STATEMENT BY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES SECRETARY BOB BUTTERWORTH
- Regarding the Department's Review of the Courtney Clark Case -
"The review appears to be very thorough given the amount of time available to conduct it. I commend the Office of Quality Management for its work on the critical issues raised by this case."
"I find it unconscionable that human failures throughout the system allowed Courtney Clark to be missing for more than four months without it ever being reported."
"Individuals in several agencies failed to comply with policies, procedures, rules and regulations governing the placement and supervision of this child."
"The agencies involved in this mistake allowed bureaucratic protocols to prevent direct and personal contact that should have occurred early on in this case. Emails did not eliminate the telephone."
"Courtney Clark is alive and well, but she was not well-served. This case demanded a sense of urgency that just didn't exist. The Sarasota Family YMCA failed this child… so did the Department. We cannot be absolved of responsibility here. When the Legislature contracted out child welfare, they didn't contract out our responsibility for the children in our care. We are ultimately responsible. We will not and cannot abdicate our responsibility for Florida's children."
"Our Quality Assurance report has identified a number of corrective measures which will be implemented immediately. In addition, I am taking the following steps."
"I will be establishing the position of Child Location Specialist in each of the Department's regions, reporting to the Regional Director, to enhance the coordination and communication on missing children issues within our State's criminal justice system, particularly at the local level and with our community-based care providers."
"I will be appointing a Director of Criminal Justice Services, who will report to my Assistant Secretary for Operations, to serve as the lead contact for The Department in matters relating to law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice, and the courts."
"Our executive staff, working with the FDLE, will prepare legislation for the 2008 Legislature which will require local law enforcement to immediately take missing child reports from the Department and its contract providers."
"I have ordered our senior management to strengthen existing training programs for all protective investigators, case managers, supervisors, and administrators on missing child reporting and locating requirements."
"And, the Department's attorneys will review the language in our standard community-based care contracts to ensure all statutory and regulatory requirements are met."
"And finally, I will be establishing a panel of various experts to include judges, state attorneys and law enforcement personnel as well as our own employees to examine the gaps currently existing in our system of responding to and locating missing children and to identify administrative, policy, legislative, education, and training efforts which must be undertaken to ensure the safety of Florida's children."
"I have no illusions, however. This case demonstrates an urgent need for improvement."