TAMPA (CBSMiami) – The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is promising swift changes in how they respond to potential child abuse cases amid an investigation into the death of a 5-year old thrown from a Florida bridge.
Authorities said the child’s father is the one who did it.
DCF Secretary Mike Carrol said it’s been his goal to reduce child deaths in the state and losing 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck in such a horrific manner sent a loud message that the system needs to be fixed.
“I was sick to my stomach. And I’m angry and I’m frustrated that we can’t better protect kids,” said Carroll. “I cannot imagine the fear that that little girl experienced in the last moments of her life. That should not happen to any kid.”
Carroll, who spoke to a CBS4 affiliate in Tampa, has appointed a panel of child welfare experts and law enforcement to review over the next 30 days the safeguard failures that allowed 25-year-old John Jonchuck to be with his daughter despite showing signs of a mental breakdown.
Carroll said he would have sent DCF investigators out within four hours of hearing about Jonchuck’s issues, but he’s not sure if it would have saved her life.
“I don’t know whether we would have even located him in there but I know this, I would rather have that protocol in place than not,” said Caroll.
Unlike last week, when Jonchuck told a judge he wanted God to defend him in this case, he stayed silent in court, drooping his head, putting his face in his hands and shifting around in his chair as a judge appointed him a public defender.
Meantime, DCF’s chief said he’s not blaming sheriff’s deputies who chose not to Baker Act Jonchuck when they had the chance but instead put the pressure on his department to prevent more child deaths in the future.
“The buck will always stop with the Department of Children and Families on a child welfare case,” said Carroll.
This is of course just the latest incident in what has been a year’s long call for DCF to do more to protect children.
Those calls came most notably after two South Florida cases unfolded which include the death of Nubia Barahona who police said was murdered by her adoptive father and Brian Osceola, a little boy left to die in a hot car. Both cases revealed problems in DCF’s system.
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