Governor Rick Scott is asking the state legislature, for $10 million to invest in the Florida Department of Children and Families. The goal is to hire 130 more child protective investigators (CPI) and Florida Abuse Hotline counselors. But with high turnover rates, will it make a difference?
In a statement, Governor Scott said he proposed the investment, to help DCF "with workload and retention."
The governor's office tells Contact 5, the money will go solely toward hiring those positions.
If the proposal is approved by the state legislature 80 new child protective investigators will be hired, along with 30 child protective investigative supervisors. 20 Florida Abuse Hotline counselors would also be hired.
For more than a year now the Contact 5 investigators and the Palm Beach Post have been digging into the Department of Children and Families and issues child protective investigators say, are making their work "impossible."
Child protective investigators are the first people to go into a home when allegations of abuse are made.
Our joint investigation uncovered deep-rooted problems that may be putting children at risk. Those problems included the falsification of documents, high caseloads, and even higher turnover
The last time a new hiring initiative was passed, it was 2014 and 270 additional child protective investigators were hired to help reduce caseloads. The governor’s office stated the funding would go towards reducing investigators caseloads to 10 cases per investigator.
In this year alone, since January 2017, at least 225 child protective investigators and/or supervisors have quit.
Contact 5 and The Palm Beach Post's review of DCF's 2016 records shows caseloads ranging from 1 to 36 on the Treasure Coast.
Caseloads ranged from 1 to 38 in Palm Beach County.
Included in Governor's Scott announcement on his website, was a statement from DCF Secretary Mike Carroll: “The Florida Abuse Hotline is the first and most essential step in the process of protecting the vulnerable and additional resources will allow DCF to continue to make thorough and informed assessments to ensure child safety while providing even better customer service. The job of child protective investigators is another critical element in maintaining the safety of Florida’s children and it is never an easy one. Additional investigators will allow DCF to keep caseloads low so that investigators have the time and resources they need to make the best decisions possible in the interest of the children we serve.”
In response to a question about turnover and retention Friday, a DCF spokesperson referred us to Secretary Carroll’s recent presentation at the Florida House Subcommittee on Children, Families, and Seniors regarding the CPI workforce and initiatives to continue to improve caseload and decrease turnover while never compromising child safety. The presentation is available here.
The spokesperson added that DCF "has addressed many of the workload issues WPTV reported on," in July.
But there is also the issue of salary. In 2012, Governor Scott approved a pay raise for child protective investigators which increased pay by more than $3,700 per employee. Still, Florida is in the lower ranks of the nation regarding starting salary for CPIs. The starting salary for a CPI is $35,600 and jumps to more than $39,000 after a year.
We asked if the governor plans to propose more money for salaries in the future. The governor's office told us "DCF CPIs and Florida Abuse Hotline counselors also received a pay raise this year through the 2016-2017 budget signed by Governor Scott in June."
According to the Governor's Office, a $1,400 pay raise was given to state employees earning less than $40,000 annually and $1,000 pay raise for those earning more than $40,000 annually.