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Scott taps former Accenture exec to head DCF

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott appointed retired Accenture executive David Wilkins as secretary of the Department of Children and Families.

Wilkins, who also served on Scott’s transition team, recently retired as Accenture’s Health and Public Service’s global managing director of sales according to a press release issued by Scott’s office announcing Wilkins’ appointment.

Wilkins is currently finance chairman of the Florida Baptist Children’s Home. The agency provides a variety of services, including adoption assistance and foster care, to families throughout the state.

“David’s passion for child care issues and the human services business, along with his decades of management experience in business and charities, will serve this agency well as it protects Florida’s families,” Scott said in a press release announcing the appointment.

Wilkins replaces George Sheldon, a former lawmaker and a Democrat who also served under the previous secretary, Bob Butterworth.

AG candidate Gelber joins chorus pushing for broader BP claims payments

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Add state Sen. Dan Gelber, the Democrat candidate for attorney general, to the list of pols criticizing BP claims czar Ken Feinberg for his handling of payments to Floridians harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Gelber, a former federal prosecutor from Miami Beach, sent a letter to Feinberg asking him to include the costs of preparing claims to payments to individuals and businesses. Feinberg said he won’t pay for legal or accounting fees associated with the filings.

“Citizens of our state are rightfully frustrated. They see promises from BP actors in commercials suggesting the company is prepared to do the right thing. Yet on the ground, they see obfuscation, and a process that is filled with more chutes than ladders,” Gelber wrote.

Gelber also joined Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democrat candidate for governor; Gov. Charlie Crist, the independent candidate for U.S. Senate; and Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican who lost the primary bid for governor, in demanding that Feinberg pay damages to those located where oil never reached the shore. Feinberg’s consideration of proximity to the oil spill in paying claims has been a major issue of contention since he took over BP’s botched claims process on Aug. 23.

Sink and the Florida Cabinet slammed Feinberg yesterday and Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, a member of a statewide task force looking into the economic damages caused by the disaster, gave Feinberg just a few weeks to speed up payments to businesses on the brink of bankruptcy in Northwest Florida.

Gay adoption ban unconstitutional, appeals court rules

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

An appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that the state’s ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional.

The Florida Supreme Court will ultimately rule on the adoption ban making Florida the only state that bans gays from adopting children. The state does allow gay couples and individuals to foster children but does not allow them to adopt them. That’s at odds with Florida’s policy on “permanence” in which children are supposed to be moved as little as possible from one household to another.

A Miami-Dade County judge ruled the gay adoption ban unconstitutional in 2008 in the case of Martin Gill and his male partner, who adopted two foster children they have cared for since 2004.

Gov. Charlie Crist, whose Department of Children and Families appealed the adoption and the ruling, said recently he was considering dropping the appeal. But gay rights activists and the ACLU, which represents Gill, as well as DCF Secretary George Sheldon want the Supreme Court to make a final decision on the law to settle uncertainty for future adoptions.

DCF chief advises Crist not to drop gay adoption lawsuit

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist should not drop a lawsuit that could result in a final decision about whether Florida’s 30-year-old ban on gay adoption is constitutional, Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon said.

Sheldon, a Democrat appointed by then-Republican Crist in 2008, is head of the agency that challenged a Miami judge’s ruling that Florida’s law barring gay couples from adopting children is unconstitutional. Crist said yesterday he is reviewing whether to drop the lawsuit after releasing a gay-friendly platform in his quest as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate.

“Everyone, no matter what side of this issue they’re on, believes there ought to be some finality to a decision, whether that’s a legislative decision or a judicial decision,” said Sheldon, a former state lawmaker who voted against the ban on gay adoption.


Oil panel boiling mad over BP claims czar’s broken promises

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

BP oil spill claims czar Ken Feinberg, hired by the oil giant and President Barack Obama to hand out $20 billion to individuals and businesses impacted by the massive oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, overpromised and underdelivered, state officials and others said today.

Feinberg took over BP’s maligned claims process on Aug. 23, pledging he would “bend over backwards” to help claimants get emergency six-month payments to help them cope with the financial woes many have encountered since the April 20 disaster.

Feinberg last appeared before Gov. Charlie Crist’s Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force last month and left even skeptical members of the panel, including Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, with high hopes that the Boston lawyer would fix BP’s botched claims system.

But Feinberg’s new process, called the “Gulf Coast Claims Facility,” is leaving a lot to be desired, many of the panelists discovered Tuesday.

“I never thought I’d say this but part of me would like BP back,” said Sheldon, who was one of the oil company’s harshest critics before Feinberg took over. “What he articulated to all of us was something totally different than what’s in this protocol.”

The panel is demanding that Feinberg appear before them again and plans to confront him with a transcript of what he said he would do, like allow a priest to verify that information in a claim was accurate, and what they hear is taking place.

Budget update: Mental health and substance abuse cuts could create a ‘forensics crisis,’ DCF chief says

Monday, April 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

House and Senate budget chiefs are closing in on a final budget, with lawmakers backing off a plan to cut state workers’ salaries and agreeing to a ban on funding for human stem cell research.

For the first time, lawmakers and other high-ranking state workers would have to pay a nominal fee for their health insurance, from $100 a year.


Cause of death of 7-year-old in foster care who hanged himself: “undetermined”

Friday, October 30th, 2009 by Dara Kam

A medical examiner found that that the cause of death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers‘, the Broward County foster child in state custody who hanged himself, was “undetermined” and that he did not commit suicide.

Broward County Deputy Medical Examiner Stephen Cina’s report also said that the child had no history of suicidal thoughts.

That’s contradicted by the Department of Children and Families’ own investigation that found that “he was out of control and destroying school property and stating that he wanted to kill himself” shortly before his death.

DCF Secretary George Sheldon created a workgroup to look into the boy’s death after it was learned that he hanged himself and was on numerous psychotropic drugs that his guardians had not signed off on.

DCF doesn’t get autopsy report of 7-year-old who died in state custody

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon made the apparent suicide of a 7-year-old Broward County boy in foster care one of his top priorities in April.

Sheldon created a working group to get to the bottom of Gabriel Myers’ death and examine why the child was on a psychotropic drug cocktail without the consent of his guardians.

Despite Sheldon’s attention to the boy’s case, his office was unable to get its hands on a copy of the autopsy released to the public by the Broward County Medical Examiner early Thursday afternoon.

About an hour after the autopsy was made public around 11 a.m., Sheldon’s press secretary Joe Follick said he did not have a copy of it. He suggested getting a copy from the medical examiner.

Broward County Medical Examiner Joshua Perper quickly replied to a public records request and e-mailed a copy of the 28-page report.

Hours later, Follick still did not have a copy of it.

“By reviewing the facts of this case carefully, we can work to continue to improve the child welfare system in Florida. While much progress has been made, Gabriel’s death starkly reminds us that when it comes to a child’s life, we cannot relax. Every decision we make profoundly affects the life of that child,” Sheldon said in a press release when the Myers work group was created in April.

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