TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Department of Children and Families is under fire after at least 30 child death records went unaccounted for.
A series of reports linked 478 child deaths to a lack of follow-up by DCF over a six-year period. At least 30 other child deaths went unreported under the department's watch.
"Local folks did not use the incident reporting system to document those notifications," Interim DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. "They elected not to do so because they believed there were some security breaches in that system."
Carroll has been on the job less than two months. The investigation into the reports ended last week. Although some reports were withheld for months, Carroll said the whole thing was inadvertent.
"I'm disappointed that our actions down there and decisions that we made lead to a perception that we were hiding records or destroying records. That certainly is not accurate," Carroll said. "I think I've taken the action that's appropriate based on what's appropriate. Now I'd like to move forward."
The details of the investigation are hidden, which has caused children advocates to raise some red flags.
Mike Watkins, of Big Bend Community Based Care, cited the amount of child deaths as a reason for more child welfare money during legislative session.
"Any of us that are in the business should be concerned about reports that are not being turned in according to what the statute and policy requires," Watkins said.
Former DCF Secretary George Sheldon said the whole ordeal is very disappointing.
"To not report child deaths is not only fraudulent, I think it violates the public trust," Sheldon said.
A bill passed this year will require DCF to post all child death records on its website.
Carroll suspended DCF's southeast region administrator for two days without pay as a result of the investigation.