Franklin County Sheriff asking for DCF to take more action

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 10:42 PM CST
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A recent situation in Franklin County where a juvenile was arrested but left with nowhere to go, now has the sheriff’s office raising questions about the effectiveness of certain state services.

“Right now, no school, no eating, our victim advocate had to go buy him clothes, I mean just a bad situation and he was committing crimes.” Franklin County Sheriff AJ Smith said.

These questions stemmed after the arrested juvenile did not meet the requirements to be accepted by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). This would usually leave the juvenile to the care of the Department Of Children and Families (DCF).

“We asked DCF to take action and they didn’t,” said Smith.

In fact, Smith said DCF has not provided services in the county for a while.

“My victim advocate has outlined a list of other times when they were not responsive, took them hours and hours to get here if they came. that’s unacceptable,” said Smith.

Smith gave NewsChannel 7 a report outlining five other instances since March where the DCF showed what he calls those “unacceptable actions.”

“Answer our phone calls, respond to our complaints, and keep these kids safe. That’s their job,” said Smith.

Smith said the absence of services is extremely frustrating and is detrimental to the youth and community.

“Here’s a kid who’s maybe life could be saved and changed to where he is a productive part of the community and has a good life, may turn out to be a career criminal and that’s what DCF and the sheriff’s office should be working to make sure it does not happen,” said Smith.

And even if Smith said the DCF isn’t working towards that goal, the sheriff’s office is.

However, an email from the DCF Deputy Communications Director Laura Walthall said they are working with the community on this:

“DCF is aware of the situation and the Department is working closely with law enforcement, community partners, and service providers on an ongoing basis. At this time, additional information remains confidential per section 39.202, Florida Statutes.

“Our Department has put a focus on working with community stakeholders throughout the state to implement a multidisciplinary teaming and referral model to connect struggling families with community-based behavioral health and stabilizing services. Our efforts with this initiative are to prevent entry into deep-end services and the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The Department is focusing efforts on supporting families access to needed services. Secretary Harris has implemented many changes to the Department including an emphasis on integrating our systems -- breaking down silos to really wrap our arms around children and families to address their needs holistically.”

After hearing DCF’s email response, Smith said he wants them to take action and show them how they’re going to take care of these kids.

“Show me. Show me. Quit talking and show me. That’s rhetoric, show me. That sums it up. Show me what you want to do. Show me how you’re going to respond. Show me how you’re going to take care of these kids. I have a list of kids who are in trouble and are doing things and we need them to intervene,” said Smith.

Smith said he’s had a few conference calls with DCF leadership and even Secretary Shevaun Harris, but said they did not result in anything getting solved.

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