August 13, 2002
8:54 AM   Subscribe

Florida's child services system lost track of over 500 children; Sun-Sentinel newspaper locates 9 of them using public records and high tech gadgets like the telephone.
posted by junkbox (11 comments total)
491 to go. they'll find them buried under mounds of chad.
posted by quonsar at 9:42 AM on August 13, 2002

Well, that's better than the close to 1000 they were missing a couple of months back.
posted by mfli at 9:48 AM on August 13, 2002

Many of them still living with their parents. Imagine that. Maybe those "missing" children aren't as much of a crisis as we should believe?
posted by dhartung at 10:26 AM on August 13, 2002

(wonders at loss of earlier comments on this article)

I'm really not surprised by news out of Florida these days. What I don't understand is how one of the five most populated states of the union appears to be the brunt of the popular media these days. It can't still be fallout from the 2000 election, can it?

For example: I wouldn't hesitate to guess that other states have very similar problems with their child services programs, but you just don't hear about them as much in the media. In addition, I know of specific instances where state-level government officials were exposed as corrupt, but Katherine Harris hogs the limelight.

...Not that there's anything wrong with that. If there's corruption, it needs to be exposed. I just don't understand the continuing media darling that Florida has become.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:37 AM on August 13, 2002

Maybe those "missing" children aren't as much of a crisis as we should believe?

Yeah, that 4 year old living motel to motel with his drug addicted parents in between their stints in prison is definitely No Big Deal. Thank god Child Protective Services lost track of him. < /sarcasm>

I'm glad that these kids haven't been killed or worse, but a lot of them are still living in unhealthy, abusive and dangerous circumstances. I say kudos to the newspaper for showing authorities what needs to be done.
posted by junkbox at 11:35 AM on August 13, 2002

Well, iirc from the original brouhaha, a couple dozen of the "missing" children could not be checked up on because there was a restraining order *against* the child services system. But still, there is a clear pattern of not doing the bare minimum to protect, check up on, and find the kids.
posted by ilsa at 11:55 AM on August 13, 2002

The newspaper found 9 children in 4 weeks, which is wonderful and all but how many resources did they throw at it? At least two people were credited in the article - the journalist who wrote it and a researcher. Were there more behind the scenes newspaper staff involved? Were those people, at the same time they were being asked to find these children also overworked by their existing load? Did they receive more cooperation because they weren't from child protective services? (I'd have to imagine that if I had kidnapped my kids from foster care, when CPS called me up to ask if I had them I might deny it.) Did the newspaper have to try to get government approval for the funding necessary to hire extra staff to do the search?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:25 PM on August 13, 2002

Did the newspaper have to try to get government approval for the funding necessary to hire extra staff to do the search?

Obviously not. But if it's red tape that's preventing child services from doing their jobs, than the red tape needs to go. I'm not assuming that the social services guys are sitting around with their thumbs up their butts, but this was an informative exercise that outlines just how much time and effort (in some cases a very little) it takes to locate the missing children.

It's pretty sad when an aunt calls them up and tells them where the missing kid is, hands them the freak'n phone number for god's sake, and they can't follow up on it.

More money. More staff. More time. More care. This is what the newspaper has, and what Florida's system is painfully lacking.

How many children would make it worth devoting adequte resources to this agency? 500? 9? How about 1?
posted by junkbox at 1:44 PM on August 13, 2002

I don't think you're disagreeing with me, really, junkbox, and I'm certainly not disagreeing with your last comment. I found the tone of the article, as well as the original post, though, to be along the lines of 'stupid twits at CPS can't do anything right and don't care', when the reality is probably more along the lines of 'CPS can't afford to do anything right and the government of Florida doesn't care.'

But perhaps I'm projecting.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:02 PM on August 13, 2002

Interestingly, the Sun Sentinel has added to this story a crude "track-back" link back to Metafilter's front page. It is only on the printer-friendly page, not the original story page.

The problem with DCFS anywhere is that culturally we can't make up our minds. We want to minimize state intrusion on the family unit, and we won't fund or structure DCFS to be truly responsible for the children. We leave it virtually powerless to compel action except in the most egregious cases. But should something happen, they're on the hook for not preventing it, something they were never capable of in the first place. This "crisis" certainly has some concerning cases, like Rilya's, but nothing DCFS did could have prevented her being kidnapped, assuming that's what happened. The audit certainly proved (we can hope) that there hadn't been a case where the left hand took Rilya from the grandmother and the right hand insisted they had not. It found a mess, but those exist throughout the country. Call your local county DCFS and ask if they've conducted an audit lately; even given Florida's troubles, they probably have not. If they do, they'll probably find scores of loose ends just like Florida did.

junkbox, your example is specious. A child in the danger you describe would not have been left under "supervision" but taken away. Children probably live in such situations undiscovered all the time; and DCFS releases children into good situations that later turn bad ... again, all the time. DCFS, unless we start throwing a hell of a lot more money and people at the problem, will never be able to even approach making all children safe at all times.

Before we start hanging people for something they couldn't have prevented in the first place, we need to be very sure just what it is we want a program like DCFS to do.
posted by dhartung at 4:15 PM on August 13, 2002

update: the head of the fla DCFS resigns.
posted by judith at 4:20 PM on August 13, 2002

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