DCF Releases Preliminary CIRRT Report and Begins Systematic Improvements Following Bell Tragedy

For Immediate Release:
Oct. 1, 2014

DCF Press Office
(850) 413-0771

DCF Releases Preliminary CIRRT Report and Begins Systematic Improvements Following Bell Tragedy

TALLAHASSEE— Immediately following the tragic deaths in Bell, Fla., the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) deployed a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) to assess the agency’s interactions and interventions with the Spirit family. Today, DCF Interim Secretary Mike Carroll detailed the team’s preliminary findings and announced five immediate system-wide improvements. (CIRRT Executive Summary is available http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/newsroom/docs/Executive%20Summary.pdf)

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said, “I have been with the Department for 25 years, and I thought I had seen it all until this tragedy occurred. Don Spirit snapped, and it caught everyone in the community by surprise. No one ever thought he was capable of what he did. The killing of six children is a heartbreaking tragedy beyond any comprehension. But, even one child death means that our agency must review what we should have done – if anything – to better protect the children we work with.

“Based on the findings in this case to date, I am taking immediate steps in the areas of accountability and training, system integrity and performance management. I want to be clear that we are not done. Our agency will continue to look for systematic reforms and improvements that can better protect our most vulnerable children. To ensure these immediate steps are being taken by our agency in every part of the state, I am beginning a tour of each DCF region next week.”

Secretary Mike Carroll Announces Five Immediate Actions

First, an immediate retraining of all investigative staff in the Chiefland office who handled the Spirit case. This will be eight days of in-person training. This training will be conducted by DCF’s Office of Child Welfare in Tallahassee and will be completed by Nov. 15, 2014.

Second, DCF will require new, mandatory, statewide training for all Child Protective Investigators and supervisors on fact gathering prior to the start of an investigation. All 1,600 CPIs and supervisors will receive 12 hours of in-person training, which will commence immediately and will be completed by the end of 2014. The training will be developed by the University of South Florida’s Center for Child Welfare and Action for Child Protection, the group that assisted in the development of the Safety Methodology.

Third, DCF will require safety practice experts to conduct monthly consultation audits between supervisors and line staff to ensure adherence to the Safety Methodology. Previously, DCF responded to matters on a case-by-case basis without looking at the families’ experiences as a whole. With the new Safety Methodology, authorized by law July 1, investigators must now look at patterns of behavior and current conditions to better determine what steps should be taken for the benefit of the child.

Fourth, DCF will immediately increase the utilization of the Rapid Safety Feedback system from 70 percent, where it is today, to 100 percent by the first quarter of 2015. To do this DCF will use 37 of the 270 new positions funded during last year’s legislative session. The funding for these positions became available today. Rapid Safety Feedback uses reviewers from outside the operational chain of command to independently review open active investigations and provide real time feedback and instruction to field staff to take immediate action as child safety issues are identified before a poor outcome is realized.

Fifth, expanded consultative reviews of all open child protective investigations for children, ages three and under in Dixie and Gilchrist counties to include all 272 cases statewide that have chronic, longstanding family issues. These reviews will be completed by the end of the month to ensure effective management of the most high-risk families.

CIRRT Report

The CIRRT looked at three areas including the quality of the child welfare system’s work with the family, the array of services available to families in Gilchrist County and workload factors within the local DCF organization. After reviewing the tragedy in Bell, the team reached three key findings:

  1. The investigations and interactions with this family over the last eight years did not sufficiently identify the chronic issues faced by this family and the array of services and interventions necessary to address the family’s needs. The team, however, found no evidence to suggest that anyone, at any time, could have predicted that Don Spirit was capable of murdering his six grandchildren, his daughter and then taking his own life.

  2. A lack of an array of services was not identified as a concern regarding the case. There was no gap in the continuum of traditional child welfare services.

  3. In looking at the unit responsible for the investigations on this family, performance on departmental key indicators indicates staff was not over burdened by caseloads. This unit also has the lowest recidivism rate in the state for “no reoccurrence of maltreatment” within six months of an investigation.

To view the CIRRT report, click http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/newsroom/docs/Critical%20Incident%20Rapid%20Response%20Team%209-30-14.pdf.