The Hillsborough County, Florida Sheriff’s Office will be changing how it handles child abuse cases. The changes are due to the recent resignation of Heather Stokes, a child protection investigator who has been charged with falsifying documents.
An internal affairs investigation revealed that Ms. Stokes allegedly falsified and / or fabricated twenty five investigations. Ms. Stokes has said that she did so because she was overwhelmed by the number of cases she had to deal with. She resigned shortly after the results of the probe were brought to her attention. She is the second investigator from her office to resign after being charged with falsifying documents. According to the Tampa Tribune, no children or families were harmed by the falsifications.
Investigators will now be required to photograph every child at their home, and place the photo in the case file to prove that they visited the child when they said they did. Supervisors will randomly review cases and make up to thirty quality assurance checks every month.
Statewide, more than seventy Florida child welfare workers have been caught lying about their activities in the last two years. When caught, workers almost always point to work overload to excuse their behavior.
Ms. Stokes has avoided criminal prosecution by performing more than two hundred hours of community service.
Read more about the falsification of child protection documents in Florida at Falsifications bring change in child abuse cases.