DCF faces high turnover of investigators, leaving new employees with caseload

DCF faces high turnover of investigators, leaving new employees with caseload

The Florida agency in charge of child welfare has a big problem with employee turnover. Channel 3 News has learned most Child Protective Investigators (CPI) with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in the northwest district have not been in their positions more than a year.

According to DCF, 54 of the entry-level CPIs in the northwest district, which covers Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties, have been in the position 12 months or less. There are 24 investigators who have been in the position a year to two years, 14 in the position two to three years and only four in the position over three years. According to DCF, there are 14 Senior CPIs in the first district, a position which requires two or more years' experience.

"If we can't keep them, we really can't do the quality work that we want to do on the back end," DCF Secretary Mike Carroll told the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee on October 25.

Carroll said his investigators are not sticking around. He told the committee it isn't just pay that's causing the turnover, it is the workload.

"No matter how educated our folks are, no matter what their degree is, no matter how dedicated they are to this, this work is task-driven and timeframes are mandated by state and federal policy," Carroll said to the committee.

Carroll said the agency is looking at ways to reduce the workload. According to DCF, the average caseload for a Northwest Florida investigator is 14.6, but Carroll said to a new investigator, that can be overwhelming.

Cases range from reports of child neglect to a child's death.

Over the last five years, child deaths reported to DCF in Northwest Florida have fluctuated but is down from the 28 last year. There has been an increase in cases where DCF had prior involvement with the family of the deceased child. In the 15 child deaths so far in 2017, DCF had prior contact with the family in the last five years in nine of those cases.

According to DCF, two were sleep-related. One was a drowning in the care of a babysitter who was not involved in the prior investigation. One was a medically compromised child who was found unresponsive with an extended relative. One child was left in a car by his grandmother. One child was left in a van by daycare workers. Three deaths are under investigation.

A spokesperson for DCF said the agency takes every opportunity to review their system and identify ways to improve. Carroll said he remains committed to improving outcomes and decision-making ability.

"We are in the people helping people business, the problems we face are complex and there no easy fixes," Carroll told Channel 3 News. "Many of the families we come into contact with have struggled with poverty, drug use, and domestic violence for generations and today we struggle with substance abuse more than ever."

Carroll said one state agency cannot solve all social problems. He said child abuse and neglect is a community issue. He believes fewer families will enter the welfare system if there is quality care for pregnant women, early education for children and help for people with mental health issues and substance abuse.

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