Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A better strategy for protecting Florida's children

Florida's child welfare laws should seek to protect and enhance children's lives rather than hold families together at all costs. Gov. Rick Scott signed sweeping changes into the state's child protection policies into law last month, adopting measures that address issues ranging from publicizing child deaths to creating a more skilled workforce. Notably, the law contains provisions that abandon a decade-old policy of maintaining dysfunctional families at the expense of children. Too often, the Department of Children and Families left kids in unsafe situations and gave parents too many chances. This welcome reversal of a failed policy empowers caseworkers and puts child safety above family preservation.

The latest problems at DCF came to light this spring after the Miami Herald published "Innocents Lost," a series that detailed the preventable deaths of 477 children with whom the agency had some contact since 2008. Many of the children died while with parents, relatives or other adults with a documented history of abuse or neglect. Often, DCF knew the children were in dangerous situations and set up safety plans for parents that allowed them to retain custody of their children with little more than a signature and a promise to do better. If parents violated or abandoned the plans, DCF had little recourse. And children paid the price.

Under the new law, compliance with safety plans will play a large role in determining if a child is allowed to remain in the familial home. If investigators determine a child is in danger, they must institute a safety plan that is specific, feasible and sustainable. Separate safety plans also now extend to people such as paramours who commit acts of domestic violence and threaten a child's safety. If any party subject to a safety plan fails to comply, DCF now is empowered to take the child. The law also provides for the possibility of financial support to nonrelatives and other caregivers who take in children who have been removed from their parents.

It is too late for the 477 children who died after coming in contact with DCF. But their deaths pushed lawmakers toward much-needed reform. Florida's strengthened child welfare laws change the way DCF will approach the job going forward. But there is still much to be done. A grand jury report released last month commended DCF for making progress on significant child welfare issues but said the agency must improve in several areas, including lowering case loads for child protection investigators and redefining neglect so that preventable child deaths are not undercounted.

The governor and the Legislature have put into place the kinds of commonsense strategies that were long lacking in Florida's child protection policies. With new tools in hand, DCF should fully utilize its expanded powers to hold parents accountable and protect children's right to live in safe homes regardless of familial relationship.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18