I was saddened to read about the 20 children with a prior DCF history who have died in Florida since April. However, I was not shocked. This is a continuing problem.
In the mid 1980s, I was the physician director of the Child Protection Team at the University of Miami, which deals with abused and neglected children.
It’s easy to be fooled in this line of work. In my first serious case I evaluated a child with head trauma. Her parents told us that she had hit her head on the motel’s swimming pool ledge, and they had a witness to the “accident.” I called DCF, at the time the Deparment of Health and Rehabilitative Services, and all of us thought that the patient could safely be discharged to her parents.
Weeks later, the little girl was admitted again with inflicted second-degree burns. I felt horrible and wanted to quit.
However, I learned from the experience and continued in the field for two more years. Caretakers lie. Caseworkers and others make misjudgments. The system needs more resources. And, workers in this field need to be more suspicious and better trained. They must have their workloads reduced so that the right attention and action can save more children.
Shirley Press, M.D., Hollywood