The Florida Department of Children and Families announced last week it recently implemented a new child-abuse hotline tracking system — one designed to be faster and more accurate.
The upgrade was brought about after the death of Nubia Barahona, a 10-year-old South Florida girl, in 2011. The Barahona Investigative Panel discovered after the incident multiple calls had been made to the center about Nubia’s situation, but because of the old system. some information was incomplete or inaccurate and, South Florida investigators say they had to do their own research.
“(The hotline) has had upgrades over the years as technology changes, but this is first massive redesign … We started from scratch,” said Erin Gillespie, DCF spokeswoman.
Improvements include new online abuse reporting technology and better gathering capabilities to help investigators assess the risk of a case early in the process. Reporting technology now will take hotline counselors through a series of questions while pulling information from previous calls and law enforcement.
“It has been made more of an automated process, instead of relying on each counselor to ask the right questions,” Gillespie said.
A $7 million appropriation from the Legislature funded the new statewide system and provided about 40 new call center jobs.
The new system will affect local DCF offices by providing more information up front to investigators. The new system also will make sure efforts aren’t being duplicated by mistakes, such as different spellings of a child’s name.
“Before, if someone called the hotline and gave the name of a kid and someone called later and spelled the name using a different letter, two separate investigators would be put on the case,” Gillespie said. “If didn’t happen constantly, but it did occur. Now, we’ve streamlined the process. Things like this will match up in the system, and we won’t duplicate efforts.”
The new system is designed to make it easier for law enforcement and school personnel by improving the online reporting tool.
For more information about the Florida Abuse Hotline, visit reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/.