Tuesday, June 19, 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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18