The Child Protection Specialist Section includes the Child Protection Specialist Unit, Training/Support Unit and The Analytical Unit.
Child Protection Specialist Unit:
The Child Protection Specialists Unit investigates allegations of abuse received via the Abuse Hotline which is maintained by The Department of Children and Families. Once a Child Protection Specialist Investigator receives a report, contact is made with the child and the family to determine if the allegations are valid and if any intervention is needed. Pending investigations are categorized in one of two ways, 24 hour or immediate response, based upon the severity of the allegations.
Cases investigated range from neglect, abuse, sexual abuse to unexplained child deaths; perpetrated by parents, caregivers and/or guardians. In the most egregious cases, a specialist will place the child in protective custody and shelter until the caregivers can prove to the court that it is safe for the child to return home. Based on the allegations outlined in the report, the allegations may be co-investigated by law enforcement for possible criminal charges. This co-investigation of cases ensures child safety, worker safety, and criminal evidence preservation.
Child Protection Specialists utilize many community providers and resources to assist families. These community providers positively enable and empower the family to maintain stability and self-sufficiency while ensuring their children are safe from harm. When a child is in need of protection and is removed from the home, the priority is to look for placement with a relative who can offer a safe and caring environment. If this is not possible, out of home placement is provided by the Safe Children Coalition who is the community based care provider for Manatee County.
The Child Protection Section has an in house trainer certified to instruct the DCF Statewide curriculum. Each Child Protection Specialist is required to complete this training and pass the Statewide test and requirements to obtain certification through the Florida Certification Board to conduct Child Protection Investigations. The Support Unit has Child Protection Aides who assist the Child Protection Investigators by transporting children to appointments and visits.
The Analytical Unit:
The primary functions of the Analytical Unit are to take the initial call from the Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline, gather background information on the parties involved via various sources, and forward the case for assignment to a Child Protective Specialist for investigation. The Analyst provides quick response by assembling cases within one hour for a 24 hour case and 30 minutes for an immediate. This task performance is vital to the quick location of victims and ensuring safety of children.