The readers’ forum

DCF strives to strengthen the child’s family ties

 

The Oct. 4 editorial, Abuse, child deaths continue, about the Department of Children & Families, states that, “Ms. Jacobo should declare immediately that DCF’s policy of keeping families together — no matter what, it seems — can no longer be its overriding policy if children in mortal danger are to be rescued from their abusers.”

DCF does not have, nor has it ever had a policy of keeping families together regardless of the circumstances. However, we do follow Florida law, that states, “To preserve and strengthen the child’s family ties whenever possible, removing the child from parental custody only when his or her welfare cannot be adequately safeguarded without such removal.”

I have often said publicly that the answer to preventing child deaths is not as easy as removing more children from their biological parents. As the tragic case of Michael McMullen illustrates, removing a child does not ensure safety. Many of the heartbreaking child deaths we can recall by name were children who had been removed from their biological parents — Rilya Wilson and Nubia Barahona.

I recognize that informed and effective decision-making is absolutely essential to the process of ensuring child safety, and that is why we are working diligently to implement the Safety Methodology to strengthen and broaden how we make decisions. But no method is foolproof; we can only strive to create the best methodology possible and then commit to constant re-evaluation and improvement. All input and criticism, including that from this newspaper, is welcome and encouraged and will be part of making the department and our community-based-care partners better at protecting Florida’s children and families.

Esther Jacobo, interim secretary, Florida Department

of Children & Families, Tallahassee

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