The Times editorial indicates that Mike Carroll's experience playing a lead role in the privatization of community-based services can help because he has the ability to create models for collaborations across the state and the experience to know what works and what doesn't. Please also let me share my experience with the privatization of the child protection program.
I worked for the child protection program in Florida (in Pinellas County) from 1990 through 2010 (when I retired), and the program has always been underfunded and understaffed. Workers have to deal with tremendous, unmanageable caseloads.
When I began in 1990, I worked as a protective services case manager, then in 1999 I became an investigator. The first thing that I noticed was that the most effective workers were the ones that had experience, many of them with 10, 15 or even 20 years. These workers had a great vocation for what they did, and were dedicated to their careers despite low pay. They always went the extra mile to serve families that appeared difficult to rehabilitate. They worked with the idea that one day they would be able to retire and live comfortably.
Unfortunately, privatization caused a different outcome. The first effect of the privatization was to push out workers, including the most experienced, from the child protection program and into other areas of the Department of Children and Families so that they would maintain their state pensions. Part of the privatization included contracting out the services portion of the program to the private sector. In some counties, the investigations portion was contracted to the local sheriff's offices. This was done in Pinellas County.
What we have now is a dearth of services workers and investigators with experience and desire to serve the families. There is very high turnover in these areas, as well, due to high caseloads and other factors. The state is wasting millions of dollars in training these workers/investigators when many leave after just a few weeks on the job. It would be interesting to know what the actual turnover rate of child protection investigators is in Pinellas County, as it is one of six counties in Florida where child protection investigations are run by the Sheriff's Office.
Carroll's promotion comes during a very difficult time after a Miami Herald investigation recently detailed the deaths since 2008 of 477 children whose families had past dealings with the DCF. That is why I do not see that privatization was in any way a success, and it is not a model that should continue to be promoted. It would be interesting to know what the rate of child deaths was from 1999 (when child protection was privatized) until the present.
I am curious as to what Carroll's model will be to maintain dedicated workers and lower the extreme turnover of child protection workers. Here in Florida, we will not see any effective restructuring or corrective policies until there are major changes in the cultural, political and social structures of the state.
Arnulfo Silva, Palm Harbor
Scott's good choice to lead DCF April 29, editorial
I want to applaud Gov. Rick Scott on his appointment of Mike Carroll to the position of interim secretary of the Department of Children and Families. I have been professionally associated with child welfare organizations for 30 years, and Carroll is an ethical, engaged, progressive, innovative leader; he is totally dedicated to the well-being of children and families.
Carroll has engaged the community to solve complicated and complex problems associated with child death and serious injury, and realizes it takes an entire community to prevent both accidental and intentional events that lead to horrific damage to our children. He embraces prevention and streamlines intervention. Carroll's no-nonsense, all common sense approach to solving problems will be a breath of fresh air to Tallahassee and the citizens of Florida.
Kelley Parris, Tampa
Big issues go unanswered
It is fascinating — in a train wreck kind of way — how we prioritize the many quandaries facing us. For over a decade abortion, guns, gay rights, immigration, the sensational crime of the week and the country's crisis of the moment have received endless coverage and discussion.
Meanwhile, far more serious problems have been given much less attention. These problems will have much greater impacts on our lives in disruptive, even life-threatening ways. They include: rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; overfished, acidifying oceans on the verge of collapse; and the decline of bats, bees and plankton, three MVPs of the animal kingdom.
There is also our dependence on fossil fuels with no substitute in sight, especially when it comes to transportation. And our completely unsustainable use of fresh water, and an equally unsustainable agriculture system. Then there's the weak, vulnerable economy that increasingly enriches those with the most, creating a concentration of wealth that is destroying our democracy. And the mother of all problems, the one that if not addressed will render all others unsolvable: human overpopulation.
These are complex predicaments with complex solutions. Ignoring them will not make them go away. We have squandered a great deal of time on lesser dilemmas. Where is the urgency?
From media coverage to political debates, from talk radio to watercooler discussion, our priorities better change if we are to have any chance of resolving the most critical issues of our day.
Chip Thomas, Tampa
Concealed carry and crime | April 21, letter
Murders are up
When a letter writer suggested the decline in crime is due to more folks carrying concealed weapons, I decided to do my own "PolitiFact"-type research to determine if that's possible. It isn't.
According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting: "Murders by firearms have increased dramatically in the state since 2000, when there were 499 gun murders, according to data from Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Gun murders have since climbed 38 percent — with 691 murders committed with guns in 2011." They go on to say: "The rise in gun homicides in Florida comes at a time when the overall murder rate has declined in Florida, and violent crime has dropped statewide."
I rate the letter writer's statement "pants on fire."
Terri E. Benincasa, Palm Harbor
Tardy, sloppy … but spectacular | April 28
The good and the bad
With the initiative taken by Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, stars did certainly align for these awards and for Tampa, the minority of Indian Americans and the thousands of visitors who visited our shores to see this extravaganza. It was a unique global event, with breathtaking acrobatics, dances and music and of course the Indian movie stars who evoked so much excitement. It was great fun to watch our mayor doing Indian dances, Kevin Spacey in a lungi and an Indian American singing our national anthem at the opening of a Tampa Bay Rays game.
On the flip side were the hourslong delays, poor organization of lines, inadequate food and drink stalls, and the many empty seats that could have been filled, with more reasonable prices. Yes, the awards showed a significant aspect of India today, different from the usual cliches of sacred cows, caste and slum dogs.
But it is farfetched to state that it represents the ancient and many-splendored Indian culture. I hope too that this will usher more global attention on Tampa and its many riches.
Mukunda Rao, Tampa
Scott takes swipe at VA April 26
Investigate other hospitals
I find Gov. Rick Scott's interest in the VA health care delivery a political ploy of the greatest irritation. The VA announced that five patients in the area of Puerto Rico, Florida and Georgia died as a result of delayed treatment. That was a brave announcement. While I don't condone delaying treatment, I am interested in the for-profit and nonprofit hospitals in the same areas giving the public the same accounting.
How many of their patients died as a result of no care because they didn't have insurance? How many died as a result of delayed treatment because they didn't have insurance until the Affordable Care Act?
If the governor wants to investigate, let him investigate the other hospitals as well as the VA. I worked for HCA/Columbia when he was the CEO. There is not a kind thing I can say about the man.
Believe me, he knows about delaying treatment, treatment on the cheap and understaffing.
Karleen Sanders, Pinellas Park