ORLANDO, Fla. -

State child welfare officials, foster parents and judges are gathering in Orlando this week.

The Department of Children and Families annual summit starts Wednesday and will last three days. Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo will kick-off the event. She stepped in after Secretary David Wilkins abruptly resigned last month amid a spike in child deaths and escalating fights with the private contractors that oversee foster care. Nine children have died this year after having some sort of involvement with the agency.

The agency expects more than 2,500 will attend, including law enforcement, private contractors and guardians ad litem.

Attendees will hear from experts about improving skills to better protect children and strengthening families. South Florida lawmakers also held a town hall last week to discuss the recent child deaths.