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DCF Hid Reports on 30 Dead Kids

DCF Deputy Secretary Peter Digre
DCF Deputy Secretary Peter Digre

After an embarrassing article appeared in The Miami Herald in September, a regional supervisor for the Department of Children and Families ordered workers not to file required incident reports on the deaths of children who were supposed to be safeguarded by DCF, the Herald reports.

DCF Deputy Secretary Peter Digre
Credit DCF
DCF Deputy Secretary Peter Digre

Because of that order, the deaths of at least 30 children in Southeast Florida over five months were never entered into the state information system, Carol Marbin Miller of The Miami Heraldreported on Sunday. That region covers five counties, including Broward and Palm Beach.

The regional DCF administrator who issued the order on Dec. 13 was Kimberly Welles, an administrator at the Department of Children & Families’ Southeast Region, according to e-mail records obtained by the  Herald.

Welles took the action after supervisor Lindsey McCrudden sent her a report on the death of an infant  in a family that had been the focus of DCF on four occasions, the Herald said. Welles deleted her copy and ordered McCrudden to do the same, the e-mails show.

"No incident reports right now on death cases," Welles wrote to McCrudden, the Heraldsaid. Welles said she'd explain later.

At the time, DCF administrators knew that the newspaper was assembling a series of articles on the deaths of children from abuse or neglect who were supposedly under the protection of the agency.  The series Innocents Lost, which began in late March, reported that 477 children fell into that category.

But that total left off at Nov. 1, so on March 31, the Herald reporters asked for the death reports filed after that. In gathering materials to fulfill that information request, DCF headquarters discovered there weren't any from the region that usually produced the most.

DCF's new secretary, Mike Carroll, has assigned deputy Peter Digre to follow up, the Herald said.

The Child Welfare Act, which orders an overhaul of the way DCF looks into abuse and neglect cases,  passed last month and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. Health News Florida reported last month that the act was the major accomplishment of the 2014 Legislature.

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Health News Florida is now part of WUSF Public Media in Tampa, Florida.