State Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, is urging Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill into law he says will help strengthen the speed and quality of child abuse and neglect investigations in the state.
Danish is pushing S.B. 1666, which includes parts of a House bill he introduced this year, and other child welfare initiatives. The bill quickly made it way through both chambers, receiving no dissenting votes in either the House or the Senate.
“By strengthening the state’s workforce, response time and overall quality of investigations, we will be able to put the health and safety of children first,” Danish said, in a release. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but this is a major step in the right direction.”
The bill looks to increase child welfare expertise in the Department of Children and Families, and improve child abuse investigator qualifications, according to a committee analysis of the bill. It also creates a consortium of schools of social work to advise the state on child welfare policy.
Investigators would be required to dig deeper into deaths and other significant incidents involving those in the child protection or child welfare system, including a need to identify root causes that could help lawmakers strengthen protection laws in the future.
Nationally, more than 1,500 children died from child abuse or neglect, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In Florida alone, the cost to investigate abuse is $312.5 million in just the past fiscal year.
The current efforts were jumpstarted in response to DCF’s mishandling of several child neglect and abuse cases in recent months that resulted in the or serious injury of a child, Danish’s office said.
The bill passed the House May 2. The governor has 15 days to either sign, allow the bill to pass without his signature, or veto.