridge.

He has a history of mental health issues.

 After John Jonchuck was accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe off a Pinellas County bridge last month, The Florida Department of Children and Families deployed a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to investigate the agency's handling of the case.

According to the official report released Monday, the agency could have done a better job to protect Phoebe from her tragic death.

The call that came in to the Florida Department of Families abuse hotline hours before 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck was killed should have raised alarms, the News Service of Florida reports, but "the hotline staff concluded the report 'does not rise to the level of reasonable cause to suspect.” Now, lawmakers and DCF leaders are looking for more changes at the call center, focusing on the judgment calls made by staff when calls come in. As the News Service reports, it’s not the first time a child’s death has prompted changes at the state abuse hotline; it received $20 million from the Florida Legislature to redesign the call center after the murder of Nubia Barahona in 2011.

Associated Press

 A father accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter off of a bridge to her death last week was ordered Monday to undergo a mental health evaluation and was appointed a public defender.

John Jonchuck appeared to refuse to answer questions during the hearing in Pinellas County. When a judge asked Jonchuck at a first appearance hearing last week if he wanted a court-appointed attorney, Jonchuck said he wanted to "leave it in the hands of God."

The Florida Department of Children and Families is challenging a nearly two-year-old agreement to pay $5 million for the brutal death of a 10-year-old South Florida girl and torture of her twin brother, the Miami Herald reports.

The new adoptive family of Victor Barahona is still trying to claim money approved in 2013, meant to help them deal with the long-term psychological damage to the boy, the Herald reports.

According to a review of Florida Department of Children and Families documents by the Miami Herald, child deaths are being inaccurately counted. The problem, as reporter Carol Marbin Miller explains, is when the death of a child goes from “verified” -- resulting from neglect and abuse -- to “unverified.” As the Herald reports, cases where DCF had prior contact and documented abuse still aren’t being counted as a result of these switches and delays in investigations

State child welfare officials are looking into what went wrong in their handling of an investigation of a Florida man who shot himself and his family in North Florida. The Florida Department of Children and Families say they were actually investigating the man weeks before the mass shooting in Bell. So, in the wake of the deadly rampage, could lawmakers be considering another DCF legislative fix?

About a week ago, Don Spirit shot his 28-year-old daughter Sarah and her six kids ranging in age from about three months old baby to 11-years-old.

Child-welfare advocates say Florida is plagued with high turnover rates among adoption and foster care case managers, the News Service of Florida reports. In some parts of the state, the turnover rate is as high as 80 percent, and averages 37 percent statewide. As the News Service reports, research on how to retain employees was presented at the recent Child Protection Summit in Orlando.

Child welfare advocates sense a “night and day” difference in the way the state will protect children at risk for abuse or neglect, the News Service of Florida reports. After a year of blistering criticism from the media and Legislature, the Department of Children and Families is increasing the number of child protection investigators and is implementing rapid response teams for child death cases. Legislators attending the DCF’s Child Protection Summit last week said they hope to make more tweaks to laws that helped institute changes, the News Service reports.

More than 2,600 child welfare workers from around the state are gathering in Orlando this week for the annual Child Protection Summit.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll will kick off the summit Wednesday, speaking about his vision for Florida's vulnerable children.

The three-day summit will give child welfare professionals the opportunity to learn from leading experts from around the country and fellow professionals, to improve their skills in the protection of children and strengthening families.

The state caseworker who visited the home of 2-year-old Tariji Gordon the morning she died has been arrested, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Jonathan Irizarry, a child welfare worker for a non-profit contractor for the Florida Department of Children and Families, had recorded that the child was awake and doing fine, but then changed his story when questioned by authorities, the Sentinel reports.

Investigators say a 3-year-old Central Florida girl suspected of being killed by her mother was determined to be safe six months before her death, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

DCF Targeting Child Welfare Overflow

Aug 11, 2014

The Florida Department of Children and Families is working with the agency that oversees child welfare in Miami to resolve issues that have included an overflow of kids in the foster-care system.

The department is collaborating with Our Kids, the lead community-based care agency for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, after a surge in the number of children coming into state care, DCF Interim Secretary Mike Carroll said.

DCF Adds 1,500 New Foster Homes

Jul 15, 2014

The Florida Department of Children and Families has licensed nearly 1,500 new foster-care homes in the last year, trying to find families for the 10,000 children in state care.

There is a constant need for new foster parents, as others who used to do the job end up adopting their foster kids, burning out or having other changes in their lives.

DCF Child Welfare Services Manager Kristi Putnam says a good foster family helps bring stability to children who have lost their homes through no fault of their own. She also says there are no set criteria for being a foster parent.

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