SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL
Analysis: DCF waits to report lost kids
Published: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 10:37 p.m.
FORT LAUDERDALE - Caseworkers in the Broward County district of the state's child welfare agency often wait weeks and months before reporting missing children to police, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis contradicts assurances made by officials at the beleaguered Department of Children & Families that reporting problems have been fixed.
Last September, DCF officials told a panel created by Gov. Jeb Bush that the agency was in compliance with an order last in May that all state staff would contact police immediately if a child was determined to be missing.
But since that order, the newspaper found at least a dozen examples in Broward County of lengthy delays between the determination a child under state care was missing and informing police of those situations.
DCF spokesman Owen Roach said the agency was investigating, but did not have an immediate explanation for the reporting delays.
According to the newspaper, DCF waited more than three months to contact law enforcement about two children missing since June 11. In another case, a teenager missing as of Aug. 30 was not reported to police until Oct. 18.
The newspaper sought to compare Broward's reporting timetables with those from DCF agencies in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. But officials from those areas released only limited information, the newspaper said.
Child welfare advocates said they were disheartened by the report.
"If they can't do something so basic that's been beaten into their heads, maybe they shouldn't have custody of these kids," said Gerard Glynn, a professor at Barry University School of Law in Orlando.
In his budget for the next fiscal year, Bush has requested that the agency receive millions of dollars in additional funding.
Agency officials had requested the money to hire additional workers to help clear a backlog of 30,000 investigations that have remained open longer than 60 days. DCF wants to eliminate the backlog by June 30.
The agency came under scrutiny after the disappearance of a Miami girl showed it was in widespread disarray.
Rilya Wilson disappeared from her caregiver's Miami home 15 months before the DCF caseworker charged with monitoring her care ever noticed. The girl, who would now be 6, has not been seen since January 2001.
Officials gave limited details
Examples of delays AT A GLANCE
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