DCF Interim Secretary Rallies Child-Welfare Workers

Aug 29, 2013

After a series of highly-publicized child deaths, the new leader of the Florida Department of Children and Families rallied a record crowd at the annual Child Protection Summit in Orlando. 

Florida's child welfare system is trying to regroup after a devastating series of deaths of children whose families were already known to DCF.

Estimates range from nine to 20 such deaths since April.

Former DCF secretary David Wilkins abruptly resigned on July 18th, and Governor Rick Scott named Esther Jacobo interim secretary.

On Wednesday, Jacobo opened the three-day summit by acknowledging the crisis and vowing to rise to the challenge.

"I know these are difficult things that you do every day, but please know and please believe that I am behind you 100 percent", said Jacobo .

Florida's child welfare system has hit low points before and rebounded.

But Judge Cindy Lederman, presiding judge of the Miami-Dade juvenile court, says it's time to break the cycle once and for all.

"We've got to plant some seeds that we're not going to see the flowers for for a long time", said Lederman.  "No more band aids, no more quick fixes, no more 'Let's have another training.’ No, no, no, no."

Jacobo has asked for a review of the recent deaths and preached transparency in all DCF dealings.

"I think there has to be an acknowledgement of the difficult place in which we find ourselves. We have taken a lot of hits", Jacobo said.

A record 2,500 child-welfare professionals are attending the conference through Friday.