According to Florida law, all reports that allege child maltreatment must be investigated, and each new report requires a new investigation, typically within 24 hours. Any additional reports regarding the same child are added to the initial report and changes the response time from
24 hours to immediate. This change in response time is made when allegations indicate that the child is in immediate danger; the family might flee with the child; the abuse or neglect took place in a care giving institution (unless the institution was subsequently closed); the abuse or neglect was committed by a DCF employee; or there were other special conditions or warranting facts.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office is charged with monitoring all referrals that allege child maltreatment. If the sheriff’s office determines that the case is not serious, the DCF child protective investigator conducts the investigation and submits a report back to the sheriff. The sheriff’s office relies on the judgment of the investigator to determine whether the support of the sheriff’s office is needed as a backup to a call. The sheriff’s office typically accompanies the investigator on any case that involves a child fatality, sexual abuse, or serious physical abuse. All referrals are reviewed, and the review is documented by the sheriff’s office, regardless of whether the office participated in the investigation or not.
Services offered by DCF include protective investigation, protective supervision, foster care, and adoptive home supervision. The protective investigation that results from a report is closed when the case is determined to be either founded or unfounded. Once a case is determined to be founded, the child enters protective supervision and the family is either referred for non-DCF services through collaborative partners, for DCF services, or for no services in some cases. Many children in Florida with an open DCF case remain with their families. Some are placed in foster care where they receive additional services and either return to their families, remain in foster care, or enter adoptive home supervision. See Exhibit 7.1, Entry and Service Pattern Flow Charts for a graphic depiction of these services.
Entry and Service Pattern Flow Charts