Monthly Archives: June 2012

Being Prepared for “What If” in Florida

Guest post by Meagan Dougherty, Public Information Specialist at the Agency for Health Care Administration

“What if” is a phrase we often find ourselves using in our day-to-day lives when preparing for and often worrying about what could happen. What if the car doesn’t start this morning? What if there isn’t enough time in the day to finish my to-do list? What if? What if? What if?

Some see the “what ifs” in life as a roadblock for living carefree and moment-to-moment, but being prepared for the “what ifs” can make all the difference in a moment of crisis.

Let’s say you and your family are going on a summer vacation to Disney World, the most magical place on earth. You are packing your bags and getting excited about the great time to be had, but also preparing for any minor mishaps that may occur, as they often do when traveling with children. You have your band aids, sunscreen, pain medications and emergency credit card packed and ready to go, but what if something big happens; are you prepared? Do you know the Orlando area hospitals or clinics?

Lucky for you, there’s an App for that. The Agency for Health Care Administration has developed a smart phone application that helps you locate and receive driving directions to any health care facility regulated by the Agency. You can also search for a facility by type, county, city, proximity distance or a combination of those options.  This additional resource can assist you in finding health care facilities that are near to your location and fit your needs.

Once you have chosen a facility, you can learn what type of beds and capacity the facility offers, along with lots of other information. From the app, you can also link directly to the facility’s specific website, if available, to learn more.

It’s smart to be prepared for life’s “what ifs.” Whether you are a Florida resident or just visiting the Sunshine State, the Facility Locator app is a great way you can ensure your family is prepared for an emergency situation. To download the app, you can visit Apple’s iTunes for the iPhone operating system or the Droid Marketplace for the Android phone operating system.  The mobile application can also be accessed through the Agency’s internet websites or

Neglect of an elder veteran

Guest post by Adult Protective Services Human Services Counselor Lori Scott in Opa Locka.

photo courtesy of U.S. Army archives

After nearly 70 years, the man had accomplished much, including proudly serving in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.

By the time we were notified about him, he was living in a small efficiency unit in an older building.  The floors and walls were dirty.  The bathroom floors and fixtures were covered in dirt and stained with mold and mildew.  The refrigerator and freezer were also dirty with food stains.  The entire unit needed a thorough cleaning, but he was unable to do this because of health conditions: He had a toe amputated from his right foot in March 2012.  He also suffers from chronic leg pains that make it difficult for him to stand or walk for long periods of time. He receives all medical care from the Veterans Hospital in Miami.

The veteran had very little food in the home and no money to purchase food.  He receives a military pension each month, but has a garnishment from the IRS and rent, which leaves him a small amount of money to purchase food and personal items during the month.

He has no family members living in Miami, so he relies on friends and the VA Hospital for transportation to his medical appointments.  He does not have a home phone or cell phone, which makes it difficult for him to arrange transportation.

Adult Protective Investigator Tamuno Eretoru and Human Services Counselor III Lori Scott

DCF was able to come in and help him by providing chore services that performed intensive cleaning of his entire home.  He was also given daily meals and homemaker services to assist him with daily cleaning.  The veteran also received a SafeLink cell phone that allows him to make contact with others when needed.  He continues to receive ongoing meals that the Department arranged through Jewish Community Services.  We also assisted him in completing an application for food stamps and will assist him with applying for social security benefits as well.

DCF Adult Protective Services becomes involved with vulnerable adults who suffer from neglect or abuse. This man wasn’t suffering abuse at the hands of another person, but was a victim of self-neglect.

Since DCF provided help, the veteran has expressed his gratitude for the services and ongoing assistance he received.  The delivery of meals each day and a cell phone to stay in contact with others have provided some relief to the stress that he has endured for the last several months. We were happy to help!

If you or someone you know are suffering because of any kind of abuse or neglect, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.

ABCDs of Water Safety

Guest post by the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County. The coalition is funded by the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners and the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.

The phone rings, you run to get it. Real quick; you will be right back. Your kids are hanging out in the kiddie pool, ages 12 and 3. You return to horror. The 3 year old isn’t breathing, face down in the pool, mid-reach to a toy on the other side.

It sounds like something that could only happen to someone else. Not to your family, you are careful. You would never leave your kids alone. But it happens. Florida loses more children under the age of 5 to drowning than any other state.

Here are some tips to keep your family safe this summer:

A – Adult supervision

  • Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should supervise within an arm’s length of the children.
  • In addition to parental supervision, designate an adult “water watcher” (using a distinguishable item such as a lanyard or funny hat) whose sole responsibility is to watch the pool area for 15 minutes and not read, talk on the phone or be influenced by other distractions. After 15 minutes, give the distinguishable item to another adult for 15 minutes, and so forth. Ensure that the water watcher is a sober adult who knows CPR and has basic swimming skills.
  • Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. “Water wings,” or “floaties,” inflatable water rings and other pool toys are NOT safety devices. Only U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets are designed and tested for safety.

B – Barriers, beach safety and boating safety

  • Have a properly working physical barrier around, on or in the pool (i.e. isolation fence, pool safety cover, pool alarm) that meets code requirements.
  • Have window and door alarms that sound when breached.
  • Always swim at a lifeguarded beach, and pay attention to the beach flags. Wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets while on a boat.

C – Classes

  • Take a water safety course at a local aquatic facility to learn the skills necessary to survive in the water.
  • Take CPR classes.

D – Drain Safety

  • Have a pool professional check residential drain covers to determine whether or not they are safe. 
  • Encourage children to stay away from drains. Non compliant drain covers can cause suction entrapment injuries and possible death.
  • Those using a pool/spa should know where the cut off switch is for the pump in case a suction entrapment incident occurs.

The Drowning Prevention Coalition suggests that everyone uses the ABCD’s of water safety to stay safe in and around water, but it is up to each individual to make sure a drowning incident does not happen. Drowning can happen in a matter of minutes, in as little as two inches of water. Please be safe this summer. 

For more information about water safety, visit


A safe harbor from the horrors on the street

Guest blog post by Kristi House Executive Director Trudy Novicki

Gov. Rick Scott with Kristi House Executive Director Trudy Novicki and Attorney General Pam Bondi in the medical exam room.

The room at Kristi House is alive with hope, beautifully decorated with happy colors. But the cheeriness can’t hide the colposcope on the counter.

This device is used to perform medical exams on children who have been sexually abused. Designed for evaluation of children ages 1 – 12, it captures possible damage to their bodies and magnifies their injuries from sexual assaults so the evidence can be used for forensics.

This medical examination room was one of many that Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and DCF officials visited today at the Kristi House to sign new laws toughening our Human Trafficking laws, HB 99 & HB 7049. Even though the rooms were empty, most of the visitors had tears in their eyes just thinking about the atrocities the patients went through before they arrived at this place of hope.

The theme was clear: These victims need and deserve respect, not prosecution.

At the event we heard stories of young girls, who had run away from home looking for a better life. They met a new “boyfriend” who provides for them and loves them. Trust is built. But these are not really boyfriends – they are their pimps. They are sold to the highest bidder. These women are called prostitutes by some, but they are really victims. They are children who are victims of sexual abuse.

There are 293,000 American children currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  They are being trafficked in our own communities. They are all around us and in many cases we cannot even tell who they are. Even when they are identified it is complicated and difficult to give them the help they need to free them from those individuals who would exploit them and obtain financial gain from that exploitation – their pimps are constantly watching and controlling them.

The bills signed today will make it easier for these children to get the care and help they need. It stresses that they are victims, not criminals. The Safe Harbor Act gives law enforcement the ability to put the girls into the dependency system instead of the delinquency system.  Law enforcement can now focus on the true criminals – those who sexually exploit these vulnerable minors.  The bill also allows DCF to treat and help the child victims of these criminals through our contracted providers, such as Kristi House. They will receive intensive services in “safe harbors.”

No child is a “throwaway” … that phrase is utterly vile… these children aren’t damaged, broken or a lost cause … these are children who have had situations happen to them, horrible things have happened to them … and it is up to us to be their champions.


Keeping little bellies full

Guest post by Kimberly Kutch, DCF Community Development Administrator for Circuit 20 (serving Charlotte, Glades, Lee Hendry and Collier counties)

Jolene Mowry knew that, sadly, many children go to bed hungry. She was sure that wasn’t the case in Charlotte County where she lived.

Jolene was in North Carolina speaking to a friend about the number of kids in school who often go hungry.  The friend told Jolene she may be surprised if she spoke with local schools back home.

What Jolene found was frightening. Approximately 455 students in Charlotte County Public School district are homeless.  She decided to do something about it.

Jolene Mowry, Director of The Back Pack Kidz; Angela Kirshy, Back Pack Kidz Volunteer.

Jolene founded the The Yah Yah Girls Inc. Their mission: “Help children in Charlotte County who are homeless, near homeless or who are living in dire financial need.” In November 2010, after much research, planning and fundraising, the Yah Yahs began their Back Pack Kidz Program at Sallie Jones Elementary  School.  By Fall 2011 the Back Pack Kidz program expanded to five elementary schools and hope to continue to grow.

Delivering backpacks to a school

Here’s how Back Pack Kidz works: On Fridays, the Yah Yahs deliver backpacks of healthy, nonperishable, child-friendly food to the schools to distribute to the identified children so they will not go hungry over the weekend. The empty backpacks are picked up early the next week and the process begins again.

Volunteers packing back packs with food.

For the 2012/2013 school year, there are 4,762 students eligible for free and reduced breakfast/lunch in the area. These are children who often do not have access to regular meals outside of schools. In the 2011/2012 school year, about 22,000 backpacks were delivered. Weekly, $107,250 was spent on food for the backpacks.

The Yah Yahs have now become a part of DCF’s Partner for Promise program and will be providing backpacks of food for any elementary school child that may go hungry without additional help.

The power of just one individual is amazing. The power of groups is empowering. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference in your community.


If you know a child under age 19 who needs food during the summer months, please visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Summer BreakSpot. The program offers free healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks all summer long.  

Does your business have a service or product that could help needy families in your community? Check out DCF’s Partners for Promise to see how you can help.