The head of Florida's Department of Children and Families pressed lawmakers to keep him on the job Thursday, despite a string of child deaths preceded by warning signs that were missed by the agency.

Testifying before the Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee as part of his confirmation hearing, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll sought to convince the panel that his efforts to improve the handling of parental abuse reports will save lives.

"My dream as a secretary is not necessarily to end child deaths, but I sure would like to end child deaths where I then have to go back and explain opportunities that we missed," Carroll said.

Carroll, who was appointed to his post by Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, has endured criticism for DCF's failure to act on abuse reports involving the parents of Janiya Thomas and Chance Walsh, two Tampa Bay area children who turned up dead.

The agency is now hiring more child protective investigators, though Democratic lawmakers are assailing Scott's 2016-17 budget proposal for what they say is an underwhelming increase in DCF funding.

Carroll's defenders, however, say it would be wrong to assign too much blame to the man who holds what is widely considered one of the most difficult jobs in state government.

"This is a man who not only has perfected, sadly, the art of the postmortem after children die, but he has actually invested in prevention, because that's really the only true cure," said Jack Levine, a child welfare advocate who runs the Tallahassee-based 4Generations Institute.

The 40-member Florida Senate will vote on whether to confirm Carroll during the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January.