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After fourth child dies despite DCF's watch, judge concludes: 'the system is not working'

Despite claims of Secretary David Wilkins and Gov. Rick Scott that the state is doing a good job managing the troubled child welfare system, critics of the Department of Children & Families told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that the recent “cluster” of child deaths suggests the agency is in deep trouble.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, who chairs the county’s foster care oversight board called the Community-Based Care Alliance, said she could not recall any time in recent history in which so many young children had been killed after the state had been given meaningful opportunities to save them. Two of the four recent deaths involved small children from Miami-Dade.

“We have a very severe systemic problem,” Cohen said. “The system is not working, and it’s scary.”

“Every single one of these deaths could have been avoided,” said Cohen who was a veteran child welfare judge before transferring to Miami’s drug court, where she often still deals with parents whose addictions undermine their parenting. “You can’t explain away this many child deaths in this short a period of time where the state’s child protective investigation system is implicated. It’s urgent and it’s serious and it’s unconscionable..''

Wilkins, who was appointed to head the agency by Scott after a career as a corporate executive, has traveled the state in the past few months proclaiming that the host of changes made following a 2011 child death scandal have made Florida children safer. ” Story here.