The readers’ forum

Making the best decisions for vulnerable children

 

The increased attention and scrutiny of Florida’s child welfare system prompted by the Herald series, Innocents Lost, is welcome. The Department of Children & Families is continuously evaluating how we can do better. Every day we work in partnership with our community-based care agencies, the judiciary, Guardian ad Litem and many community stakeholders to do what is best for vulnerable children.

Every death and every injury causes us grief and self-reflection. The Herald recounted 477 deaths over a six-year period. These are cases that we have been studying and agonizing over for years. We must learn from every child death and make improvements so that mistakes are never repeated.

When Casey Family Programs last year presented its findings after studying dozens of child deaths in Florida, we immediately went to work implementing their recommendations. We began deploying a new and more comprehensive method of doing investigations; giving our investigative teams a larger framework to guide them so they can better assess a family’s needs and know when to intervene. And, we are employing innovative techniques — from pairing investigators to enhancing our reporting database to include alerts when parents are failing drug rehabilitation.

These efforts and the work we do on a daily basis are centered on one goal: To do what is best for each individual child. There can be no pendulum in child welfare swinging between removal and family preservation. To make decisions for individual children based on any policy is wrong. State and federal laws dictate that we must make every reasonable effort to keep children in their homes if we can safely do so. This mirrors others across the country and is based on extensive research. The key word is “safely.”

We are training our investigators to look at the functionality of the whole family to ensure they are making the safest and best decision for each child.

We stand firmly in the belief that the system is not broken, it is challenged. Every year the department conducts an average of 200,000 child protective investigations concerning approximately 300,000 children — protecting children, mending families, helping children find new forever families and connecting parents with services they need to learn how to protect and nurture their children.

We can all be part of the solution to these challenges. We need more foster and adoptive parents and more Guardians ad Litem, and we hope this series will encourage more Floridians to get involved.

In the meantime, our dedicated professionals will continue to do their best each day to make very difficult decisions on behalf of struggling families and children who are at-risk. We will continue to work with our dedicated legislative leaders and a committed governor to improve our laws and make sure we have the resources we need to help families and save children.

Esther Jacobo, interim secretary, Florida Department of Children & Families, Tallahassee

Read more Letters to the Editor stories from the Miami Herald

  • The readers’ forum

    FIU expansion good for community

    I’m writing in support of Florida International University’s expansion to the land next to its Modesto A. Maidique Campus. I serve on the FIU School of Accounting’s Advisory Board and Board of Trustees’ Athletic Committee. And as a member of FIU’s President’s Council, I’ve been honored to act as an FIU ambassador to the community.

  • The readers’ forum

    Eastern Shores flotilla is ridiculous

    Jenny Staletovich’s Aug. 24 article, Floating homes may be answer to rising seas, seems to be nothing more than a biased piece for the developers. Most troubling is that the article says there is no opposition to this concept.

  • Crammed in the air

    There have been several stories recently about arguments on airplanes because of passengers reclining their seats. I may be next. The way most airlines — hello, American! — configure their seats makes it virtually impossible to hold a book or laptop. And try getting out of your seat to go to the restroom!

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

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