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I guess most states’ Department of Children and Families (DCF) dodge calls to reform because their rationale is why re-invent the wheel. The wheel is the ever so available revolving funds states receive from the federal government to take care of their horrid child-welfare system. One would think I am just a disgruntled person seeking to ruffle feathers. I enjoy doing that–yes. But that is not the sole purpose for this piece. Florida’s reckless child-welfare management history blows me away. Here is a state that threw its hands in the air and said it can no longer take care of its vulnerable members of society. So they sold their ‘birthright’ to the highest private bidder. The lucky bidder was and still is ChildNet. Let’s pause here and focus on this brief anecdote. For illustration purposes please pay close attention to the following analogy.

DCF is like a parent. They have many children. At one point they gave up their rights to raise and instruct their children. They hired someone else (ChildNet) to do the job for them. ChildNet almost has full autonomy to act independent of DCF. DCF watches from a far and provides monetary assistance to ChildNet. Now, flip the analogy to reality. DCF threw in the towel because they admitted they were not ‘fit’ to raise their own children. They gave up their responsibility to ‘outsiders.’ Parents who have to deal with DCF in Florida should scream foul and hypocrisy. DCF is not in any moral position to dictate to parents how to raise their children. DCF abandoned their duty and yet they expect parents to take moral and social instructions from them. What irony! So here’s why it is absolutely imperative DCF keep their chaotic child-welfare system intact.

1. Without clients (children and their families) there won’t be any money to line the pockets of DCF executives. Just recently, Florida’s legislature gave DCF more money to raise investigators income and to streamline its abuse hotline. Don’t panic it is just only 2012 decades after DCF’s inception. But trust me they have gotten very sophisticated, for example, if  kids aren’t taken from deserving or undeserving parents the federal government would have to slash the funds sent to Florida. In the 90’s and early 2000’s DCF would just grab up all the children even if one was allegedly abused. This lead to the state asking for more money from the federal government. Then Florida brilliantly decided to emphasize adoption and to minimize the number of kids they took away from parents. The same budget request was always granted, it was mildly adjusted to meet inflation. The funds receive stopped matching the number of kids who needed services because the government figured how to maintain a high salary for the executives and keep operational cost at a low for decades.

2.The number of children who end up maimed, killed or further abused isn’t enough to alarm the leaders within DCF. More kids would have to suffer before they would swiftly take action.

3. There aren’t any serious discussions/debates going on in Florida to pool together ideas to fix Florida’s failing child-welfare system. But what we do hear and see on media outlets is that one child who barely made out of Florida’s foster care system by the skin of his or her teeth and went on to be somebody.

4. The following entities have grown accustom to the way things have been: the juvenile justice system, the dependency-family court, the assistant attorney general’s office, DCF and the department of health and human services. So any calls to re-invent the wheel is overlooked. It works. People are entrenched in their positions.

5. Almost everything is done in house. The Senate Committee on Children and Families is even in the dark concerning DCF and their subcontractors. Senators on said committee are flabbergasted when they read about DCF carelessness in the papers. DCF has friends in other government bodies too who watch out for them and keep things under wrap: the Assistant Attorney General’s Office, State Attorney’s Office, police departments, the court system, hospitals and clinics. They all work together to keep things going. But they are very non-cooperative with those who seek to scrutinize them or hold them accountable.

6. DCF would have to care first about children and families in order to change their bad practices. It is just a job–a means to an end for most DCF leaders. Some leaders are put there because they were ineffective elsewhere and the new administration (governor’s office) shuffles people to new positions rather than putting them there to enact change.

7. It (DCF) is a bureaucracy with a large lobbying presence. When was the last time you heard a bureaucracy undergo significant changes? Change won’t come to DCF as long its bureaucratic columns are well intact.

8. Most families hardly ever deal with DCF investigators because they no longer lead the charge in taking care of Florida’s disadvantaged and abused kids. DCF subcontractors shoulder their responsibilities and  community-based agencies carry them out. These agencies usually have a positive influence in their communities. So DCF is well insulated. If things go array, the lead agencies suffer the initial setbacks but by the time whirlwind gets to DCF; they often offer up one supervisor as a sacrifice. So again, DCF goes untouched.

9. The US Department of Health and Human Services and the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) enable DCF. The federal government is selectively prudent when it comes to regulating entities like DCF. On the one hand, the federal government summons wisdom and respect the state’s prerogatives, while on the other, they clamp down when it suits them best. I think the (ACF) shies from holding DCF accountable because they themselves failed the Native Americans. Why should the pot call the kettle black?

10. Many years ago, the child-welfare system was terrible. In fact there wasn’t a system. Have you heard of any orphanages lately in the US? What about almshouses? They are things of the past. You are now looking at a well oiled machine capable of turning a sizable profit off the misery and pain families go through. The formula is simple most parents who end up at DCF’s feet are reckless, dangerous and undeserving. They are entitled to receive services. DCF knows they will return in the system again just like a crack whore or a meth addict. They will quickly send the children home to their parents even though they are vagabonds. But they will come back because the federal government is giving ‘free money.’ DCF is smart and calculated. All they did was study the past and concluded that the system of old lack care and oversight. They championed a system where they could create a facade that they care. But their true purpose was to make a profit eventually. I’ll admit the government’s handling of the child-welfare system is much better than the past but their intentions are very sinister. Yes, they’ve welcomed some noticeable changes. We can see them but they occurred gradually over time. While we continue to wait for more radical changes so many terrible things happen to the children under DCF’s watch.

I predict that within the next five years, the state of Florida’s child-welfare system will implode. I’ll even go out on a limb and say other states’ child-welfare system will implode too. Said systems can’t last long. The federal government will have to re-evaluate the entire system and do something before it is too late. States can no longer independently fund their child-welfare system. The federal government now has to be fiscally conservative. Every dollar and dime have to be accounted. They can no longer just send money to states because it is the right thing to do. Social Security and Medicare are tied up in the mix too. Kids do not work to contribute to said financial nets. So the federal government is forced to look at the elephant in the room.

I am fearful the federal government will soon employ stringent measures to punish states like Florida with a horrendous child-welfare history. The will no longer keep that revolving child-welfare funds door open to help bolster the states’ budget. I do not wish to see the system thrown out and the kids pay the price. I think the federal government should make visible and pragmatic attempts to work hand in hand with trouble states to get their houses in order. But I fear they will cut off Florida without any intervention first. By that time, the kids in Florida’s child-welfare system will suffer the most because they will truly be in a debunked system that has lost all if not most of its capacity to help them reach adulthood. But of course Florida will not heed this warning bell because everyone is doing their best at work–which simply means collecting their wages, doing what’s least expected of them and literally passing the buck. DCF is very good at passing the buck and after all, that detestable behavior my friends, makes it next to impossible for them to change.

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