Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that his 2014-2015 "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget" commits more than $31 million for child protection services. The additional dollars would be targeted at protecting at-risk children and families by expanding investigation initiatives that are currently being piloted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The Governor also announced an additional $8 million that will go to sheriffs' offices that conduct child protective investigative services.
Governor Scott said, "Today, I'm announcing that in my "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget' we will propose an historic increase to DCF funding. We are committed to increasing funding this year by more than $31 million. This funding will directly support critical services for children by hiring more than 400 new child protective investigators. We are also investing $8 million to support sheriffs who work in child protection services. While DCF has made significant changes to protect children, we still have much to do to protect the most vulnerable among us. Even one child death is a death too many."
Governor Scott is proposing $31,891,496 additional dollars to be targeted at improving DCF child protective investigations. The funding would go specifically to:
Increase the child protectionworkforce in order to reduce caseloads to 10 cases per investigator.
Additional investigators will also allow for a paired investigator response to cases with the highest risk for serious child maltreatment. DCF is currently piloting paired investigators for high-risk cases in Miami-Dade and Polk counties.
Establish 26 positions to perform preventative "real time" quality assurance reviews on open child protective investigations involving the most vulnerable children. Real time quality assurance is currently being practiced in DCF's SunCoast Region.
Reclassification of 50 current investigator positions to "Child Protective Master Practitioner" to allow for upward career mobility and to identify and utilize workers with the most knowledge and experience.
"Armed with input from national experts and data to back-up our proposals, we are prepared to ensure that these funds will be laser focused on protecting children who are most at-risk," Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said. "With Governor Scott's steadfast support of DCF initiatives to improve child safety, I am confident that these strategic investments will be made to keep Florida's children safe."
In addition to new funding for child protection, Governor Scott is recommending restoring all nonrecurring funding for Substance Abuse and Mental Health programs. These programs play an integral role in preventing child abuse and supporting healthy families.