Investigators in the oft-criticized Florida Department of Children and Families are expected to receive pay raises with the passage of two bills designed to reform the agency.
DCF announced that child protective investigators will get a $4,000 raise and more resources to keep children safe. Florida Senate Bill 2044 and Florida House Bill 803 add requirements to investigating potential adopters as well as the home life of children who were removed from their homes.
“Upon completion of the [department] redesign, investigators will encounter less bureaucracy in performing their duties and they will possess better information for enhanced decision-making,” secretary David Wilkins wrote to DCF staff.
The raises go into affect for 800 child protective investigators in July 2012, Local 10 reports, in hope that the raises will decrease turnover in the department as well as make the job more competitive.
DCF recently came under fire when 10-year-old Nubia Barahona, who had been under the watchful eye of the state, was murdered by adoptive father in February 2011. It was discovered that she and her twin brother Victor had been severely abused by Jorge and Carmen Barahona despite multiple complaints of abuse by teachers, advocates, and family members.
In a shocking scene that would later reveal many missed chances on the part of DCF to help the children, Jorge Barahona was found passed out on Valentine's Day 2011 on the ground near his truck on the shoulder of Interstate 95, as 10-year-old Victor, doused in toxic chemicals and severely burned, sat suffering seizures in the passenger seat. When workers attempted to decontaminate the truck hours later, they found Nubia's decomposing body stuffed in a plastic garbage bag and steeped in chemicals.
Without actually having contact with the twins, or being told of their exact whereabouts, a DCF worker had checked a box on a DCF safety questionnaire indicating "there are no children likely to be in immediate danger or serious harm." One day later, according to police reports, Nubia was beaten inside the house "while she screamed and cried until she was dead."
The DCF worker was fired; the Barahonas are awaiting trial.
“It has now been more than a year since the tragic murder of Nubia Barahona. Many of the issues in our investigation and community-based care processes were highlighted and well-documented in the aftermath of this senseless tragedy. These problems were not created overnight and cannot be fixed overnight,” Wilkins wrote.
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