A veteran Department of Children and Families administrator will be the agency's next interim secretary.
During an appearance Monday in Jacksonville, Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointment of Mike Carroll, managing director of DCF's Suncoast Region in the southwestern part of the state. Carroll will be the eighth secretary or interim secretary at the beleaguered agency since 1999.
Carroll will be the eighth secretary or interim secretary at the beleaguered agency since 1999.
Carroll follows Esther Jacobo, who was appointed by Scott as interim secretary in July after David Wilkins resigned in the wake of a series of child deaths from abuse and neglect.
Those deaths are still very much on lawmakers' minds, and Carroll's appointment came as the Legislature is close to passing a proposal (SB 1666 and HB 7169) aimed at fixing the state's long-troubled child welfare system.
Scott made the announcement during a scheduled visit with child protective investigators at the DCF office in Jacksonville to discuss his proposal for $31 million in additional funding.
Assuming lawmakers pass the current child-welfare budget for 2014-15 and Scott signs it Carroll would be involved in hiring and deploying 191 new child protective investigators statewide as well as directing the first steps of a host of reforms to the agency.
"His challenge is to prioritize," said Mike Watkins, chief executive officer of Big Bend Community Based Care. "How quickly can he bring the people at the edges of the department -- substance abuse, mental health, early learning (programs) -- to the table? Because he can?t do this alone."
Carroll has spent 21 years at the agency in a number of roles, overseeing programs dealing with substance abuse, mental health, family safety and adult-protective services in the 11-county SunCoast region, which stretches from Pasco to Collier County, according to the DCF website.
He's known for playing a lead role in such systemic child-welfare shifts as the move to privatized community-based care, the redesign of the ACCESS system, which administers what were once known as food stamps, and, most recently, the transition to the "managing entity" concept in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment.
"I really think Mike is an excellent choice for this position," said George Sheldon, a former DCF secretary who is now running for attorney general.
Christina Spudeas, executive director of the advocacy group Florida's Children First, also praised the choice.
"He's got a good understanding of the system," she said of Carroll. "And from some advocates? point of view, he's been accessible. He's had an open-door policy."