Based on my own personal experience with a dysfunctional Family Court system, I believe that the root of the problem is greed, so just pouring more money into the system, as some may recommend could actually make matters worst. I do not believe, for instance, that just pouring money into DCF is the solution to preventing more children’s deaths while on the state of Florida’s watch. The problem is that just pouring money into the system is like trying to pour water into a bucket with huge holes underneath. Before we put more water (money) into the leaking bucket, we need to identify from where the bucket is leaking, fix the leaks, and then pour water, if necessary. Otherwise, we will be just wasting valuable resources. Let’s face it: we have a huge problem in our hands and the problem does not involve DCF alone. Here are some of the leaks I have identified, and suggestions on how to fix them:
1. DCF investigators are overwhelmed with the great number of false cases. Some unscrupulous people use DCF as a form of harassment tool. I know firsthand how easy it is for individuals to abuse the system and how these false accusations are costing DCF and Floridians millions of dollars of our tax money.
Solution: start cracking down on false DCF calls/accusations. These false accusations cause a huge burden on the system, and prevent DCF case workers from properly dedicating their time and efforts in true abuse cases.
2. DCF workers are pressured from every side to please a number of people who work with them (Family Court attorneys, judges, etc…). What DCF does or does not do creates business for these individuals, so DCF workers have to please them in order to keep their jobs.
Solution: Create an independent commission of citizens to help overlook DCF’s work (no attorneys or any other “professionals” with possible conflicts of interest accepted). I am an American Board Certified Family Physician, active in my community, father of 4 minor children, Sunday school teacher who deals with children on a daily basis, and I would gladly volunteer to be part of this commission. I also know of many other law-abiding professionals who would love to serve as well.
3. I believe that most DCF investigators/workers are good hearted individuals who truly want to help the children, who do not want to see any more children die and who are frustrated with what is going; however, they do not have a way to voice their concerns without running the risk of being targeted and losing their jobs.
Solution: create an internal DCF whistle-blowing (improvement) hot line to allow DCF investigators/workers an anonymous way to point anomalies they may have encountered. These calls should be fully investigated and presented to the independent commission of citizens overlooking DCF’s work.
4. Some unscrupulous attorneys and “professional” are abusing the children’s suffering to enrich themselves. These individuals believe that it is not what you know or what the truth is, but who they know, and how they can twist the truth that determines the outcomes in Family Court cases. Their behavior reminds me of the cronyism and corruption experienced in many third world countries. They are making millions off of the suffering of children and their parents.
Solution: crack down on individuals who may be abusing the Family Court system. The DCF whistle-blowing hot line will help identify some of them.
5. Lack of judicial accountability, and disregard of the rule of law in the Family Courts. Some judges ignore the rule of law, the constitution, due process, and common sense, and selectively enforce the law for their own interest or that of their friends.
Solution:Legislative measures to return the rule of law to Family Courts:
A) Judicial accountability: whether someone is running against them or not, Judges should appear for a confidence vote when their time for re-election comes up. At this time, in many areas, close to 80% never even have to appear on the ballots because no other attorney challenges their position.
B) If a judge decides to strip someone’s right to one’s children, require a speedy jury trial.
C) If a judge finds someone guilty of Domestic Abuse, require immediate transfer to Criminal Court with a speedy jury trial as well. These last two measures are constitutional protections stripped away by the Family Courts.