The following reform initiatives individually and collectively worked to enhance both agency partners and family empowerment in their relationships with DCF.
Separation of Investigative and Protective Services Functions
The goal of separating investigative and protective functions is to increase specialization of skills and facilitate the development of specialized relationships with the family. The intention of this initiative was to facilitate the objectivity required to effectively investigate a maltreatment allegation while also providing the support that families often require. One of the challenges of this structure has been communication between units. Home Safe Net, a computerized documentation system, was developed to help facilitate effective communication between the CPS units.
Home Safe Net
The system is a repository of case-level information for all reports of maltreatment under the jurisdiction of District 3 DCF that were referred by the State hotline for investigative or protective services provision. The first phase of the system has been operational throughout District 3. Once the system becomes fully operational, a case record will be opened by the State hotline, including details about the referral and will assign a priority status for carrying out the Child Safety Assessment. The record will be picked up by the District DCF and the agency will respond accordingly. All information regarding the case will be logged into the system on an ongoing basis by the assigned caseworker. Information about any child, caregiver, perpetrator, or other involved individual will be available through a search by name or address.
District 3 was the first in the State to pilot Home Safe Net. The data system was originally developed to meet the needs of AFCARS and included data from three legacy systems. The new system provided a central location to meet all of the information needs at the Federal, State, and local levels. The State’s goal is to provide a means by which children who were served by DCF and other service providers can be tracked across the State. The goal of the local DCF is to facilitate the accountability of the agency and caseworkers to families who enter the system to receive services.
An online training system was developed to supplement the traditional classroom training that was offered to caseworkers by DCF. This system was designed by the State DCF and has been in use for approximately 18 months. Updates to the program are instantly integrated into the system, and trainers are notified of these updates by email.
The development of the online training system occurred in conjunction with a growing need for certification of CPS caseworkers. The goal of providing online training for certain components is to reserve classroom time for those components that are best taught with face-to-face interaction.
Community-Based Advisory Board
District 3 DCF consults on a regular basis with a community board, the North Central Florida Community Alliance, for community input about issues that impact the agency’s efforts to promote the welfare of children in the district. The board was mandated by the State legislature; representatives were nominated by the county commissioner’s office, the school board, and the local sheriff’s office. The board had 25 community representatives at the time of the site visit.
The primary purpose of the Alliance is to provide community input, in an advisory role. The objectives of the Alliance are to improve outcomes for children in foster care and to ensure that the agency meets standards as defined by the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). DCF’s objective for the Alliance is to develop targeted projects to support the agency in serving youth in the community.