Florida Department of Children and Families Transformation Project

On Thursday, May 2, 2013, Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director Alan Abramowitz sent to staff and volunteers information about the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Transformation Project.

"The DCF Transformation Project is built upon expectations for desirable outcomes — not just processes. This is expected to result in fewer re-abuse cases and improved investigations since families will be engaged in a meaningful way."

You can read Abramowitz's entire message which is presented below.

Department of Children and Families Transformation Project
by Alan Abramowitz
Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is transforming the child welfare system to improve child safety and well-being. I would like to take this opportunity to share information about the Transformation Project, and affirm my own hope and positive expectations, and the support of the Guardian ad Litem Program for this vision.

The reason for DCF's changes is that our state cannot allow high rates of re-abuse, repeat investigations and excessive staff turnover to continue. DCF and their partners believe that the transformation will result in

  • Improved decision making by front line staff;
  • Reduced re-abuse of children; and
  • Fewer repeat investigations through more complete assessment of safety and more robust engagement of families.

State law now requires anyone who suspects that a child is being abused or neglected to report it by calling the Florida Abuse Hotline at (800) 962-2873. At the hotline's operation center, a new screening process will help to better identify unsafe children. Upgraded technology at the hotline will allow decisions to be made with more complete information when Child Protective Investigators and case managers in the field engage with families. Their assessments will be based not just on what happened, but on why it happened.

By having the right information on the families they deal with, investigators and case managers can make better decisions regarding safety plans and more individualized services. The additional information will help to determine protective capacity and ongoing services intervention by DCF's community partners. This will emphasize symptoms and compliance with case plans. At the same time, we will need to also emphasize behavior changes that must occur in the family to ensure the children are safe.

Many experts have been involved in the development of the new process. It will engage families earlier and will give workers on the front line the support and services they need to address each family's challenges. In addition, there will be more tracking of in-home services. Instead of the current practice, where investigators may make a referral for services and close the investigation, these cases will now be tracked to ensure that services are in place and having the desired effect. There will be a process to work with children's legal services if a child becomes unsafe.

The DCF Transformation Project is built upon expectations for desirable outcomes — not just processes. This is expected to result in fewer re-abuse cases, and improved investigations since families will be engaged in a meaningful way.

With years of experience in child welfare, we all know about the trauma that occurs when children are removed from their families. This transformation to engage families with intensive services is a positive step forward. The group that developed this project included many child advocates. There was also extensive input from local and community leaders. I was fortunate to be continuously briefed on the transformation, as a member of the Child Protection Transformation Advisory Board.

DCF implemented recommendations developed by both an independent task force as well as the Miami-Dade Grand Jury, following a disturbing case of child abuse two years ago that led to the death of ten-year-old Nubia Barahona. There were many lessons learned from this case. These lessons are being applied.

Additionally, DCF prepared a complete legislative package to establish a true front end capability for the child protective investigation function. The legislative package had two components.

  1. Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the investigative process through changes to our child protection laws.
  2. Redesign the career model and operating processes including performance management of the child protective investigators.

DCF Secretary Wilkins is embracing this early engagement of families. We must recognize this major transformation, and I am hopeful that this will lead to stronger families by reducing child abuse in Florida. Secretary Wilkins will be closely monitoring the results as the project moves forward.

I am available to answer your questions and provide information. Feel free to contact me by email or at (850) 241-3232. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to children.


Alan Abramowitz
Executive Director

For additional details on the transformation, visit the Center for Child Welfare's training site.

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