The readers’ forum

DCF fails vulnerable children


How many children must die before we have a real conversation about our child-welfare system? How many headlines must be written before the people charged with investigating child abuse accept responsibility for the children who have died in the custody of abusive parents over the past six months after the Department of Children & Families intervened? Ezra Raphael, Antwan Hope, Fernando Barahona, Bryan Osceola, Dontrell Melvin and Emma Morrison are gone forever.

DCF investigators could have saved all six children before they were abused, neglected and allegedly killed by their caregivers. How did this happen in the wake of Nubia Barahona’s murder? DCF Secretary David Wilkins assured us that in the two years since Nubia’s murder he has fixed the system. The Legislature indulged him. Millions in state funds were appropriated to help Wilkins attack what he believed was wrong with the agency. A public panel was convened and a grand jury issued a report. The Florida Legislature funded all of the changes that the secretary requested.

Two years later, we have not just one more tragedy like Nubia’s, but many.

How could the secretary be so wrong? He operates an agency whose trained investigators seem blind or indifferent to the obvious signs of abuse and danger. Look no further than the fact that they returned these children to abusive caregivers. That’s because it is exactly what happened to Nubia. If only the secretary had learned a lesson from her untimely death.

The secretary used millions to redesign the Child Abuse Hotline and yet, the new and improved hotline did not protect these children. Now, DCF says the yet-to-be-launched Transformation Project will ensure that the mistakes that led to these children’s deaths will not happen again. Is that a gamble we’re willing to take? How many more children must die before DCF learns the art of protecting children?

I invite Secretary Wilkins to South Florida so we can finally address some important issues. Why are his protective investigators leaving children in the custody of neglectful and abusive adults? Is he so proud of the reduced number of children in foster care as to allow his staff to do whatever it takes to keep that number down? Is keeping that number down more important than keeping kids out of harm’s way?

We have more questions for the secretary about the training and qualifications of his front line staff. After decades of the same failed response to tragedies, maybe it’s time for DCF to fully accept the challenges of its social-work role and leave the investigatory work to those who are properly trained to help our children. Maybe it is time to let professional law enforcement officers handle all child abuse investigations in Florida. In the event of an emergency, would you trust your child’s life to DCF?

Kionne L. McGhee,

state representative, District 117, Miami

Read more Letters to the Editor stories from the Miami Herald

Ceci Sanchez, as a toddler, with her father, Jose Ignacio Maciá, and mother, Cecile, in Cuba.

    The readers’ forum

    My father died at the Bay of Pigs Invasion

    This Easter Sunday is especially sad for me. My father died this weekend 53 years ago at the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

  • Pray for peace

    It’s with great sadness that in the midst of the holiday of Passover, we witnessed, once again, another act of violence and hatred that has become far too common of an occurrence in our world. Instead of only recalling the joy of freedom from bondage, we were also gripped by the knowledge of someone who killed out of their hatred of Jews.

  • Respect police officers

    Re April 15 article Veteran cop granted bond in U.S. drug-running case: Being a real cop isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. So we take it personally when we lose a fellow cop and when we are unfairly tainted. When a cop does wrong, as we know, cop bashers will use it to attempt to tarnish the profession. The bad acts of an individual cop do not and should not represent the profession any more than the bad acts of a civilian criminal should define their race or ethnicity. Serving and protecting comes at a high price. Each year about 60,000 assaults on cops occur resulting in about 16,000 injuries. On average this past decade, 160 cops died yearly in the line of duty just doing their jobs. Yes, the 160 may make the news but the 16,000 and 60,000 do not.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category