Glitch causes Florida Abuse Hotline failure to pass on alerts to law enforcement

The Florida Abuse Hotline is the place where tips, complaints and reports of child abuse are often first received.  It is supposed to protect children, but a spokesperson with the Florida Department of Children and Families says a computer glitch blocked the information from going to deputies and no one knew about it for over two months. The glitch happened from February 4 through April 28.

One case that investigators say fell through the cracks was a sexual assault complaint at a behavioral center in Daytona Beach. By the time deputies received the information, it was over two months old. Investigators say both the alleged victim and suspect were no longer there and a supervisor was unaware of the complaint because she had just started working there.

The Volusia Sheriff says the outcome may have been different had they been sent out immediately. We went to Florida Governor Rick Scott for answers.

"Anything like that, I want to make sure gets fixed as quickly as possible," he said, "but the biggest thing is that we've got to take care of every child in our state."

A DCF spokesperson says information is taken down when someone calls the hotline with a complaint before the call is transferred.  It's taken down just in case someone hangs up before the transfer.  Information not pertaining to caregivers is emailed electronically to law enforcement, but DCF says it failed to be delivered to deputies.

Now, 1,200 child abuse cases around the state are being reviewed by deputies, including 207 cases in Orange, 43 in Osceola, and 46 in Volusia.

"I want every child to be taken care of and I want every child to be safe, and if they need services, they get services," Gov. Scott said.

DCF says a software update on February 4 caused the error, which slowed the release of electronic notifications to deputies, like the one in Daytona Beach. However, it never blocked any calls, just the electronic information taken down initially. DCF isn't sure how many callers may have hung up before being transferred.

We asked Gov. Scott how he will prevent something like this from happening again.

"Secretary Carroll runs DCF, and he cares about these kids. He's been in the system for a long time and really worried about these kids, so like everything in life, when we find a problem we've got to fix it as quickly as we can."

DCF says they're fixing the error and plan to implement an alert system to notify the department anytime a back-log is created in the future.