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Florida department modifies hotline system, investigative process

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The way child abuse is reported and investigated in Florida is changing due to new standards being implemented by the state’s Department of Children and Families.

“We’re implementing a new standard investigative process across the state, which will allow us to have better analytical data on how we do in investigations and what are the results of those investigations in terms of what types of services a family may need or if a child does have to be removed from a home, why were those decisions made and what services can we provide to that family to hopefully get that child back to his parents,”¬†Secretary David Wilkins said.

The department is also modifying the Florida Abuse Hotline system so that any citizen in Florida can report abuse or neglect.

“We just implemented what they call the Penn State Law, which now says any citizen in Florida can now report abuse and neglect and should report abuse and neglect, and particularly in the university officials if they don’t report abuse and neglect, there’s significant financial penalty,” he said. “So, we’ve implemented some new systems to, in essence, support that increased volume that will come with that, the additional investigations that will occur to support that volume.”

Wilkins said the biggest issue facing the state is substance abuse, which he said has become an epidemic in Florida.

“The No. 1 problem in the state is simply substance abuse, and that’s driving the cost of our program,” he said. “Almost 70 percent of all of our investigations are related to substance abuse. We as a state have to provide more treatment services and more support services to families who are suffering from substance abuse, and we as a society have to, in essence, help our families avoid these situations because they are putting their children at risk.”

Prevention is the long-term solution, Wilkins said.

“The biggest concern’s how do we meet all the needs of all of the children in the community, and I believe this community has really launched a focus on spending more money on prevention.”

Emily Miller wrote this story for online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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