• DCF partners with UCF to improve child welfare process


    ORLANDO, Fla. - The Department of Children and Families has had its share of problems, including caseworkers who did not follow up in certain circumstances and children who lost their lives.

    DCF's new partnership with the University of Central Florida and 12 other universities will better protect children in the system, officials said.

    Officials said the partnership between DCF and state universities will help improve the child welfare process in Florida.

    As part of the agreement, $5.3 million will be dispersed during the next two years to train social work students at 13 universities across the state.               

    "It helps us in balancing the workload, and to keep our positions filled and actually have people trained and ready to come in and hopefully help us to reduce our turnover rate statewide," said DCF regional managing director William D'Aiuto.

    The turnover rate at DCF in Florida is about 30 percent.  Students who are selected would receive up to a $12,000 stipend.                          

    UCF senior Maggie Vera is vying to be a part of the program.  Being picked could cut a third of her tuition costs for the year, and she would also become a child protective investigator for the state when she graduates in May.

    "For me, personally, the stipend would be extremely helpful in me paying back my student loans, but it would also give me training before I even get out of college and it kind of guarantees a job," Vera said.

    DCF has been going through reforms over the last few years with child deaths on the rise.  This year alone, there have been 369 child deaths reported to the state abuse hotline. 

    "These students will get those trainings, those educational experiences, specifically for families entering the child welfare system, their needs and learn how to make an assessment of the safety of keeping that child in a home," Director of UCF's School of Social Work Bonnie Yegedis said.

    The students will find out if they make it into the program by November or early December.           

    Out of the $2.4 million in federal funding slated for this year, only about $160,000 will be funded by the state.



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