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Head of DCF's Miami Division Says They're 'Reviewing in Detail' Report on Child Welfare System's Disregard of Fathers
Background: I recently partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein and Fathers & Families in a campaign to protest Florida Department of Children & Families' actions in the "Elian Gonzalez II" case in Miami. In that case, Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father, has faced numerous obstacles to reunite with his 5-year-old daughter. In our letters and faxes to Florida DCF, we asked that they contact Dr. Holstein and meet with him to discuss the issues put forward in our protest. In the photo, Dr. Holstein shakes hands with Gilda Ferradaz, head of DCF's Miami division. Dr. Holstein met with Ferradaz, Mary Cagle, DCF's Director of Child Welfare Legal Services, and other DCF officials last week. In addition, Dr. Holstein met with embattled Cuban father Rafael Izquierdo. To learn more about our campaign, click here. Dr. Holstein and I had urged DCF to examine the Urban Institute's recent report What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies' Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers, which studied the foster care systems of four states. The report contains a shocking finding: when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers in only 15% of cases. In Ferradaz's letter below, she says that DCF will "review in detail" the Urban Institute report. Changing a misguided bureacracy's policies can be a Sisyphean effort, but, to be fair, DCF has in general responded to our campaign in a meaningful and intelligent manner. Ferradaz wrote: "Thank you for your correspondence to Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the leadership of the Department of Children and Families regarding a Miami child custody case. "Your willingness to raise your voice shows your compassion for the well-being of children in our state. As requested in your correspondence, Department of Children and Families leadership contacted Dr. Ned Holstein, President of Fathers and Families, and met with him on October 24, 2007 to hear his concerns. Dr. Holstein shared with us the report prepared by the Urban Institute which you cite in your email and we will review it in detail. Please be assured that the best interest of the child is always the primary concern of this Department. "We thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. "Gilda P. Ferradaz, Circuit Administrator"