MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott chatted up some kids and parents at an Opa-Locka Department of Children and Families office Tuesday. Scott shared a "selfie" with the office director, and made the rounds chatting and shaking hands with staff members.
The governor's appearance was designed to talk up his proposal to give DCF $39 million to hire hundreds more child-abuse investigators.
"One child who dies of abuse or neglect is one too many," Scott said to a group of child protection investigators in the building's lobby.
Some of the DCF workers, in off-camera conversations with CBS4′s Gary Nelson, welcomed the governor's efforts to add to their ranks, but bemoaned prior, deep cuts to the child welfare agency, cuts that they said have reduced their ability to protect children. More is needed they say in the way of counseling and treatment programs for parents and children.
In his first year in office Scott proposed slashing DCF funding by $238 million. In the current year's budget Scott signed off on $100 million in cuts at DCF, using his veto pen to reduce the agency's funding by even more than the legislature had budgeted, according to CBS4′s News partner the Miami Herald.
The governors proposal to add DCF workers comes after the Miami Herald series "Innocents Lost," which chronicled the deaths of more than 400 children who died from abuse or neglect on DCF's watch.
Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller, who co-authored the eye-opening series, said Scott's plan for more child abuse investigators is laudable, but comes up short.
"One source likened it to hiring 400 additional ambulance drivers, when you have no hospital beds in which to put the patients you've just picked up," Marbin Miller said.
Scott insists his administration has boosted direct child protection funding every year, and he took the opportunity to take a shot at his presumed Democratic opponent in November, former Gov. Charlie Crist.
"The area that's important, we've increased it," Scott said. "The prior Governor, Charlie Crist, decreased it.
Crist has conceded making some very "painful" budget decisions when he was governor in the "darkest" times of the "Great Recession."
Scott told reporters his proposed increase to hire more child protective services workers may not make it through the legislature. The measure is moving smoothly through the House of Representatives, but is going nowhere in the state Senate.
Scott urged citizens to encourage their senators to support the additional funding.