“The work of our department is challenging. We are the safety net for Florida’s most vulnerable children and families. But with the challenges of our work come great rewards. Our vision is this – to deliver world-class and continuously improving service at the level and quality that we would demand and expect for our own families.” — Secretary Mike Carroll
Last month, two DCF child protective investigators initiated an investigation at a home where a 4-year-old was allegedly living in unhealthy conditions. The father answered the door and initially would not allow them into the home, but with persistent encouragement he relented and let them in. The home was filthy, with human waste and trash strewn around the home. The father appeared to be going through severe withdrawals, and the mother was lying on the couch completely covered under a blanket. The mother was incoherent and visibly unwell, with severe bruising on her face, arms and legs.
The CPIs called 911 and at the hospital the mother was diagnosed as suffering from seizures. Doctors said her health was so poor that without intervention she faced death.
The child was placed with her grandmother, and a couple of days later, the child asked one of the CPIs to attend her 5th birthday party. The CPI attended the party and then accompanied the child and her grandmother to visit the mother in the hospital. The mother has since been discharged from the hospital. The grandmother cleaned the house, and a relative is staying with the parents in the home to provide support and assistance. The child is thriving in her grandmother’s care.
It takes a lot of heart to do this job well.
One of our CPIs visited a school recently and saw a 10-year old girl rocking back and forth and rubbing her temples hard. The CPI contacted the school nurse, who said she had been unable to reach the father. The CPI then tried calling the father herself and reached him.
She found out that the frustrated father had already taken his daughter many times to the doctor but received no diagnosis and had no more time to take off from work. The CPI offered to take the child to the hospital herself, which inspired the father to call his mother who took the girl to the hospital where she received an MRI. Because of the CPI’s adamant concern, the child was determined to be on the verge of a major stroke after having had multiple mini strokes. The child was later transported to a larger hospital for further treatment.
The CPI says it was simply her “mother instincts” that saved this girl’s life, but it is just this kind of instinct, motivation and big heartedness that makes such a big difference in the lives of those we are called to serve.
A Florida adoptive mother came to one of our staff members to express her concerns about a baby her adopted children’s biological mother just gave birth to. The staff member stepped in to inquire about the baby’s status and discovered that the baby was kept in the hospital with withdrawal symptoms, although both parents tested negative for drugs.The adoptive mother who had approached the staff member adopted five of the infant’s siblings after drug use and physical abuse led to parental terminations.
After looking into the couple’s court history, the staff member discovered that both parents had been given only a single-panel drug screen for cocaine but had not been tested for other substances.
The staff member contacted LifeStream Behavioral Health Center to learn more about drug testing and learned that drug use could be hidden by taking a certain substance. As a result of the staff member’s inquiries, both parents were ordered to take a 12-panel drug screen – during a hearing to shelter the baby – and the test results led the judge to order the baby be placed with the adoptive parent of her siblings.
The staff member met repeatedly with the child protective investigator, Children’s Legal Services and the Program Administrator to monitor the infant’s status and safety, and ultimately her decisive action saved the child’s life.
This is one of many inspiring stories – we’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks and months!
Guest blog post by Ms. Taylor*, a Florida teacher.
Hannah* was my little helper at school. Only a first grader, she was smart and always wanted to hand out papers, get supplies, anything she could do to help. Her hand always shot up to answer questions. She told me she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.
But then she changed. She didn’t want to help me anymore and stopped raising her hand. When I tried to engage her and called on her, she said she didn’t know the answer. One day she was in the bathroom for a long time before lunch so I went to check on her. When she came out her eyes were red and she was embarrassed – she had been crying. I noticed during class that she would snap a rubber band on her wrist – hard enough to leave little red marks.
I just felt something wasn’t right. I asked her if everything was ok but she said she was fine. I asked her how her mom was doing, what she did over the weekend, things to try to get her talking about her home life, but she gave me one-word answers, always telling me she was fine.
It hurt me to see her this way. Where had my helpful Hannah gone? I figured the Florida Abuse Hotline would think I was crazy if I called. What if her dog died or her parent lost their job and they had to sell some of her belongings. I had no idea why she had changed so drastically. But my heart ached for this child – something just wasn’t right. So I filled out the online abuse reporting form (www.FloridaAbuseHotline.com).
Our school had a DCF Abuse Hotline community trainer come out to the school about eight months ago, so I knew that even if my report didn’t start an investigation that maybe it would supplement a previous report. Or maybe someone else would tell them something in a month or so and then it would start an investigation. I knew that even if it ended up being something like her dog dying, that I did this out of love and concern for the child. I suspected something was wrong at home and it could be abuse or neglect.
I’ve seen glimmers of my old Hannah back, but she isn’t like she used to be … yet. But she seems to be getting better every day. Yesterday she raised her hand during circle time! I hope that my report helped her, but I know for a fact that it didn’t hurt.
If your school or organization would like a DCF Abuse Hotline community trainer to provide a training, please email Ashley_robinson@dcf.state.fl.us.
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.