As we learned first-hand, an investigator’s job is immense and delicate as they work to find out what goes on behind closed doors.
A toddler was found alone and neglected for 16 hours in a hotel – hungry and wet.
A little girl’s armed was burned by her mom with a hot iron.
A baby was found covered in cuts and drenched in Windex after her mom and dad went on a drug-fueled binge.
“They’re the one supposed to protect
There are times the outcome is impossible to comprehend.
A little boy suffocated after his caregivers rolled him up tightly in a blanket while he begged to be released.
“The people we are trying to help, they don’t necessarily want us to come into their home,” said Terri Durdaller with DCF.
“You have to be a good people person,” said Terance Thomas.
No one knows that more than 31-year-old Terence Thomas, a child protection investigator.
“Abuse and neglect is not nurturing and protecting,” said Thomas.
Whether it’s to save children or keep families from self-destructing, Thomas is likely the last line of defense.
“Talking about some of the private things,” said Thomas.
The former basketball stand-out looks intimidating. But he addresses his clients in a gentle tone, withholding judgment.
“To get that stuff out, to empathize, to relate to people,” said Thomas.
It’s up to Thomas and other investigators to uncover the truth.
“You want to believe these parents. They love their child unconditionally and want to make these changes,” said Durdaller.
Digging to find out what’s really going on; whether it is neglect, physical or sexual abuse.
“Floors are deplorable, holes in the floor, dog and cat feces all over the place, baby crawling on the floor. Serious concern,” said Thomas. “We definitely don’t leave a child home in that situation.”
While the situations you hear about are the most dire, DCF prevents many families from ever getting to that point.
Families like Marci’s.
“I thought oh no, DCF,” said Marci.
A mother of two young teens, Marci found herself in an abusive situation.
“The second time he was arrested,” said Marci.
The kids saw it all.
“They were they. The kids witnessed it,” said Marci. “I tried to remain calm when he first came in. Then as we spoke, I realized I had nothing to fear.”
“Give the family counseling. Give children a break from the situation. Mend what’s going on here to relieve the tension,” said Thomas.
DCF gave this family and hundreds of others a chance to get back on the right track.
“After I have made recommendations, I get to see the kids doing extremely well, benefiting from the services provided. That’s definitely rewarding,” said Thomas.
Recently, DCF asked an outside agency to review 40 child deaths this year. Several trends were found in the cases.
The report was harsh and outlined shortcoming. Now, the department is getting help to develop and implement new ways to strengthen their investigations.
That may take two to three years. Meantime, all staffers are receiving new safety and planning training.
for entire review go to: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/newsroom/publicdocuments/Headquarters/NovCaseyReport.pdf