LARGO, Fla. -- The state of Florida has a unique model when it comes to handling child abuse cases. There are several layers involved and a case often gets passed from agency to agency.
Jordan Belliveau spent the majority of his short life with his loving foster family. They wanted to adopt him but he was reunited with his birth mother in May of 2018.
Many people are calling this a "system failure."
We're looking at just how the "system" works in Florida and why some cases could slip through the cracks.
Florida uses "community-based care" rather than a statewide agency.
HOW IT WORKS
First, a child abuse case gets called in.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) conducts an investigation except in seven counties. Starting in the 1990's, the legislature granted full authority to certain sheriff's offices.
In Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, Broward, Seminole, and Walton Counties, child protective investigations are conducted by the local sheriff’s office. These counties are specifically tasked with a statute to conduct child protective investigations.
The ability of county sheriffs’ offices to provide child protective investigations can be traced to a pilot program that was initiated in Manatee County in the mid-1990s. Beginning in the fiscal year of 1998-1999, Manatee, Broward, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties were given statutory authority to conduct child protective investigations. Seminole County was given this authority in 2000, Hillsborough County was granted authority in 2005, and Walton County in 2018.
Regardless of which agency investigates- DCF or a sheriff's office, Florida law mandates the use of a "community-based care lead agency" to be boots on the ground. That agency implements services like foster care, counseling, intervention, and social work.
►You can find additional information regarding Community-Based Care Lead Agencies here.
In Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco counties, the community-based care agency is Eckerd Connects.
Community-based care agencies then use subcontractors of their own for some of the services they provide. That's how one file can get passed from agency to agency all while something could "slip through the cracks."
The only time Florida DCF gets involved with child abuse cases in the seven counties with independent jurisdiction is when a child dies. Depending on the circumstance, DCF might send in a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) or a quality assurance review (also known as a mini-CIRRT) is conducted by child welfare experts from DCF.
►You can find a detailed explanation of the CIRRT process here.
In the case of Jordan Belliveau, DCF is now conducting a CIRRT.
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