Politics

Child Welfare Bill Draws Calls for 'Moral Outrage' -- and More Funding

By: Margie Menzel News Service of Florida | Posted: April 7, 2014 3:55 AM
Child abuse

A Florida Senate panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping child-welfare reform bill amid calls from foster parents to help more children and pleas from providers to fund the changes properly.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee voted 12-1 to approve a measure (SB 1666) that collapses three bills (SB 1666, 1668 and 1670) into one. It would make a series of changes to the Florida Department of Children and Families and the community-based care agencies that provide adoption and foster-care services to children in the state system.

The legislation got its start last fall, after media reports about a wave of child deaths from abuse and neglect -- and gained momentum as it became clear that many of the victims were already known to the Florida Department of Children and Families, which had failed to protect them.

Last year the Casey Family Programs reviewed 40 of the deaths and issued a scathing report on the department’s performance. Then last month, The Miami Herald published an investigation into the deaths of 477 children whose families had histories with DCF over a six-year period, and who died despite warnings that they or their siblings could be in danger.

“After 477 deaths, where is the moral outrage at this problem?” demanded Pat McCabe, a Miami foster parent. “This is the one area where you guys -- men and women -- need to step up and fund this bill.”

But it’s still unclear how much lawmakers will allocate for services that could stabilize troubled families and keep children safely in their homes, such as substance-abuse and mental-health treatment, anger-management and parenting classes and domestic-violence programs.

The complex legislation would establish social-work education requirements for child-protective investigators, along with tuition-exemption and loan-forgiveness programs for them. It would create critical-incident response teams to conduct immediate investigations of child deaths and require DCF to publish the basic facts of all deaths of children reported to the state abuse hotline.

It would establish the Florida Institute for Child Welfare to conduct policy research and an assistant secretary for child welfare at DCF. It would keep siblings together and medically fragile children in their communities whenever possible. It would require greater transparency from the community-based care agencies. It would make abandoning a child a criminal offense.

But Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, said he was troubled that the bill does little to affect one of the key findings of the Casey review and the Herald series -- that 68 percent of the children’s deaths were related to substance abuse.

“You have an opportunity to help people find recovery, and when you do, their children are safe, and when you don’t, their children are at risk,” Fontaine told the panel.

Former lawmaker Kurt Kelly, who represents the community-based care agencies, reiterated his request for an additional $25.4 million for the agencies.

“From a policy perspective, we’re getting darn close to having a substantive piece of legislation,” Kelly said. “My concern today … we will definitely need the resources to be able to provide those services.”

He said there had been a decline in funding for services.

The Herald investigation found that DCF's budget had been reduced from $2.88 billion in fiscal year 2005-06 to $2.80 billion in fiscal year 2013-14 -- even as the state budget grew from $64.5 billion to $74.1 billion.

And although Gov. Rick Scott has recommended spending nearly $40 million to hire 400 new child protective investigators, Kelly said the community-based care agencies would need enough case managers and family services to meet the need the new hires would generate.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, the Sebring Republican who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, was the sole vote against the measure. She said she would like to find more funding for substance-abuse and mental-health services within the child welfare system.

The bill currently estimates the cost of the critical response team, public-disclosure hotline, 18 restored quality-assurance positions and a few other provisions at $15.562 million in general revenue. It estimates the assistant secretary’s office at $260,000 and the loan forgiveness program for child-protective investigators at $1,095,000. But a larger figure that includes more for family services is also expected.

The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

 


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Comments (2)

Does Everyone in Tally Have a Non-Profit
8:13AM APR 8TH 2014
Florida House member Marlene O'Toole finally discloses her nonprofit benefits from her vote-

In the conservative Florida Legislature, Rep.Marlene O'Toole, R-(The Villages) Lady Lake, has an undisputed reputation for fiscal austerity. Toole is aka “the Villages Tool” who along with her co-hort Pete Wahl seems to be always running favors for or interference for the Villages developer. O’Toole recently had Gov. Rick Scott appoint Pete Wahl (former Lake County Manager and long time Villages political liaison) to the board of Lake-Sumter Community College.

None other than Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by billionaire libertarian brothers David and Charles Koch, gave O'Toole an A plus rating in June, establishing her as the gold standard for a group that says it prizes "free markets over cronyism."

Yet even this group questions O'Toole's dual roles as chief operating officer of a nonprofit and vice chairwoman of the House education appropriations committee that approved $6 million for the same Miami nonprofit in this year's budget.
Take Stock in Children was awarded an additional $9.1 million from the state's $200 million mortgage settlement. O'Toole, a former IBM executive with a thick Boston accent, voted on both matters.

In neither case did she disclose she's paid $50,000 a year by the group.
"It seems the proper thing to do in this case would have been to identify that you have this role with this group," said Slade O'Brien, the Florida director for Americans for Prosperity. "Or recuse yourself from the vote." Getting an explanation from O'Toole, 68, isn't easy.

On June 24, 2013 O'Toole was first contacted by the Times/Herald. Three weeks later she said she would respond to written questions, but after she was sent several on July 9, she didn't respond to them until Monday.

Then, she replied that her salary is "not paid for out of funds provided by the State of Florida to Take Stock in Children, but out of private dollars that are raised by that organization to assist with management and oversight."

Further, she downplayed her role as vice chairwoman of the education appropriations committee. "My role was the same as all other members of the subcommittee," O'Toole wrote in an email. "Worksheets were presented, line items were vetted and evaluated, and the subcommittee submitted recommendations to the appropriations chair."

From the very beginning of the budget process earlier this year, O'Toole's committee was proposing to spend $6 million on Take Stock in Children. Throughout, O'Toole didn't publicly disclose that she was getting paid $50,000 by the group.
"I really didn't know her relationship with Take Stock in Children," said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who was chairman of the Senate's education appropriations committee. "I don't think it would have changed my support for it, but, yeah, I'd like to know as much as I can."

O'Toole did file a written disclosure to Bob Ward, the clerk of the Florida House, in a letter dated Aug. 29. More than two months after she was first contacted by the Times/Herald, O'Toole disclosed she voted for the appropriations for Take Stock in Children.

The question here is when even Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the chairman of the Senate's education appropriations committee didn't know her relationship with Take Stock in Children, how can anyone else be expected to know about it.

How many of these so called law makers or public servants like Marlene O'Toole and former DCF Chief David Wilkins have a “foundation” or non-profit under the table?

The Florida legislatures Child Welfare Bill that is Drawing Calls for 'Moral Outrage' -- and More Funding! More funding for what? Right now the taxpayers of the State of Florida is throwing money hand over fist at so called solutions for Child Welfare that are in fact nothing more but schemes concocted by the well connected to fatten their wallets and the wallets of their friends.

Sure everything takes money – but in order to achieve the goal of saving just one child any program must be designed for that purpose. Not just the “its for the children” lip service from these wolves that are dining at the table of the abused and neglected children.

So what does all those DCF employee's on the state payroll do? "ALL" of their Children's Services is all VENDORED OUT to private non-profits.

Presently the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has 18 non-profit organizations to serve as community-based care (CBC) lead agencies and over the last decade these agencies have organized into powerful entities in their own right. Some believe they are in fact so powerful the forget they are responsible for thousands of lives, millions of state funds and a wide array of services. One of the most important is the adoption of children born to mothers in their care. When authorities take away a child and place that child in an adoptive home it is a decision cut in stone that affects the lives of both the parent or parents and the adopted child forever. These decisions should be made by people with the upmost honesty, integrity and moral characters – not at the whim of some former bureaucrat or ousted politician like Former State Representative Kurt Kelly the Chief Executive Officer and President of the Florida Coalition for Children. The Tallahassee-based non-profit coalition advocates for Florida's abused and neglected children and supports the agencies and individuals who work on their behalf.

DCF has even created “The CBC Scorecard” was reportedly developed to score the 18 community-based care lead agencies across the state. “The nonprofit organizations who contract with the state” TO HANDLE ALL” prevention, foster care, adoption and Independent Living services to children and families in the child welfare system.” The scorecard evaluates the lead agencies on 12 key measures to determine how well they are meeting the most critical needs of these at-risk children and families.
lets just privatize some more
4:43PM APR 7TH 2014
Thursday, July 18, 2013 - DCF Secretary David Wilkins resigns amid escalating controversy over child deaths-

TALLAHASSEE — David Wilkins, Florida's top child welfare and social services administrator resigned Thursday amid an escalating scandal over the recent deaths of four small children who had a history of involvement with child-abuse investigators.
Wilkins is leaving the agency to "pursue opportunities in the private sector and to provide more attention" to a foundation he leads, Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

Wilkins, who became the governor's longest-serving agency head, served as secretary of the Department of Children & Families since Scott's inauguration in 2011. But in recent months, Wilkins became mired in a simmering controversy over the deaths of four youngsters in a six-week period, all but one from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. A fifth child, also from Miami, nearly died from a lacerated liver after the agency failed to act when the infant suffered a broken thigh bone months earlier.
In his statement, Scott said the agency's top Miami administrator, Esther Jacobo, would serve as interim secretary.

"David did a great job in leading the state's top child protection agency and his service is deeply appreciated," Scott said.

Leaders in Compassionate Child Welfare Services

Meet the members of Kid Central’s leadership team. There is a total of 19 private non-profit vendors supposed to be taking care of children's services - they even have the power to adopt out the babies born to those in their care. Is this baby selling? Well who decides who gets what child? This non-profit vendor which handles Privatized Children’s Services for the Fifth Circuit of Florida covering Five Counties! You’ll discover a tremendous group of child-welfare experts dedicated to serving our area with the very best community-based care services possible.

John Cooper, CEO
John Cooper is a recognized human services leader known for developing a strategic vision and following through to achieve results. John has an extensive human services background with management and performance improvement experience. He is a results-oriented leader that uses an integrated approach to implementing management systems and internal processes to drive organizational excellence. He believes in strong community and external stakeholder partnerships with a focus on collaborative networking and to achieve desired outcomes. John was appointed as the Department of Children and Families Assistant Secretary by Secretary David Wilkins in August of 2011. [SEE ARTICLE REGARDING DAVID WILKINS DEMISE BELOW] John Cooper served as the DCF Regional Director for Central Florida for four and half years prior to the appointment. John has worked for the Department of Children and Families in several different capacities; starting as a child abuse investigator, supervisor and manager, Deputy Director of the Florida Abuse Hotline, and District Operations Administrator.

John is active in his community and serves on several local boards and coaches youth sports. He has coached girls fast pitch softball, boys little league, and flag football. He has been married for 14 years and is the proud father of two girls and two boys. John enjoys outdoor activities with his children; boating, white water rafting, and swimming.
John was born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Florida earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from Florida State University and served in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Officer.
That’s TWO-HUNDRED-TWENTY-SEVEN-MILLION-FOUR-HUNDRED-THIRTY-FIVE-THOUSAND-EIGHT-HUNDRED AND EIGHT-SIX DOLLARS!
July 18, 2013 – “David Wilkins, Florida's top child welfare and social services administrator resigned Thursday amid an escalating scandal over the recent deaths of four small children who had a history of involvement with child-abuse investigators.”

WILKINS IS LEAVING THE AGENCY TO "PURSUE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND TO PROVIDE MORE ATTENTION" TO A FOUNDATION HE LEADS, GOV. RICK SCOTT SAID IN A STATEMENT.
WHAT WAS HE DOING LEADING A NON-PROFIT FOUNDATION AND RUNNING DCF AT THE SAME TIME ANYWAY? NO WONDER HIS STATE JOB WENT TO “POT.”
Wilkins, who became the governor's longest-serving agency head, served as secretary of the Department of Children & Families since Scott's inauguration in 2011. But in recent months, Wilkins became mired in a simmering controversy over the deaths of four youngsters in a six-week period, all but one from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. A fifth child, also from Miami, nearly died from a lacerated liver after the agency failed to act when the infant suffered a broken thigh bone months earlier.
In his statement, Scott said the agency's top Miami administrator, Esther Jacobo, would serve as interim secretary.

"David did a great job in leading the state's top child protection agency and his service is deeply appreciated," Scott said.

Florida leads the nation in placing state prisons in the hands of private, profit-making companies. In recent years, the state has privatized the entirety of its $183 million juvenile commitment system — the nation’s third-largest, trailing only California and Texas. Florida not only relies on private contractors to self-report escapes and incidents of violence and abuse, but the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice routinely awards contracts to private prison operators without scrutinizing their records. Youth Services International has managed to forge a lucrative business running private juvenile prisons in Florida and 15 other states even amid mounting evidence of abuse. The company used connections with state officials to complain that Blanton was intimidating staff. Less than a week later, the state removed him as monitor of the facility. Two months after that, he was fired.
Thompson remained open, and Youth Services International retained its contract to operate it. In the nine years since, the company has won an additional eight contracts in Florida, bringing 4,100 more youths through its facilities, according to state records. All the while, complaints of abuse and neglect have remained constant.

Youth Services International is under at least TWO Federal Civil Suits. One for the Thonpson Administrator taking boys home to his bedroom –and one for a female dating a young female inmate. Because of the ages of these juveniles these YSI employee’s having sex with them alone is a crime, but you never see any of these socially elite being prosecuted for their crimes against children.

And, Florida leads the nation in corrupt politicians and formerly so called public servants as well.

We have been on this privatize, privatize and privatize kick ever since Jeb Bush darkened the doors of the governor’s mansion – now is no different with the co-governors BUSH-SCOTT team pushing everything from COMMON CORE under another name to CHARTER SCHOOL CONVERSTIONS for their Guelen Chart School Muslim friends.
Until the parents and grand-parents of these abused children get disgruntled enough about the lip service only that is paid to our child abuse and demand every last person who abused a chile be held criminally liable nothing will ever change.
You sure can not say it’s a money problem because Florida is throwing billions at the juvenile “just us” system and receiving absolutely nothing but abused and/or dead children in return!

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