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DCF Decides Not to Act; Baby Dies

The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The state Department of Children and Families labeled a family as high-risk after the mother fell asleep driving drunk with a child unbelted in the front seat, but didn’t follow through; now a baby is dead, The Miami Herald reports. Editor’s note: Readers may encounter paywall. 

Catalina Marista Bruno was arrested after her 11-month-old son was found unconscious in her car with a body temperature of 109 degrees, lying unbelted in the front seat next to a beer can, the Herald reports. The child was later pronounced dead.

According to DCF reports, the agency had twice been involved with the family, which included three children. Six months prior to the death, after Bruno’s husband was arrested for beating her in front of the children, DCF deemed the children at “moderate risk,” the reports said.

The agency reports show it was called in again after Bruno fell asleep while driving drunk with her 4-year-old,  and at that time deemed the children’s risk level as “high.”  DCF had planned to put Bruno in alcohol treatment, the reports show, but that never happened and six months later, the baby died.

A DCF spokesperson told the Miami Herald that their decision not to intervene after the second incident was based on interviews with family and a substance abuse expert. 

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.