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Marina
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Postby Marina » Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:30 pm

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http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/17169711.html

DCF Fingerprinting Frenzy

Posted: 6:37 PM Mar 31, 2008
Last Updated: 6:37 PM Mar 31, 2008
Reporter: Claudine Cleophat



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A | A | A DCF hired Al Zimmerman as a spokesperson for the department in 2005. At the time, the Department didn’t require fingerprinting for administrative positions. But since his arrest for child pornography, DCF has been trying to clean up its image and make sure its staff is clean as well.

"After the arrest of former employee Al Zimmerman the department decided to take on a human resources review to verify that all employees had appropriate background checks,"said DCF spokesperson Sarrah Troncoso.


What DCF found was eight percent of employees hired since November 2006 were not fingerprinted. And nearly ten percent of the personnel files were missing reference checks.

"It might be human error. There may have been problems uploading into the PeopleSoft systems," said Troncoso.

For child care provider Jessica Hoover those slips can be costly.

"In order for me to work at a day care or any employee to be employed in Leon County at a day care they have to go through not only Leon County background checks, but federal background checks as well. So if they require us to have one they should probably have themselves," said Hoover.

DCF says it's now beginning that process. In phase one, DCF says all 2800 employees hired since 2006 have now been fingerprinted. In phase two, more than five thousand employees who have direct contact with children have been fingerprinted as well.

"We have insured that all the employees working for this agency should be here," said Troncoso.

There will be a third and final phase to this investigation. All employees hired before November 2006 are being fingerprinted as well. That phase would have included former spokesperson Al Zimmerman.

DCF says it hasn't found anything out of the ordinary. The department does have more than 13 thousand employees. So it expects to complete the process in a few months.


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Marina
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Postby Marina » Thu Apr 03, 2008 3:38 pm

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http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll ... /304040002

Report: DCF failed to protect Cape 6-year-old Joshua Jenkins

April 3, 2008


The Florida Department of Children and Families released its analysis of its handling of the case of Joshua Jenkins, the Cape Coral 6-year-old who allegedly was beaten to death by his stepfather, Phillipe Gayle, 26.

The report, released today, summarizes the family’s history with DCF and details a series of mistakes and missteps the department made. Lisa Mayrose, regional family safety program administrator concluded that communication and follow-up were inadequate.




Joshua died Feb. 18. An autopsy showed that he suffered blunt force trauma to his lungs, a lacerated liver, three liters of blood in his abdomen, bite marks and injuries to his genitals.

Before Joshua’s fatal beating, DCF had investigated his family three times: in October and December 2006 and in May 2007. In each case, DCF was called because the boy was badly bruised, but each case was later closed by DCF without any follow-up.

After the second report of abuse, Mayrose wrote, law enforcement should have been notified, the case should have been referred for a second-party review and DCF should have requested records on the family from Mississippi, where they lived before moving to Florida.

None of that happened.

In the third case, DCF failed to identify a number of risk factors, Mayrose wrote, and again, there was no follow-up.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Sat Apr 05, 2008 8:16 pm

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http://www.wftv.com/news/15786275/detai ... resistible

DCF Investigating Case Involving Baby That May Not Exist

POSTED: 4:55 pm EDT April 3, 2008
UPDATED: 5:30 pm EDT April 3, 2008


BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. -- The State Department of Children and Families is spending time and money trying to rescue a baby who probably doesn't exist. It's a strange case involving a Brevard County couple who DCF says is too dangerous to have children.

DCF apparently received a call to their hotline. They maintain they have an obligation to see if there is a child at the house that might be in jeopardy. The question is whether there is or isn't a baby.

When the DCF caseworker went to the Woods home outside Titusville this week, she brought a handful of deputies and a court order to search the house for an unidentified baby boy or baby girl while the caseworker stayed in the car.

DCF said they were investigating allegations there was a newborn at the home. The couple's parental rights have been repeatedly terminated after a doctor told DCF Shari Wood's first born child suffered numerous injuries from a severe case of child abuse, although neither parent was ever charged.

Since then, the couple admits, they have had three other children, one by a midwife, another in Georgia. They even tried to have one in Canada so DCF wouldn't find out.

"All I want is to have a family," Shari Wood said.

DCF said they are required by law to protect children and so when they received another report of a new child they were obligated to investigate to ensure that child was not in any danger.

Deputies found nothing in the house. Despite the home inspection, the couple was ordered to court and had to swear under oath they have not had another child and are not hiding the child somewhere. DCF has since closed the investigation.

The state said it is a difficult situation, because they can't legally stop people from having children even if they think the parent abuses children, but they can take the child away after he or she is already born.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Tue May 06, 2008 7:29 pm

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http://www.tampabays10.com/news/local/a ... ryid=79775

9 yr old disabled girl gets $1.2 million for injuries


Tallahassee, Florida -- Gov. Charlie Crist has signed a bill that gives a 9-year-old disabled girl $1.2 million for injuries she sustained due to the state's negligence.

Marissa Amora was admitted to Miami Children's Hospital in 2000 and workers reported concerns about her injuries to Department of Children & Families.

But the department failed to complete its investigation and a few weeks later Marissa was beaten into a coma by her biological mother's boyfriend.

Marissa is permanently disabled and now lives in the Panhandle with her adoptive parents.

She could receive more than $18 million as part of the state's settlement, but the additional money would have to be provided by the Legislature in the future.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Wed May 07, 2008 7:19 pm

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http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/loc ... ?track=rss

The former DCF worker, previously arrested on state charges, faces up to 30 years in prison.
Kate Santich | Sentinel Staff Writer
April 17, 2008

He was supposed to be a protector of abused and vulnerable children in Florida.

Instead, prosecutors say, he became one of their predators.

Albert Andre "Al" Zimmerman, the former spokesman for the state's Department of Children and Families, was indicted Wednesday on federal child-pornography charges. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

Over a three-year period, the indictment said, Zimmerman -- a onetime Tampa TV reporter -- coerced two underage males to engage in sexually explicit conduct, then photographed and videotaped them. One alleged victim was in DCF custody at the time.




The indictment has been one of the most embarrassing and ironic episodes in the state agency's history.

DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth commented only briefly on the indictment: "Our thoughts continue to be with the victims of these alleged crimes. We're confident justice will be served."

Until the night of his arrest Feb. 1 on similar state charges, Zimmerman, 41, worked as the top spokesman for DCF. He sometimes traveled with and answered directly to Butterworth, who was previously the state's attorney general.

It was at a DCF Child Protection Task Force meeting last fall in Orlando where Zimmerman is accused of soliciting one of his victims -- a 16-year-old boy he met at a DCF meeting last fall.

But according to an affidavit by Alexander Hagedorn, a U.S. immigration and customs agent assigned to investigate online child exploitation, Zimmerman slipped the teen a business card with his Orlando Marriott hotel room number written on it. When the teen arrived, Zimmerman gave him alcohol and offered him $200 for sex. The boy declined, but he later agreed to Zimmerman's offer to photograph himself with a cell-phone camera, nude, the affidavit said.

The boy eventually ran away from his foster home in the Florida Panhandle and moved to Orlando -- keeping in touch with Zimmerman, the affidavit said. In fact, the former spokesman allegedly sent him payment for the photographs via a local Amscot money service.

"We were horrified," Butterworth said when he learned of the allegations earlier this year. "I would assume that everybody here in this [DCF] agency was saying, 'Should I have known something?' "

By virtually all accounts, the answer was no.

Zimmerman was generally well-liked in his role as a liaison between DCF officials and the media. He was chatty, jovial and understood deadline pressure from his days as a television newsman.

Before going to work for DCF in 2005 -- a year after his alleged solicitations began -- Zimmerman had spent about four years as a general-assignment reporter for Bay News 9, a Tampa-area 24-hour local-news station. Before that, he had worked at stations in Macon, Ga., and San Antonio.

One DCF official, who asked not to be identified, said Zimmerman had "sort of a frat boy" personality and sometimes made sexual jokes about women, but that he seemed devoted to DCF's mission.

Precautions not taken

Shortly after his arrest, DCF officials discovered his personnel file lacked a state employment application and that DCF had never contacted his previous employers -- both violations of department policy.

In addition, a subsequent search by investigators turned up a previous DUI conviction for Zimmerman in Georgia and a 2003 arrest in Tampa for writing bad checks. He also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Texas on a similar bad-check charge.

DCF, which in November 2006 began requiring all job applicants to undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check, had no idea of Zimmerman's past. The scandal prompted Butterworth to order a search of DCF personnel files for all 13,500 employees. Workers who had not been previously fingerprinted were ordered to have it done.

While some of Zimmerman's alleged actions were brazen, at other times prosecutors say he relied on an online alias, "Ed Guitierrez" or "Eddie G.," to peddle pornography. Bizarrely, they said, Eddie G. referred to Zimmerman as an intermediary in e-mails he sent to a 16-year-old boy Zimmerman had solicited in person in Tampa starting in 2006.

The boy, identified as "Victim No. 1" in the affidavit, had been a high school sophomore when he said he and his friends would gather at Zimmerman's house because they were offered alcohol. As with the boy in Orlando, Zimmerman then asked the boy to pose for graphic photographs in exchange for money, the affidavit says. E-mails detailed the poses and activities that "Eddie G." said would fetch top dollar from a broker in Germany.

Authorities said Zimmerman later admitted that the e-mails were his, but he claimed he didn't know the boys were underage. Immediately before his arrest, he sent a DCF technician to his house to throw his home computer in the garbage and re-format his DCF laptop.

If convicted on the federal charges, Zimmerman faces at least 15 years in prison under mandatory sentencing guidelines. And he could face state charges. He has not commented on the allegations.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Sat May 10, 2008 7:16 pm

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http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/loc ... ?track=rss


Orlando doctor defends husband against child-abuse allegation
Her husband 'could never intentionally hurt anyone,' a doctor says.

Orlando police arrested Brian Kloosterman on a child-abuse count.


Bianca Prieto and Sarah Lundy | Sentinel Staff Writers
May 10, 2008

An Orlando doctor came to the defense of her husband Friday, saying his arrest on child-abuse charges threatens to tear apart the life the couple have created for their five young children, including four adoptees from Guatemala.

Brian Kloosterman "is a wonderful and dedicated father, a stay-at-home dad who could never intentionally hurt anyone," Dr. Stephanie Schreiner wrote in a statement released to the Orlando Sentinel.

Kloosterman's arrest on a child-abuse charge early Tuesday, hours after a nanny summoned Orlando police, was the second allegation of child abuse against the 33-year-old father in less than a year.

"The enormous stress of this 2007 investigation and the eight months of living under suspicion and unfair intrusion into their family life created considerable stress and took its toll on Brian," wrote lawyer Rajan Joshi of the NeJame, LaFay, Jancha, Barker and Joshi law firm, representing Kloosterman. "Even with this, he was the primary caregiver for his five children, ages 5 months through 3 and one half years."

Former nanny Cynthia Velez told Orlando police that while watching one of the surveillance monitors in the $1.6 million home, she spotted Kloosterman throwing underwear at his oldest son and then restraining the screaming child by pinning him to the bed, according to police reports. She taped the activity on the monitor using her cell phone and turned it over to police.

"The video is graphic, but also misleading," the statement read. "Brian never intentionally hurt his son. This is an isolated, one minute event that did not physically harm their little boy."

Kloosterman is a stay-at-home dad who raised the children in the family's 6,700-square-foot Delaney Park home while his wife works as a pathologist at Orlando Regional Medical Center.


'He feels the pain'

"All of the children miss their father and he feels the pain of being separated from them," the statement said. The 3-year-old, the child Kloosterman is accused of abusing most recently, has been calling out for "his daddy," the parents said in the statement.

The children are back at home now, with a "caregiver," Joshi said. Schreiner must be supervised when around the children, and Kloosterman is forbidden from seeing them. He was released from jail on $1,000 bail Wednesday night and faces one charge of child abuse. If convicted, he could go to prison for up to five years.

On Wednesday, the family pediatrician examined all five children for signs of abuse and found they were in good health and uninjured, the parents said. Their 18-month-old daughter had a small cut on her shoulder, said Mark O'Mara, another lawyer representing Kloosterman.


Girl's illness under review

This is the second time the couple are fighting to clear Kloosterman's name.

In August, health officials alerted the Department of Children and Families to possible abuse when the couple's newly adopted 9-month-old daughter was rushed to the hospital with a 106.8-degree temperature and a urinary-tract infection. The girl, who had only been with the family for a few weeks, was dehydrated and suffered a stroke, causing her to become slightly disabled. The parents said they did not cause this.

Law-enforcement and DCF officials began investigating whether Kloosterman shook the child and caused the injuries. DCF's investigation was closed after it found insufficient evidence.

Police turned the case over to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office in January. Prosecutors are waiting for more information to determine what -- if any -- charges will be filed in that case, said spokeswoman Danielle Tavernier.

On Thursday, prosecutors received the second case from police. They will review both before making a charging decision, Tavernier said.

The couple's first child died five days after birth. Faced with the possibility of never having more biological children, the couple turned to adoption.

They would have had to undergo a home study and complete extensive paperwork that would allow them to adopt out of the country, according to Sue Hedberg, executive director of Celebrate Children International. The Oviedo agency, which specializes in international adoptions, would not confirm or deny whether the family used its services. But the family's attorneys on Friday identified it as the agency.

The couple first tried adopting in China, but it didn't work out. They then tried another agency, which helped them find children in Guatemala.

They brought home their first children, two infant boys, in early 2006. The experience was such a success, the couple traveled again to Guatemala and "fell in love" with two other children. In late 2006, the couple began the process that would add another boy and baby girl to their family.

"We are a very close couple who mutually support each other and want only the best for each of our children," Kloosterman said in the statement. "We turned to adoption and it's been a wonderful and challenging time."

While waiting for their baby girl to arrive in the U.S., Schreiner found out she was pregnant. Five months ago, she gave birth to a healthy girl, their fifth child.

Former nanny Alice Martin described Kloosterman as a loving father who engaged the children. She joined the family after the August incident, when a judge ordered Kloosterman to have only supervised contact with his children.

Martin contested what Velez, the family's most recent nanny, told police earlier this week about why she left the family. Martin denied ever seeing Kloosterman abuse the children and said she left on good terms in January because the family needed a Spanish-speaking nanny.

"Brian was always an attentive, normal, loving father," Martin said. "They don't fit the format of an abusive family."

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Sat May 10, 2008 7:52 pm

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http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/loca ... 45&ref=rss

Foster Mom Calls Foster Care System a Trainwreck


02/01/08 11 p.m. Report


By Jackelyn Barnard
First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Each year, more than 130,000 children call Florida's foster care system home.

At one time, one of them was Rilya Wilson. In April 2002, Wilson disappeared. She was missing more than 15 months before the Department of Children and Families even realized she was gone.

Wilson's case sparked major changes inside the DCF. The changes were made to protect and provide better care for foster kids, but ask a woman we will call Lisa, if she thinks that system is working. "I wish I would have never got into it. I could have just took care of my kids and been fine."

Lisa has asked us not to identify her. She is a foster parent in Duval County. She has cared for at least eight children in the last year. "They need a wakeup call," Lisa says of the embattled system.

She says that wake up call came in 2007 when one of her foster kids died while in her care. She says the death was preventable. The child drowned while in the bathtub. The investigation is still open with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Lisa says she didn't have CPR training before she started taking in foster children. While some states require all foster parents to go through CPR training before housing children, Florida does not. "I think it might have saved her life if I had the training," says Lisa.

"Anytime we have a tragedy like that we sit back and re-examine what we could have done better," says Jim Adams of Family Support Services or FSS.

Adams is in charge of FSS, which is contracted out by the DCF to place kids in foster homes, to check on those homes and to train foster parents.

"We're dealing with a system that was fairly broken and said here fix it," says Adams. He says while things are much better, the system is still a work in progress.

Lisa calls the system a trainwreck, one that did not provide even basic training. Lisa says she applied to be a foster parent in February 2007. She says she went to a week long course that was required called MAPP or Model Approach to Positive Parenting.

"We read things out of a booklet on how to take care of a child and what not to do," says Lisa. When asked if there was any other training, Lisa said no.

"There should have been an orientation right after she got her license which explains the role of the case workers... what to expect," says Adams.

Lisa says she was told she had to go through a background check and an orientation would then be scheduled, but that orientation didn't happen.

"It was April when they called me about 11 o'clock at night. They called me to place a child with me and I was like wow I didn't even know I was approved," says Lisa.

She says she got a license from the state, she got letters in the mail from those who were to do her training, but there was still no orientation.

While her license states she was to have no more than two kids in her home at a time, Lisa says many times she was caring for more.

First Coast News has also learned Lisa was missing an important log book that foster parents should have.

Case workers have to sign the log when they visit a child in the home. Lisa says it wasn't until months after she started taking in foster kids that a case worker realized a log was missing.
"When she came, she asked me where was my booklet, and I told her I don't know what she was talking about. She was like have you been through orientation. I was like no, I've been waiting on that. So, I guess she told her supervisor. She came back and told me they were getting to me, a lot of people quit and got fired, and that's why I never had it," says Lisa.

Jim Adams says that is not how the system is to work. "If she didn't have the signature book verifying the case worker came out and saw the child, it's unacceptable. We contract out five of the top child welfare agencies in Jacksonville. All are diligent in what they do, but if one of them dropped the ball on this, then it could seriously impact their contract with us," says Adams.

Lisa's book has only one signature in it for August 24, 2007. By that time, Lisa was housing foster kids for at least four months.

"When you deal with 3,000 children and 32 new ones coming in a week, it's not acceptable. Could it have happened....we will certainly look at it. If it was a drop, we will take action," says Adams.

Lisa's attorney, Bob Davis, says it does not surprise him to see a slip in the cracks. "I've even seen cases where DCF workers put mom is non-compliant with the case plan, and she was deceased," says Davis.

A system with a history of problems. A system Lisa says set her up to fail. Jim Adams' reply to that, "I'll say it again, the foster care system has leaps and bounds to go."

FSS says it is investigating and if wrong doing is found action will be taken. First Coast News has also learned that since we started asking questions about the training of foster parents, FSS has decided to ask the state to make CPR training a requirement.

Lisa's biological children have been taken away from her. She is trying to get them back. The state says the children were removed from Lisa's home for reasons other than just the drowning of the foster child.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Sat May 10, 2008 7:55 pm

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http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/loca ... 45&ref=rss

Foster Mom Calls Foster Care System a Trainwreck


02/01/08 11 p.m. Report


By Jackelyn Barnard
First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Each year, more than 130,000 children call Florida's foster care system home.

At one time, one of them was Rilya Wilson. In April 2002, Wilson disappeared. She was missing more than 15 months before the Department of Children and Families even realized she was gone.

Wilson's case sparked major changes inside the DCF. The changes were made to protect and provide better care for foster kids, but ask a woman we will call Lisa, if she thinks that system is working. "I wish I would have never got into it. I could have just took care of my kids and been fine."

Lisa has asked us not to identify her. She is a foster parent in Duval County. She has cared for at least eight children in the last year. "They need a wakeup call," Lisa says of the embattled system.

She says that wake up call came in 2007 when one of her foster kids died while in her care. She says the death was preventable. The child drowned while in the bathtub. The investigation is still open with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Lisa says she didn't have CPR training before she started taking in foster children. While some states require all foster parents to go through CPR training before housing children, Florida does not. "I think it might have saved her life if I had the training," says Lisa.

"Anytime we have a tragedy like that we sit back and re-examine what we could have done better," says Jim Adams of Family Support Services or FSS.

Adams is in charge of FSS, which is contracted out by the DCF to place kids in foster homes, to check on those homes and to train foster parents.

"We're dealing with a system that was fairly broken and said here fix it," says Adams. He says while things are much better, the system is still a work in progress.

Lisa calls the system a trainwreck, one that did not provide even basic training. Lisa says she applied to be a foster parent in February 2007. She says she went to a week long course that was required called MAPP or Model Approach to Positive Parenting.

"We read things out of a booklet on how to take care of a child and what not to do," says Lisa. When asked if there was any other training, Lisa said no.

"There should have been an orientation right after she got her license which explains the role of the case workers... what to expect," says Adams.

Lisa says she was told she had to go through a background check and an orientation would then be scheduled, but that orientation didn't happen.

"It was April when they called me about 11 o'clock at night. They called me to place a child with me and I was like wow I didn't even know I was approved," says Lisa.

She says she got a license from the state, she got letters in the mail from those who were to do her training, but there was still no orientation.

While her license states she was to have no more than two kids in her home at a time, Lisa says many times she was caring for more.

First Coast News has also learned Lisa was missing an important log book that foster parents should have.

Case workers have to sign the log when they visit a child in the home. Lisa says it wasn't until months after she started taking in foster kids that a case worker realized a log was missing.
"When she came, she asked me where was my booklet, and I told her I don't know what she was talking about. She was like have you been through orientation. I was like no, I've been waiting on that. So, I guess she told her supervisor. She came back and told me they were getting to me, a lot of people quit and got fired, and that's why I never had it," says Lisa.

Jim Adams says that is not how the system is to work. "If she didn't have the signature book verifying the case worker came out and saw the child, it's unacceptable. We contract out five of the top child welfare agencies in Jacksonville. All are diligent in what they do, but if one of them dropped the ball on this, then it could seriously impact their contract with us," says Adams.

Lisa's book has only one signature in it for August 24, 2007. By that time, Lisa was housing foster kids for at least four months.

"When you deal with 3,000 children and 32 new ones coming in a week, it's not acceptable. Could it have happened....we will certainly look at it. If it was a drop, we will take action," says Adams.

Lisa's attorney, Bob Davis, says it does not surprise him to see a slip in the cracks. "I've even seen cases where DCF workers put mom is non-compliant with the case plan, and she was deceased," says Davis.

A system with a history of problems. A system Lisa says set her up to fail. Jim Adams' reply to that, "I'll say it again, the foster care system has leaps and bounds to go."

FSS says it is investigating and if wrong doing is found action will be taken. First Coast News has also learned that since we started asking questions about the training of foster parents, FSS has decided to ask the state to make CPR training a requirement.

Lisa's biological children have been taken away from her. She is trying to get them back. The state says the children were removed from Lisa's home for reasons other than just the drowning of the foster child.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Sat May 10, 2008 8:06 pm

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http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/s ... 8372.shtml

Last modified 1/31/2008 - 11:25 pm
Originally created 020208

Family Support Services hopes to change face of foster care


By MARY HURST, My Arlington Sun


A retired children's therapist once told Nancy Dreicer that in all the years she counseled foster children, all of them said they wanted to go home to their parents - no matter what the abuse.

Dreicer, Florida Department of Children and Families District IV regional administrator, said at the recent opening of a Westside pilot program that she and department Secretary Bob Butterworth hope its prevention services can help change the face and future of foster care in Florida.

"The state makes lousy parents," she told a group of about 70 gathered at 2200 Cassat Ave., the site of Family Support Services of North Florida's first neighborhood center, designed to be a one-stop venue to help parents be better ones.

The center is expected to serve about 100 families a month, and other centers like it will open in more neighborhoods in Jacksonville, including on the Northside and Southside, program officials said.

"This is a home that emphasizes prevention and family preservation," Dreicer said. "Of course, DCF will never compromise the safety of a child, and children with serious abuse will still be removed from the home. But we know children who stay with their families do better than they do in foster care."

She said the personnel there will give parents advice and help "before that snap happens."

State Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, praised Family Support Services of North Florida CEO Jim Adams on his commitment to families in Jacksonville.

"He never stops," Wise said.

Michael Widman, FSS board chairman, characterized the project's power as one of synergy.

"With the power of synergy, you get more than the whole," Widman said of the many agencies that will participate on the new family preservation effort.

Participating agencies besides Family Support Services include Gateway Community Services, the University of Florida, Educational Services of America, Florida Community College at Jacksonville and DCF.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Sat May 17, 2008 10:09 am

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http://www2.hernandotoday.com/content/2 ... suit/?news

Saturday, May 17, 2008 Tampa 86º Partly Cloudy


DCF Seeks To Sever Ties To Allains' Suit



By KYLE MARTIN

Hernando Today

Published: May 17, 2008

BROOKSVILLE - The Department of Children and Families wants a judge to sever the agency's ties to a lawsuit filed against a pair of foster parents doing time in prison for child abuse.

The main target of the lawsuit is Arthur and Lori Allain, who were arrested in 2004 after a 10-year-old girl under their care was found to weigh only 29 pounds.

Her brother, John Joseph Edwards, turned 18 last year and promptly sued the Allain's for negligence, battery and false imprisonment. Among his grievances laid out in the lawsuit are "physical and mental torture," to include starvation, beatings, head shaving and "unlawful confinement."

Both of the Allain's have filed official denials to the allegations from their respective prisons.

DCF is taking their denial a step farther by asking the presiding judge to dismiss two of the counts against them. The first count is negligence against Kids Central Inc., the private arm of the government agency that provided the caseworker who was supposed to be monitoring the Allain's at home.

That caseworker, Cathy Kelly, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also accuses DCF of "vicarious liability" and the agency wants that charge dropped, too.

Their reasoning, spelled in a legal petition to dismiss, is foremost that the dates the allegations occurred are not provided in the original complaint. The petition says: How can the agency be sure it's liable without knowing when the alleged abuse happened?

The second basis given in the petition is that Edwards did not follow proper protocol by filing a notice of intent to sue a government entity. By Florida law, six months warning must be given.

There is no notice of intent included in the court file.

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Sat May 31, 2008 10:05 am

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http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2008/may/23/ ... _headlines

Florida Supreme Court to hear ATV case that could challenge parental rights next month

By Derek Simmonsen (Contact)
Friday, May 23, 2008

Read briefs filed by both sides before the Florida Supreme Court.

PDF: Dean Dyess v. Jordan Fields representing the estate of Christopher Jones

PDF: Scott Kirton, et al v. Jordan Fields

PDF: Scott Kirton, et al v. Jordan Fields representing the estate of Christopher Jones, answering petition



The death of a 14-year-old boy in an ATV accident five years ago could end up changing the way people who offer sometimes risky activities, like motorcross and watersports, to children, do business.

The Florida Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments next month in a case brought by the estate of Christopher Jones against the owners and manager of Thunder Cross Motor Sports Park in Okeechobee. The case raises the question of whether parents have the ability under Florida law to sign release forms that give away the right of their children to sue for damages.

"It's going to affect really anything ... any type of activity in which minors participate which requires releases to be signed," said Richard Lee Barrett, who represents the former park manager and other motorcross parks across the state. "It's a cutting edge issue that's going to have broader application throughout the state of Florida."

The basic facts of the case aren't in dispute. Bobby Jones took his 14-year-old son Christopher to the now-defunct Thunder Cross Motor Sports Park on May 10, 2003 to ride ATVs and signed a release form on behalf of the boy waiving liability and the right to sue. At the time, Jones was divorced from his wife Bette and had custody of both their sons.

Christopher died after he fell off his ATV during a jump and the vehicle landed on top of him, according to court papers. Bette Jones, who was unaware the boys were riding ATVs, later filed a wrongful death suit claiming the park owners and manager were negligent, a case that was dismissed before trial because her ex-husband had signed the release form.

The 4th District Court of Appeal reversed that decision in August, ruling there was nothing in state law that allows a parent to waive all legal rights on behalf of a minor. The court noted its decision conflicted with another appeals court decision, which is an issue the Florida Supreme Court will now take up.

Lawrence Huttman, one of the attorneys representing the boy's mother, said that while Florida law allows adults to waive their own rights to sue, it doesn't let parents do so for children. Pre-release forms shift the burden of preventing risk on to parents, who would be hard pressed to know before signing a form whether the operator of a motorcross park or other activity is operating safely.

"A pre-injury release actually encourages activity providers to cut costs at the expense of the safety of the children, perhaps even ignoring safety entirely because it removes their obligation of reasonable care toward children. Only the state has the authority to reduce the level of safety applicable to children," the attorneys representing the mother write in their brief.

Courts are required to approve settlement amounts above $15,000 involving children, a recognition that the state sometimes steps in to protect the rights of minors, Huttman said.

Bobby Jones has signed an affidavit acknowledging he fully understood what he was doing when signed the release form and attorneys for the motorcross park argue parents like Jones should have the ability to waive their children's right to sue.

"The Florida Legislature favors the ability of parents to make decisions on behalf of their children in numerous and wide-ranging activities. Under Florida law, several acts that would otherwise be criminal are expressly allowed with the permission of a parent," writes attorney William Wallace, who represents the park's owners.

The law varies from state to state, with some states allowing these types of releases and others not.

Briefs in support of the sports park have been filed by the National Association of Underwater Instructors and the American Motorcyclist Association. Lindsey Brock, who wrote the underwater instructors brief, said he also represents Orlando Watersports, a company that has had its case put on hold while this appeal is pending because it involves a similar claim.

Because insurance companies often require these release forms, some businesses worry that if they aren't able to use the forms, they won't be able to get insurance and would have to pay the direct costs of any accidents that occur. That could put some out of business, he said.

In court briefs, Huttman and others argue the dangers to businesses are overstated, in part because if they are operating in a safe manner then they won't be vulnerable to negligence lawsuits. The boy's mother, Bette Jones, said this week she continues to pursue the case because she wants to raise more awareness about the potential danger of ATVs.

She's hopeful the Florida Supreme Court decision will allow her to actually move forward with a trial.

"It's been probably the roughest five years of my life," Jones said. "I think about it every day. I live it every day."

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Postby Marina » Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:05 pm

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http://www.pnj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/articl ... /806100335

Markes awarded full custody of child
From staff reports • June 10, 2008



A woman exonerated on a felony child neglect charge after authorities learned her child suffered from a rare developmental disorder recently was granted full custody of her child.


Erin Markes, 19, of Pace was granted full custody of her 4-year-old son Jaden, who suffers from a rare form of the developmental brain disorder lissencephaly.

The State Attorney's Office dropped the criminal charge against Markes on May 3 after a three-month investigation.

The child has remained in a hospice care facility under the care of the Department of Children and Families. The agency had oversight of the child, but Markes was allowed visits. The child will stay in the hospice facility.

Markes was arrested in late-March and charged with child neglect when she took her 15-pound son to the Sacred Heart Hospital emergency room.

Children with lissencephaly often have a hard time feeding, and suffer from seizures and motor-retardation. They can appear malnourished and require almost constant care.

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Postby Marina » Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:02 pm

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http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breakin ... 74925.html

Private data posted on Web, blogs concern DCF

Posted on Wed, Jun. 18, 2008reprint print email

BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
[email protected]

Florida child welfare administrators have had little tolerance for investigators and caseworkers who air the agency's dirty laundry in public. In recent years, department chiefs have launched several investigations to determine who leaked records to reporters.

But with recent seismic changes to the media, Department of Children & Families administrators have found they now have a new enemy: websites and blogs in which agency employees can post sensitive information directly, without even speaking to a reporter.

The top DCF administrator in Lee County, Harriet ''Cookie'' Coleman -- who is a former Miami-Dade Police major -- recently launched an inspector general investigation to identify the employee who had posted comments on a Fort Myers newspaper website that reported on the death of a Cape Coral child with a long DCF history.

''Some of the blog comments appeared to contain information from someone having specific knowledge about the current protective investigation [into the child's death] and/or previous investigations that had been conducted on the family,'' the inspector general report said.

Erin Geraghty, a DCF spokeswoman in Tallahassee, said the proliferation of websites, blogs and comment sections is a challenge to the agency, which is struggling to strike a balance between Secretary Bob Butterworth's desire for greater transparency and the need to protect the privacy of agency clients.

''We have . . . already revised both our privacy/confidentiality training and our separate open government training to complement one another and clearly explain the importance of respecting protected information and our obligation to maintain privacy,'' Geraghty said.

Kelly McBride, an ethics instructor at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, said she expects ``stuff like this will come up more and more.''

''People think they are being completely anonymous, hiding behind screen names of their own creation, but they are not as protected as they think they are,'' McBride said.

Though most newspaper websites allow readers to post comments without using their real names, moderators or producers usually can identify at least an e-mail or IP address for each poster. That's why most media sites do not promise readers that their identities will be protected if a law enforcement or regulatory authority asks questions.

''I don't think newspapers have made any promises of confidentiality'' to readers who post comments, McBride said. ``I don't think a shield law, if there was one, would apply in this case.''

On Feb. 21, The News Press in Fort Myers reported that 6-year-old Joshua Jenkins had been savagely beaten to death -- allegedly by his stepfather -- after DCF investigators had essentially ignored three reports to the state's abuse hot line that the boy had been injured in prior beatings.

Joshua's stepfather, Phillipe Gayle, 26, has been charged with first-degree murder.

The story was posted on the newspaper's website, which also allowed readers to comment on the article. According to the inspector general's report, some of the comments posted to the site appeared to originate with a caseworker or investigator with detailed inside knowledge of the case.

Reacting to the comments, Coleman asked for an audit of the state's child welfare computer system, called Florida Safe Families Network, or FSFN, to identify department or contract employees who had inappropriately accessed reports on Joshua and his family, the inspector general's report says. Coleman identified seven people who had access to the records.

''Ms. Coleman then notified the [inspector general] and requested an investigation to determine if the seven individuals had a legitimate business reason for accessing the intake report and/or the FSFN case,'' the report said.

At least one of the DCF employees who read details of the case on the agency's computer said she reviewed the case after Joshua died as a training tool to learn from the mistakes of other investigators -- an action that was confirmed by two of her bosses. Using such cases as a training tool has been discontinued, the report said.

The inspector general investigation failed to identify the employee who posted confidential information, and the case was closed with no action.

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Postby Marina » Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:59 pm

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http://www.miamiherald.com/news/florida ... 10118.html

CHILD WELFARE

Housing of foster kids blasted
Too many Broward foster children live in large shelters, a policy that can harm children, a private consultant warned.

Posted on Sat, Jul. 19, 2008reprint print email
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BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
[email protected]

Broward County's privately run foster care agency houses far too many children -- including babies -- in large group homes and shelters, a practice many states have banned because it can cause ''serious, long-lasting harm,'' a consultant warned.

ChildNet has a ''strong reliance'' on shelters and group homes and must begin to wean itself from the controversial practice, said child welfare consultant Peter Digre in a report released Friday.

''Shelter care is acceptable only for those teens who need extensive assessment, who may create a hazard to other children in a foster home, or for whom finding a proper home is very difficult,'' wrote Digre, a former Florida Department of Children & Families administrator, in his 11-page report.

''Even in those cases,'' he suggested, ``shelter care should be avoided.''

Emilio Benitez, ChildNet's chief, called the report ''a road map'' to improving Broward's child welfare effort.

''This is an opportunity for us to embrace change,'' he said. ``I think this report is a good document to bring back to the community.''

Digre visited ChildNet centers between June 23 and June 26.

He found 42 children under age 5 were living in group settings, in addition to 48 children between the age of 6 and 11, he wrote.

Digre listed ''serious, long-lasting harm to young children's emotional and cognitive development'' as one of the consequences of the extensive use of large shelters.

''We now have reliable evidence from controlled studies that even short-term stays in shift care adversely impacts the development of babies and young children,'' he wrote.

And the harm caused by such living arrangements is greatest for very young children, Digre wrote. 'In no sense can 30 days be `short term' in the context of an infant or toddler's sense of time,'' he added.

CHANGES MADE

Perry Borman, Palm Beach County's top DCF administrator who is overseeing Broward temporarily, said ChildNet has increased the number of licensed foster home beds by 20 percent in recent months, for a total of 1,000 current beds.

At the same time, the number of children in shelters has declined by 30 percent.

Still, such a shift in philosophy is difficult to achieve quickly, Borman said, noting, ``You don't just do that overnight.''

Benitez said some of the recommendations already are under way, ``but there is not an overnight fix. Those things I can implement immediately, I am doing.''

A DCF spokeswoman said Digre was paid $5,000 in addition to travel expenses for the report, and the consultant reviewed about 700 pages of records in addition to visiting ChildNet facilities.

ChildNet, which oversees all foster care, licensing and adoption services in Broward County under contract with DCF, was created in June 2003 as part of a sweeping overhaul of Florida's long-troubled child welfare system.

In recent years, the relationship between ChildNet's leaders and DCF's Broward staff has been strained -- with DCF Broward administrator Jack Moss repeatedly warning that the group was at risk of losing its contract without significant reform.

Among Digre's other findings:

• ChildNet should recruit more foster parents in communities with large numbers of children in care, ensuring that fewer children have to leave their schools and neighborhoods when they are taken from their parents.

• The agency must do more to help older teens prepare for their lives after foster care, including ensuring they have a place to live, an opportunity to stay in school and an older mentor to help smooth the transition.

• ChildNet, DCF and the Broward Sheriff's Office, which investigates child abuse allegations, must develop a protocol for handling allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children in foster care and shelters, especially children over 12, for whom there was much ''confusion'' over whether child-on-child violence must be reported to the state.

PRESERVING FAMILIES

Among his recommendations, Digre suggests ChildNet administrators consider using existing shelters to house both children and their mothers, and fathers, if possible, by using a new federal money stream that allows foster care dollars to be spent in efforts to preserve struggling families.

''This avoids compounding the problems of neglect and poverty with those of separation and creates potential to provide intensive and comprehensive help to the whole family,'' Digre wrote.

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Postby Marina » Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:34 pm

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/11/25/ ... 227635600/

Florida same-sex adoption ban struck down
Published: Nov. 25, 2008 at 12:53 PM

MIAMI, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- A Miami child welfare judge ruled Tuesday that a Florida law banning adoption by same-sex couples is unconstitutional, observers said.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said the law had "no rational basis," WFOR-TV, Miami, reported. Her decision supported efforts by Frank Gill, 47, and his unidentified partner to adopt two young boys they have been raising as foster children since 2004.

The ruling is expected to set off a protracted legal battle pitting state child welfare officials against civil libertarians. Analysts told The Miami Herald that Lederman's decision is likely to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Witnesses for the Florida Department of Children and Families testified that children raised by same-sex parents are at significantly higher risk of mental illness and substance abuse than those raised by heterosexual couples. Such children, they say, also face social stigmas from a disapproving culture, the Herald reported.

But social scientists testifying for Gill said such children have no disadvantages compared with their peers.

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Postby Marina » Fri Nov 28, 2008 8:30 pm

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/loc ... 1137.story

DCF: We failed baby who died, had wrong focus

Helen Eckinger | Sentinel Staff Writer
November 19, 2008

The Department of Children and Families has found that it failed to ensure the safety of a 5-month-old Lake County boy who died under suspicious circumstances earlier this month.

The agency criticized itself in a report Tuesday for focusing too much on how Gabriel Golden's biological parents treated him and not enough on how he was being treated by his caregivers, Ashley and Tammi Baker of Leesburg.

The Bakers, who had been investigated at least 14 times since 2004, were Gabriel's caretakers when he died at Leesburg Regional Medical Center on Nov. 3.

An autopsy revealed that his skull had been fractured in two places. The Lake County Sheriff's Office and DCF are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death, and no charges have been filed.



He died less than three weeks after the agency closed an investigation alleging that he was being neglected by his biological parents, Andrew and Andrea Golden.They gave the Bakers full legal custody of their son in September because they weren't able to care for him financially, a DCF report said.

"In terms of the investigation, we followed through and we really focused on the biological family," said Bill D'Aiuto, the administrator for DCF's 5th Circuit, which includes Lake County. "Looking back, we should have focused more on the Bakers, who were the actual caregivers."

Shortly before the Bakers received custody of Gabriel, DCF began investigating allegations that his biological parents left him with others for days and that they were relying on handouts from local churches.

While the investigation was being conducted, the Goldens relinquished custody of their son to the Bakers, and the DCF investigation found that while there were some indications that Gabriel was being neglected by his biological parents, that point was largely moot now that he was being cared for by the Bakers.

The agency said it should have focused on Ashley Baker's criminal history, which includes more than 25 arrests, mainly on fraud charges, and on the agency's history with the couple: At least 14 DCF investigations have involved either Tammi or Ashley Baker, and in some cases both.

In the majority of those cases, DCF found no wrongdoing on the part of the couple.

The two children involved in most of the investigations have been placed in the care of a family friend, according to Carrie Hoeppner, a spokeswoman for DCF.

D'Aiuto said it's unclear whether the agency would have removed Gabriel from the custody of the Bakers if the couple had been the focal point of the investigation into his well-being, adding that the agency considers foster care as a measure of last resort.

"Initially, we probably would have looked to provide them with services and to maintain the situation that the Bakers and the Goldens had put together," D'Aiuto said.

The review contains several recommendations for how DCF can avoid tragedies like Gabriel's in the future.

The agency will decide later whether the investigator and supervisor involved in Gabriel's case will face disciplinary action, Hoeppner said.

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Postby Marina » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:11 am

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/jan/27 ... tect-baby/

Report: Child Welfare System Failed To Protect Baby


By SHERRI ACKERMAN | The Tampa Tribune

Published: January 27, 2009

TAMPA - A day after a Port Richey father was charged with murdering his baby, a state review found child welfare authorities failed to protect the little girl.

Thomas James Ludwig, 24, got custody of his newborn twins in October after his girlfriend gave birth while jailed in Marion County.

State and local officials agreed to give him custody, but no one checked whether he could properly care for them, said Nick Cox, a regional director for the Florida Department of Children & Families.

Caseworkers also failed to follow up to ensure the young man had access to services such as parenting classes, Cox said.

"It's not as much a systemic issue," he said late Tuesday, minutes after releasing DCF's review. "It's failures."

On Dec. 20, Ludwig, of 9845 Richwood Lane, and his roommate left the babies in a back room while they checked out a nearby house fire. When they returned 10 minutes, Ludwig found Diella lying motionless on a pillow on the floor.

She died the next day at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

Witnesses told detectives Ludwig grew frustrated by Diella's cries and at some point became forceful with her. An autopsy found she had skull fractures and hemorrhaging. Medical officials ruled the injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome, Cox said.

A Hillsborough County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, prompting Ludwig's arrest on a first-degree murder charge Monday night. The surviving twin is with a relative, Cox said.

DCF completed its review of the case Jan. 15. Late today, Cox released the report faulting his staff and private child welfare agencies. Workers should have done a better job planning for the babies' care, he said. They also should have assessed the father's living conditions and skills, and met with him frequently.

A caseworker in Pasco County gave Ludwig referrals for day care and, later, parenting classes, but no one knew the classes were full, Cox said.

Five days later, Diella was dead.

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Postby Marina » Sat May 23, 2009 6:36 pm

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/conte ... =7&cxcat=0

Gabriel Myers needed a parent, DCF task force says

By CAROL MARBIN MILLER

Miami Herald

Friday, May 15, 2009

At age 7, Gabriel Myers had a psychiatrist to adjust his mental-health drugs, a therapist to help him cope with having been sexually abused, a caseworker who visited him once a month and a foster father who was becoming increasingly punitive.

What he didn't have was a parent.


During the first meeting of a Department of Children & Families task force created to fix problems that may have resulted in Gabriel's suicide last month, members wondered whether a parent was what Gabriel needed most - someone who saw him as a little boy and not a combination of symptoms.


"There are all sorts of things that are happening around that child, but who's playing the parent role?'' asked Dr. Rajiv Tandon, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida and a member of the work group.


"This is the state's child. As a parent, I would want to know what's going on. I would want to know what's happening with my child ... I think somebody needs to think about Gabriel as a full person, but I'm not sure who was doing that.''


In the last weeks of his life, Gabriel learned that his birth mother would be sent to jail in Ohio, he moved from two foster homes, he changed psychiatric medications, he switched therapists and he was punished with increasing severity, records show. He lost his action-figure toys. His foster father threatened to cut his hair.


Reacting to the claims of a foster care administrator that Gabriel's behavior at school and at home had dramatically worsened the last few weeks of his life, panelist Bill Janes, DCF's mental health chief, shot back: "Gabriel is not out of control. His environment is out of control.''


"Gabriel is gone,'' Janes added. ``We've got to stop the next one.''


A sandy-haired boy with a wide, gap-toothed smile, Gabriel entered Broward County's foster care system in June 2008 when his mother, Candace Myers, was found passed out in her car in a restaurant parking lot.


Gabriel was in the car. So was an "extensive amount'' of narcotics, such as Xanax, in unmarked pill containers, records show.


On April 16 - 10 months after he entered state care - Gabriel locked himself in the bathroom of his Margate foster home and hanged himself with a retractable shower cord.


In an unusually frank discussion of the case contained in a 66-page report, DCF identified a host of deficiencies in the way Gabriel's care was managed. They included:



Several mental health workers who evaluated Gabriel said he did not meet the criteria for involuntary commitment, despite "several occasions where he threatened, through word or action, to kill himself and/or others.''



Gabriel's caseworker wrote reports with "boilerplate and inconsistent information.'' The worker would document Gabriel's good behavior at home and in school at the same time his foster father was sending e-mails pleading with the state for help.



The boy's caseworker failed to obtain consent from either Gabriel's mother or a judge before allowing the child to receive several mental health drugs. On several occasions, the caseworker checked a box indicating he had received parental consent, though no such permission had been sought.



The caseworker never told Broward County Schools administrators that Gabriel was lagging behind academically and would have benefited from an educational plan tailored to help him improve — a recommendation made early in his care.



Florida caseworkers failed to discuss his case with their counterparts in Ohio, who had come in contact with Gabriel in 2002. Caseworkers failed to get Gabriel's Ohio social work records. They also failed to tell Ohio authorities that Gabriel claimed he had been molested by an older boy there while living with grandparents.


In his opening remarks, DCF Secretary George Sheldon told panelists to take a "broad look'' at Gabriel's case for hints at what the department can do better.


In particular, though, Sheldon wants the task force to look at how DCF can better regulate the use of mental-health drugs among foster kids and better treat children who have been sexually abused.


"I am not asking you to assess blame,'' Sheldon said. "What I am asking is that you examine the tragic death of Gabriel Myers to see what it brings to the table. What can we learn from this case to improve our system statewide? What can we put in place so that this tragedy will not happen again?''


"We've got to get every component of the system right when dealing with these children,'' he added.


"Nobody can have a bad day. There's too much at stake.''

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Postby Marina » Sat May 23, 2009 6:52 pm

http://www.sunnewspapers.net/articles/f ... 801&fnpg=0


last updated at 5/15/2009 8:50:25 AM
Gov. Crist signs foster care bill


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Current and former foster children would gain access to their own state records for medical and educational purposes under a new law signed by Gov. Charlie Crist.

The governor signed the bill (SB 126) Thursday at the Children's Services Council of Broward County.

It also would give potential foster and adoptive parents access to information about children they are considering caring for or adopting.

Another provision requires the Department of Children and Families to keep records on foster children until they reach their 30th birthdays.

Crist also signed a bill (SB 1128) providing foster and disabled homeless children with advocates to help them make educational decisions.

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Postby Marina » Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:46 am

http://www.panhandleparade.com/index.ph ... he_system/

DCF Head Says Baby’s Death “A Failure of the System”
07/30/09 - 02:27 PM


Tallahassee, Fla:

The Florida Department of Children and Families failed in its mission over the death of a baby boy in Broward County, according to the leader of DCF.

Secretary George Sheldon says he thinks his hotline operators should have acted with a greater sense of urgency in the case of one-year-old Bryce Barros, who died earlier this month under mysterious circumstances.

Barros was caught in the middle of an allegedly abusive relationship between his mother and father, who were sent to Broward County’s Domestic Violence Court. That’s where Judge Eileen O’Connor got involved.

O’Connor was concerned about the safety of Bryce Barros, so she faxed three complaints to DCF’s abuse hotline, hoping it would prompt the agency to investigate.

But hotline counselors rejected the judge’s complaints and did not follow up because there were no specific allegations of abuse to the baby. Sheldon says that was a mistake.

Bryce’s cause of death is under investigation. A preliminary report indicates the boy’s symptoms are consistent with blunt force trauma, but investigators cannot rule out the possibility of a deadly virus.

Ultimately, Sheldon says DCF and the court share blame for not communicating with each other very well and he says his agency will learn from the boy’s death.

“What happened is a regrettable tragedy when a child dies and I think we’ve got to take that seriously and I think we’ve got to learn from this event as we do anytime there’s the death of a child.”

“Anytime a child dies, it’s a failure of the system and I think we’ve got to take it seriously. But I think there were some very well meaning people, both at the court and at the hotline, and I think no matter how good we get and we need to keep getting better, no matter how good we get, we cannot cure every dysfunctional family and I think that’s a sad reality.”

“Quite frankly I think it is a case that should have been taken by the hotline. The facts that the court sent did not include an allegation of abuse, which is a standard under the statute, but I believe it was a court order and I don’t care if the court order comes from a traffic judge or a domestic violence judge, it’s still a court order. So we’re refining the protocols at the hotline.”

Sheldon says there was a breakdown in communication between the court and DCF, and there should have been a greater sense of urgency over the case.

“Faxes and e-mails did not eliminate the telephone and I think both the court as well as the department should have picked up the telephone and exercised a sense of urgency on any kind of case like that.”

Sheldon is critical of his hotline operators and the court for not picking up the phone and talking with each other directly about the case.

He says his agency takes the failure seriously and will refine its protocols at the hotline.

But he adds that no matter how good DCF gets at its job, the sad reality is the state, quote, “cannot cure every dysfunctional family.”

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Postby Marina » Sat Aug 08, 2009 5:51 pm

http://cbs4.com/local/DCF.department.of.2.1119438.html

Aug 7, 2009 3:27 pm US/Eastern
DCF Goes High-Tech To Help Keep Track Of Kids
Florida Is Among The First In The Country To Use This Technology
The Project Is Only In Miami Now
DCF Hopes To Launch It Statewide By Mid October

...
Now at each home visit, the child's picture is taken, stamped with a date, time and GPS coordinates...

More than 70 Florida child-welfare workers falsified records in the last two years, leaving 14 children in unsafe homes and causing the state Department of Children and Families to temporarily lose track of at least six other children.

The falsified records included reports about mandatory monthly visits with foster children and reports about child abuse investigations, according to state records. Caseworkers questioned about phony paperwork repeatedly complained they had been assigned too many children to watch...


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