Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Will the Light Shine on Florida's Department of Children and Families?

Today's PNJ reports legislation is pending in Tallahassee that, for the first time, would open the records of the Florida Department of Children and Families to "children and others who have been through DCF's child care system... ."
Because their records so often deal with children and cases of sexual abuse, DCF has many records that are closed — including barring access for people to see their own records.

"That was a driving force behind the bill," [state senator Paula] Dockery said. "When I found out people could not even get their own records from DCF, I couldn't believe it."
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Under existing law, the only way to get those records is to petition the courts.

This could turn out to be an expensive idea. After all, DCF is rightly regarded as the worst agency in the state of Florida, if not the universe. "There is no place in the country where it is worse to be a foster child than Florida," one national expert told Time Magazine six years ago.

Riddled with incompetent caseworkers and rife with ignorant and biased supervisors, the agency wasn't even "shocked" when a recent inspector general's report found the agency's hiring practices to be a muddled mess from top to bottom. DCF ignores judicial orders seeking to compel its employees to do their jobs properly.

It hires sexual perverts who abuse children to be top spokesmen. Six-figure jobs at the local county level are manufactured out of thin air for tired politicians with no particular skills to recommend them.

Unable even to keep track of children that are supposed to be in "the system" -- much less protect them -- the Florida Department of Children and Families presently must be hiding in their private archives evidence of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of tragic blunders, negligent mistakes, intentional villany, and other atrocities.

Once the public gets its hands on the proof, the victims of this abominable agency might actually sue for gross negligence, as did 9 year old Marissa Amora. That could bankrupt the state, don'cha know, if there is any justice in Florida.

But there is a ray of hope for worried taxpayers. Florida's Department of Children and Families is so utterly beyond redemption that, as shown by the case of an unnamed four-year old girl embroiled in an "important international custody battle," the agency is quite capable of "losing" more records than it can find. Moreover, sporadic investigations have revealed that "some caseworkers... falsified records... and knowingly placed children in abusive foster homes."

The "Sunshine Act" can't train the light on DCF's malfeasance if all the evidence gets 'lost.'

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