DCF 'resets' child safety standards

Review of recent deaths priority


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A week after the Department of Children and Families secretary stepped down, the interim-director wants to 'reset' child safety standards.

Five children being watched by the Department of Children and Family Services have died since May.

"Each child and each family is counting on us," said Esther Jacobo, DCF interim-secretary.

Former DCF Secretary David Wilkins talked about the recent deaths and the departments plan to prevent future tragedies.

"Now we have the technologies and the data collection activities occurring so that we can really measure which programs work. Before that, we just didn't collect that kind of information," said former DCF Secretary David Wilkins.

Three days after the interview, Wilkins resigned. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Esther Jacobo as interim secretary. She met with staff this week about changes the department needs to take to prevent future deaths.

"I did want to try and have a moment with you guys to refocus us all on really what's important, and help us get through these difficult times we've been having right at this moment," Jacabo said.

Jacobo's plan is being called the child safety ‘reset'. The idea is gaining support from child advocacy groups in the state.

"She's got a big charge in front of her, but we're going to be there and stand arm and arm and side by side with her," said Kurt Kelly from Florida Coalition for Children.

The former secretary was in the process of overhauling the role of child protective investigators before he resigned. Jacobo said her first priority is to review all of the recent deaths in detail. She plans to do things differently than her predecessor.

"I am a different person, so I'll likely take a different approach in my leadership," Jacabo said.

In one of the recent deaths, a child protective investigator was fired for forging documents about an 11-month old baby who died after being left inside of a hot car.

Jacobo came to work for the agency in 2008, and most recently served in the southern region.