Department of Children and Families
David E. Wilkins
March 12, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Mary Ann White, a Child Protective Investigator in Leon County, recently received a report that a father had abducted his children from another state and had been found by U.S. Marshals in Tallahassee. Mary Ann contacted the mother, who had not seen her children in six months, and was able to obtain plane tickets for the children. Mary Ann actually flew with the children to ensure they made it safely back to their anxiously awaiting mother.
This is just one of thousands of examples of what our employees at the Department of Children and Families do every single day. March is National Social Workers Month, a time for government and nonprofit organizations to highlight the efforts of social workers. Many of our employees go beyond written job duties to protect Florida’s children and families.
"I want thank all of our employees and our partners across the state who work so hard every day to protect children and vulnerable adults, help families and provide critical assistance to those in need," said Secretary David Wilkins. "This month provides a great opportunity to show appreciation to all the social workers in our lives, but we should also remember to thank them all year long."
Professional social workers are found in every facet of community life—in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, elected office, prisons, military, corporations, and in numerous public and private agencies that serve families in need.
Denise McGirr, a counselor in Adult Protective Services in Fort Myers, went above and beyond last month in her support a client's mother. Our client had been hospitalized and then transferred to a nursing home. While at the nursing home, the client passed away unexpectedly from natural causes. Denise took steps to inform the client’s 92-year-old mother and took her time on Saturday to attend the funeral so the mother would have someone in attendance to support her and honor her child.
In 2011, our Department investigated more than 180,000 allegations of child abuse and neglect. Our adult protective services investigated more than 64,000 cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults. Our Customer Call Centers receive about 2 million calls every month from our clients in need.
Kori Roberts, Child Protective Investigator, recently received an Incentive Award from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for her dedication in a child neglect case. The Sheriff’s Office said she worked long hours making sure the child received needed medical care, drove the child to an appointment when no one else could, and secured funding for treatment not covered by Medicaid. Her story was also featured in a Tampa Bay Times article.
The Department of Children and Families understands the demands placed on social workers and the individuals they help - from parents and caregivers to individuals applying for benefits. Over the past year, the department has made many changes to improve the jobs of social workers.
- We have hired more child protective investigators and are adding additional staff to these units in the next year.
- We work more closely with law enforcement than ever before, coordinating on investigations and learning from their procedures.
- The redesign of our child protective investigations will reinforce our staff and improve the process by implementing law enforcement and social work best practices.
- The new state budget, along with legislation recently passed with support from Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Sen. Ronda Storms, will improve training and technology among our investigative staff and redesign the investigative process to better ensure child safety. It will also increase the base pay of child protective investigators, helping to reduce turnover and ensure that qualified, trained personnel are working the most critical, complex cases. A career advancement protocol will also provide increases in pay for those with more experience with the agency.
- We are in the process of revamping our Florida Abuse Hotline into a Command Center so that critical information about the children and families involved in our cases will be transmitted immediately to the investigator.
- We also plan to bring a launch a new computer system for Economic Self-Sufficiency, increasing efficiency and effectiveness for our employees who process federal benefits.