Florida Lawmakers Grapple With Changing Culture At DCF
To the House panel, Mary Alice Nye, of the Legislature's Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability, said child-protective investigators report feeling pressured to close cases within a 30-day window and to get all of their work done without filing for overtime pay.
The investigators "felt that they were less and less able to use their knowledge and expertise in decision-making," Nye said.
They also reported spending 50 to 80 percent amount of their time on administrative tasks and expressed concern about going into homes where there had been violence, difficulty in getting law enforcement officers to meet them there and using their own cars for work, which could identify them in small communities.
"They generally indicated they felt support from their immediate (supervisor) but not from DCF or the lead (community-based care) agencies," Nye said.
DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said a program to pair child-protective investigators was being piloted in cases where a child is 3 years old or younger, has a prior DCF history and other family risk factors such as domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse.
Jacobo said the pilot has been so successful that it will go statewide. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended hiring 400 additional child protective investigators, bringing their caseloads down to 10 apiece.
Sobel said it's important for state agencies to be more consistent.
"Stop the turnover and create a workforce that likes where they're working and enjoys what they do and accomplishes a lot," she said. "For the sake of the kids, we have to do this."
According to OPPAGA, the turnover for child-protective investigators in Florida is 20 percent. For the case managers who provide services at the local level, it's 30 percent.