The death of two-year-old Jayden Villegas-Morales might help improve the system that's supposed to help keep children safe. His family had an extensive history with the Department of Children and Families and other agencies before Jayden's father was arrested on a second-degree murder charge in his son’s July death.
Experts from the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) are now in Miami-Dade County, reviewing how the case was handled by Our Kids, the case management agency and DCF.
They have spent the last week poring through documents.
"The documents say to us that there are even challenges with what gets documented, how it gets documented," said Andrea Bartolo of CWLA.
On Thursday case reviewers spoke before a meeting of the Miami-Dade Community Based Care Alliance. That oversight board includes several judges that handle DCF cases and welcomes an outside review.
"That person can take an objective non-biased view of the system, an objective-non biased view of what’s going on," said Judge Jeri Cohen.
While the review is ongoing, some problems have already been identified.
"There’s compartmentalization. People have their piece of the case and not a lot of understanding of what happens before that step or after that step," said Etta Lappen Davis, a consultant with CWLA.
On Thursday representatives from Our Kids, DCF and their attorneys vowed to the board to do a better job of working together.
"And change a paradigm that existed for a long time, that we make decisions individually and come together whenever there’s a problem. No, we're together all the time," said Christine Lopez Acevedo with Children's Legal Services, which is part of DCF.
It was also revealed that safety training for DCF investigators which started this summer is on hold. Another organization, Casey Family Programs, is reviewing that new system to see if it needs to be changed before it resumes.
The child welfare league will prepare draft of its findings and recommendations in 60 days.
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