Florida sheriff details DCF shortcomings

Local News

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) —Last week the sheriff of Franklin County blasted the Florida Department of Children and Families saying the agency that is supposed to be protecting children is failing them.

“One child that we have arrested several times prior to Thanksgiving holiday there was a Marchman Act signed by the judge to pick him up and have him evaluated and we were unable to find him. He is hiding out somewhere. Which if DCF had done what they were supposed to do to start with we wouldn’t be in the position of trying to find him now,” Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said.

News 13 investigated this issue further gathering a timeline and reports about the situation.

On November 18 an investigator reached out to DCF to find help for a child. He was put on hold for an extended period of time. And then they were hung up on. Twice.

Then the investigator was instructed by DCF to complete an online report and not contacted by DCF until 11 p.m. No one from DCF came to assess the situation the night of the incident.

“There have been some other cases where they don’t return phone calls when they don’t arrive in a timely manner to take custody of children who are in a bad situation,” Smith said.

Then for two days, an investigator worked with DCF in hopes of finding a solution. But the department failed to solve the situation and the child was left essentially homeless.

“They are not solving problems and I know they want to keep families together and I’m all about keeping families together that need to be together, but if the families have problems and it’s not going to help the child then the child doesn’t need to be there,” Smith said. “And we know this better than the people in Tallahassee and surely we know it better because they don’t come here enough to know.”

After initially failing to find a family member to take in the child and being unwilling to house him themselves, the child’s aunt has now stepped forward and obtained a signed Marchman Act through the court system.

But deputies haven’t found the teen since he was released to the custody of his father.

The child does have a history of homelessness and criminal activity.

At this point, Smith said he just wants to help the child and he wants DCF to do their job.

“He needs to be placed somewhere in a program so that he can have a chance to have a regular life and be a kid and go to school,” Smith said. “We found out he wasn’t going to school, wasn’t eating, I mean our victim advocate bought clothes for him. It’s just a really sad situation.”

Smith also provided News 13 with a report of 5 previous other cases spanning from January to November 2021 detailing how DCF did not respond to calls and did not show up in a timely manner.

If you’d like to read the statements News 13 received from DCF and DJJ visit our previous story.

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