DCF ‘Resets’ Child Safety Standards

TALLAHASSEE – Five children being watched by the Department of Children and Family Services have died since May.

“Each child and each family is counting on us,” said Esther Jacobo.

A week ago Monday, we talked with former DCF Secretary David Wilkins about the recent deaths and the departments plan to prevent future tragedies.

“Now we have the technologies, and the data collection activities occurring. So that we can really measure which programs work and which situations. Before that we just didn’t collect that kind of information,” said David Wilkins.

Three days after the interview Wilkins resigned. Governor Rick Scott then appointed Esther Jacobo as interim secretary.

She met with staff this week about changes the department needs to take to prevent future deaths.

“I did want to try and have a moment with you guys to refocus us all on really what’s important and help us get through these difficult times we’ve been having right at this moment,” said Jacobo.

Jacobo’s plan is being called the child safety "reset." The idea is gaining support from child advocacy groups in the state.

“She’s got a big charge in front of her, but we’re going to be there and stand arm and arm and side by side with her,” said Kurt Kelly.

The former secretary was in the process of overhauling the role of child protective investigators before he resigned. Jacobo says her first priority is to review all of the recent deaths in detail…She plans to do things differently than her predecessor.

“I am a different person, so I’ll likely take a different approach in my leadership,” said Jacobo.

In one of the recent deaths, a child protective investigator was fired for forging documents about an 11-month-old baby who died after being left inside of a hot car.

Jacobo came to work for the agency in 2008 and most recently served in the southern region.