Secretary Wilkins Fixes DCF, Goes to Disney World

The man in charge of the Florida Department of Children and Families has a new job to add to his current one and that’s raising some concerns.

Gov. Rick Scott is making David Wilkins Florida’s new Chief Operating Officer for Government Operations. Wilkins will take on that job and continue to serve as secretary of DCF – one of the largest and most critical agencies in state government.

Some child advocates are concerned two high-profile jobs will diminish Wilkins’ focus on the state’s child welfare system. The horrific case of Victor and Nubia Barahona last year revealed a terrible breakdown in DCF’s child protective system.

Wilkins believes those problems have been fixed and he has set the standard for making state government more efficient. He has reduced DCF’s administrative costs nearly $60 million and streamlined operations while adding front-line employees.

Wilkins downplays concerns about holding two jobs in the Scott administration, saying that’s how the private sector operates. He previously worked for Accenture Health, overseeing sales in 25 countries.


I wish this story were in The Onion so that I could feel better about laughing. Here, I’ll do it for them:

Child advocates worry that one year is not enough to finish the job of completely fixing everything wrong with the Department. COO/(secretary) Wilkins disagrees: “I don’t see what the big deal was all these decades. All DCF needed was a little dusting. Did you know there was a bag of papers in my office that nobody had even alphabetized? Once we got our heads around that problem, everything else kind of fell into place.”  When asked what he will be doing with all his free time now that DCF is a perfectly oiled machine that can run on autopilot in positive directions for families and children without anyone at all leading it, Secretary Wilkins responded that he will start work with the Florida Lottery Commission because, “I don’t like how all those little balls pop out in every which order.”

DCF certainly can’t be “fixed” in a year, and I’m worried about the message that this sends to everyone in DCF: your own secretary matters so little to your work that he’s going on to other things–be good while he’s away.

I don’t blame Secretary Wilkins for this–it was the Governor’s decision. Secretary Wilkins is a COO at heart. Business measures are his bottom line and he’s beyond just good at improving operational efficiencies. DCF, however, needs someone at its helm with a broad and forward-looking vision about child and family welfare. I encourage the Governor to find such a person and let Mr. Wilkins fully move on to working with other agencies who can benefit from his notable expertise.


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