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Dead Boy's Family on DCF Radar

A 2-year-old boy found dead in a Central Florida motel last week had been on the Department of Children and Families’ radar most of his life, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

More than 70 pages of DCF and Seminole County Sheriff’s Office reports document the short life of Justin Polk. The reports document poor living conditions, but do not allege abuse against the boy or his siblings, the Sentinel reports.

Most involve reports that his mother, Merissa Anderson, was the victim of abuse while her two children were in the home she shared with their father, according to the Sentinel.

Last week, Anderson and a current boyfriend, Jonathan Charapata, were arrested on child abuse charges after the boy was found unconscious in a hotel room where the family lived. Neither has been charged in the child’s death.

In another case, the father of a Coral Springs boy who died a year ago is suing DCF, saying the agency shouldn’t have allowed an unsupervised visit with the child’s mother, the South Florida Sun Sentinelreports.

Antwan Hope Jr., 4, died in June 2013, and his mother is “a part of the open investigation” into the boy’s death, according to Coral Springs police. But Destene Simmons, who had been approved for a weekend visit with the boy when he died, has not been charged, the Sun Sentinel reports.

The lawsuit alleges that DCF and ChildNet, which allowed the visit, were negligent in allowing it without supervision. The lawsuit says the mother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had previously been accused of trying to suffocate her son, the Sun Sentinel reports.

The father, Antwan Hope Sr., does not name Simmons as a defendant in the civil complaint filed in Broward Circuit Court.

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.