Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: DCF chief takes steps to open up agency

Florida's most vulnerable children deserve to have an empowered, enlightened public that can hold state officials accountable for their safety. Just days into his new role as the Department of Children and Families' interim secretary, Mike Carroll is taking steps to reverse recent policies that would have shielded much of the agency's work from the public record. This is a sound move that puts children's safety first.

The Miami Herald sparked an intense debate about child welfare issues in Florida this spring after it published its Innocents Lost series. The yearlong investigation detailed the deaths of 477 children who perished in Florida since 2008 after having some contact with DCF. The series revealed systemic problems in the agency, including overworked caseworkers who did little followup with at-risk families and toothless safety plans that provided little protection for children.

In the wake of the series, legislators created sweeping child protection reforms. Gov. Rick Scott called for the hiring of 400 new child protection investigators. And DCF pledged its continued commitment to Florida's children and to transparency. But behind the scenes, the agency did just the opposite. According to a Herald report earlier this month, the DCF adopted a policy that allows it to delete what it calls confidential information from the public record. This essentially scrubs its files of most of the information surrounding a child's death, including the child's age, details of the investigation and record of any prior DCF involvement. In response to the Herald's article, DCF said it had simply taken steps to protect the privacy of others who might be involved in a child's case, such as a surviving sibling. In reality, it would make it impossible to investigate their performance again like the newspaper did.

On Monday, Carroll ordered the creation of a position in the state office of Child Welfare to oversee reporting, data gathering and response to child deaths. He also called for the streamlining of incident reporting and vowed that once the new system is deployed, it will be shared with the public in ways that do not violate traditional confidentiality. This is what the agency should be doing: opening its records rather than cloaking portions of investigations even if the law allows it.

The Herald's series was scathing in its analysis of DCF's shortcomings. The comprehensive look at an agency in trouble resulted in sweeping legislative reforms and more than $59 million in new money proposed for child protection issues. Government agencies should embrace openness, especially when it involves efforts to protect children and youth. Children benefit when the entire community looks out for their safety.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

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Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

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Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

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Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

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Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

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Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17