DCF Unveils New Child Abuse Prevention Strategy

TALLAHASSEE -- Child Abuse Investigator Letitia McClellan and Case Manager Sheyla Ferguson walk into the unknown every day.

They are checking up on a baby in foster care. The baby's mother has mental health issues and can’t care for the infant.

The case might be handled very differently in the future. Everyone involved with child protective services is undergoing 8 days of specialized training in a method that is 180 degrees different from current methods.

The goal of the new program is to do away with check lists and actually listen to the client.

"We're looking at family functioning, the parenting, the discipline. Just entire family as a whole," said Letitia.

"We are moving away from a compliance. Yes, you know, they complete one or two classes. More towards do we see a behavioral change in their parenting?" said Sheyla.

DCF Secretary David Wilkins says every investigator in Florida will now be using the same playbook. “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 Wilkins.

There are some fears more children will be taken from their homes, or the caseloads will go up as investigators spend more time with each family. But Wilkins says pilot programs don’t bear out those fears.

The rollout of the new method begins in October, but isn’t likely to be implemented statewide until February or March of next year.

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