One by one, Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel read the names or initials of 20 children — children who died this summer while on the radar of the state’s embattled child welfare agency.
Some were beaten savagely. Others suffocated or drowned. One was strangled, and another run over by a car,.
The listing of the dead was a dramatic way to launch a town hall meeting designed to bring reforms and save lives.
The Tuesday night meeting, at Broward College’s South Campus, drew a crowd of hundreds of judges, city officials, police officers, children’s advocates and foster parents. At least 15 lawmakers sat shoulder to shoulder on the dais, listening.
“We have a moral imperative to save lives,” said Sobel, who organized the event.
The Miami Herald reported Sunday that, since mid-April, at least 20 children known to the Department of Children & Families have died, mostly from abuse or neglect, some of them in particularly brutal ways. Faced with the rising toll, Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Children, Families & Elder Affairs, convened a town hall to ask hard questions about DCF’s ability to meet its mandate of protecting children from danger.
The nearly three-hour discussion — extended twice to accommodate the number of speakers — offered a variety of suggestions, ranging from better state funding to better treatment of caseworkers and investigators. Legislators walked away with specific changes they can make to child welfare laws in the upcoming Legislative season.