Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Document the DCF Atrocities - # 32,107

St. Pete Times:
George Sheldon, Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, said nobody displayed a sense of urgency in Diella's case. Indeed. Rules were in place, but weren't followed. Cases weren't transferred properly between agencies. Piecemeal case management meant imperative information wasn't distributed, or worse, was ignored by those needing to know.
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Sheldon deserves credit for providing a thorough public accounting of yet another breakdown in Florida's child welfare system. But the candor is overshadowed by the horrible outcome and the appalling systematic failures preceding the infant's death:
  • Case workers — checking a separate case involving the twins' sibling — had at least two months before the babies' birth to determine the suitability of granting custody to Ludwig.
  • Youth and Family Alternatives of Pasco, a subcontractor providing services for DCF, failed to follow numerous guidelines, including a home visit and safety assessment to determine "the potential effect the addition of the new child may have on the family's current ability to handle stress'' and whether the newborns needed to be in foster care.
  • Nobody conducted an assessment of the potential home environment, did a face-to-face interview with Ludwig or evaluated his criminal and abuse history as required by state law when newborns are released to the nonincarcerated parent.
  • Marion County child protection staffers said they wanted an out-of-town inquiry of Ludwig, but failed to transfer the case to the Pasco Sheriff's Office.
Diella Ludwig is not a victim who fell through the cracks of Florida's child protection system. She died because the system failed her time and time and time again. Every leader of each agency involved must accept responsibility for that failure and move swiftly to prevent it from happening again. Sheldon and his boss, Gov. Charlie Crist, need to ensure that work gets done.

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