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Madfloridian's Journal
Posted by madfloridian in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Dec 01st 2009, 02:10 AM
Children could die because of this new policy. I am stunned.

Thousands of abuse reports to a DCF hot line go unheeded every month

Sept. 16, 2:02 p.m.: A Broward sheriff's deputy calls the Florida child-abuse hot line to report that a 4-year-old had been molested by a babysitter as the sitter's boyfriend videotaped the assault. A hot-line counselor declines to forward the report to an investigator.

..." Nov. 16, time unknown: A father is attempting to break into his estranged wife's home. He says he will kill his children. That call, too, is not accepted for investigation.

These decisions, and thousands more, are the result of a little-known -- but potentially dangerous -- practice by the Department of Children & Families: Beginning last year, DCF dramatically increased the number of abuse calls considered unworthy of investigation. In an effort to reduce workload -- and the system-wide stress that high case loads generate -- intake workers at the Tallahassee-based hot line have been screening out tens of thousands of calls.

Among the screened-out allegations: reports of kidnapping, rape, aggravated child abuse, medical neglect, malnutrition, kids roaming the streets unsupervised and domestic violence that threatens to harm the children. Among the callers being turned away: school counselors, grandparents, circuit court judges, hospital social workers, day-care workers and juvenile-justice staffers.

Here is more about which calls are being turned away.

Children are not the only Floridians who may be left in harm's way. The hot line is also screening reports about disabled adults and elders, including an Oct. 12 complaint that a disabled woman had been raped by another resident at a home for people with disabilities.

A source with knowledge of the new policies says DCF has revised internal guidelines on what constitutes abuse, including a new protocol to reject complaints about children who have suffered bruises or welts from beatings -- unless such beatings result in a trip to the doctor or hospital, or ``permanent disfigurement.''

I don't even know what to say to this new policy.

When I read it I was reminded of a judge contacted DCF 3 times personally about a child in danger.

The child died as DCF ignored the judge's pleas.

Secretary George Sheldon says he thinks his hotline operators should have acted with a greater sense of urgency in the case of one-year-old Bryce Barros, who died earlier this month under mysterious circumstances.

Barros was caught in the middle of an allegedly abusive relationship between his mother and father, who were sent to Broward County’s Domestic Violence Court. That’s where Judge Eileen O’Connor got involved.

O’Connor was concerned about the safety of Bryce Barros, so she faxed three complaints to DCF’s abuse hotline, hoping it would prompt the agency to investigate.

But hotline counselors rejected the judge’s complaints and did not follow up because there were no specific allegations of abuse to the baby. Sheldon says that was a mistake.

The social workers are caring people. They are caught up in a system that is being manipulated by higher ups, with a gross lack of concern for children and the helpless.

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