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Jacobo vows to make wide-ranging changes in wake of 'Innocents Lost'

Esther JacoboThe head of the state’s child welfare agency told a House committee Tuesday that the child deaths documented by the Miami Herald exposed a gap in the state’s safety net and, for the first time, she acknowledged it will take more services, and money, to fix it.

However, Esther Jacobo, interim secretary of the Department of Children & Families, maintained that the agency does not need to change its policies related to removing high-risk children from unsafe homes in the wake of the Miami Herald’s “Innocents Lost” series.

“We need to identify what those additional services are and what additional resources we may need,’’ she said, noting that the resource levels may vary from region to region.

The Herald chronicled the deaths of 477 children over six years whose families had a history with DCF. The stories found that the number of children who died of abuse or neglect spiked after child welfare administrators implemented an intensive family-preservation program that reduced the number of children in state care while slashing services and oversight for those who remained with troubled families.

Jacobo held up a copy of the Miami Herald and told the House Healthy Families Subcommittee that she had read the series, noting that it gave a face to child welfare issues that are not unique to Florida.

“I think that the takeaway is that we as Floridians are...really working together to find solutions,’’ she said after the meeting. “The conversations are all leading in the direction that something absolutely will be done.” Read more here.