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DCF Secretary Grilled By Lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) - David Wilkins, the new head of DCF, found himself in front of a group of highly-skeptical state lawmakers who are growing tired of excuses coming from the agency.

Wilkins was in the middle of explaining an independent review of the Barahona case, when the committee chairwoman, Senator Ronda Storms, interrupted him.

"Mr. Secretary, I appreciate what you're saying, but what I want to know is: how will this be different?" Senator Ronda Storms. "How many more investigations, how many more death reviews do we have to do?"

Wilkins acknowledged systemic failures, but also said that of the roughly 1,000 investigators, more than 56 percent have been on the job less than two years. According to the News Service of Florida, in the worst-performing DCF districts, the annual turnover rate is 64 percent.

He also cited that in South Florida, caseloads are 48 percent higher than the Child Welfare League standards for caseloads.

His testimony came at a time when Governor Rick Scott has put forth in his budget a plan to cut thousands of DCF employees and cut the agency funding to the core. It also comes just days before a blue ribbon panel is set to release its findings on what went wrong in the Barahona case.

Senator Storms said it wasn't just caseworkers who should get thrown under the bus when DCF cases go horribly wrong.

"How about we start looking at the CBC's (community based care organizations)? They need to get their fannies up here and explain," Senator Storms said. "We are still having little broken bodies, and it's not just because evil people will do evil things. It's because people – competent, professional people who are paid to do their job – are not doing their jobs."

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service Of Florida contributed to this report.)

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