TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Advocates for abused and neglected children are raising red flags over pending legislation drastically expanding the number of child abuse investigators. The problem is a lack of funding once the state knows who is being abused or neglected.
Governor Rick Scott is proposing hiring 400 new child protection investigators at a cost of 39 million. “We still have much to do to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
But advocates, like Mike Watkins of Big Bend Community Based Care, came out in droves at a House Appropriations Committee. “There’s not enough. I don’t think it goes far enough in this bill for us to help protect the lives of kids in the state of Florida.”
Watkins says the hiring of investigators without spending more on services once problems are found is short sighted. “If we don’t have good prevention if we don’t have good subsidies, if we don’t have good mental health, and we don’t have good domestic violence, we’re really wasting money on doing better investigations.”
The idea to beef up child protection followed a series of stories that linked 477 deaths of children who were under Department of Children and Families supervision to a lack of follow-up by the state.
Think of this slide as the funding for a drug treatment program. Right now it’s capable of putting 10 people an hour down the slide, but all of a sudden if it has to put 20 people an hour down the slide, everyone getting treatment will get half as much.
But Rep. Seth McKeel of Orlando, who is the House Budget Chairman, say they are doing all they can do. “A lot of advocates all over the state are asking for a lot of money. We have a 75 billion dollar budget, we’re gonna do the best we can to take care of as many people as we possibly can.”
Without more services to help stressed families, advocates say the state will only be doing a better job of tracking problems without doing anything about those problems.
Providers say they have less money today to care for abused and neglected kids than they did in 2007, yet the numbers needing care are rising.