Setting Up Strategies for Dealing with Abuse; Domestic Violence Investigators, Shelter Workers Hold Conference

Article excerpt

Byline: Meredith Rutland

You're an abuse caseworker, and you're in the living room of a woman whose husband has hit her.

Your options, including splitting up her family, aren't simple. What's the best move?

That's what the Florida Department of Children & Families investigators and Northeast Florida domestic violence shelter workers came together to discuss Thursday at a conference in Palatka.

Dozens of DCF employees, staff from 11 North Florida shelters and experts on domestic violence from across Florida met to talk about strategies to use when dealing with domestic abuse cases. The daylong conference focused on communication tactics between service providers.

About half of DCF's cases in Northeast Florida include instances of domestic abuse. In Duval County, about 44 percent include domestic abuse, 51 percent in St. Johns County, 51 percent in Clay County and 53 percent in Nassau County, according to DCF data.

Those statistics are especially important because domestic abuse is one warning sign in most situations where a child is killed by an abusive caregiver, said Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo. Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that Jacobo will remain the department's interim secretary until the end of the 2014 state legislative session.

DCF has been under fire this year after at least 20 children with child protection histories died of abuse in the span of several months, according to a Miami Herald investigation published this fall. The former DCF Secretary, David Wilkins, resigned in July, and calls for reform have come from across the state. …

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