child abuse

For years, claims of abuse, beatings, rapes and murder of students by staff have come from those who survived the Dozier School for Boys,  the now-closed state-run reform school in the Florida Panhandle.

Many families are still wondering what happened to their loved ones, and some are getting answers as researchers from the University of South Florida identify remains that have been exhumed from the grounds of Dozier.

Associated Press

 A father accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter off of a bridge to her death last week was ordered Monday to undergo a mental health evaluation and was appointed a public defender.

John Jonchuck appeared to refuse to answer questions during the hearing in Pinellas County. When a judge asked Jonchuck at a first appearance hearing last week if he wanted a court-appointed attorney, Jonchuck said he wanted to "leave it in the hands of God."

A South Carolina mother who drove her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach will learn her fate during a court hearing on her mental health.

During Tuesday's hearing in Daytona Beach, psychologists who treated 33-year-old Ebony Wilkerson will offer their opinion on whether she needs to be forcibly hospitalized for treatment.

If Circuit Judge Leah Case decides no hospitalization is required, Wilkerson could be released under the court's supervision.

The family of a 5-year-old girl who died after being taken into foster care has filed a federal lawsuit against Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The family says the failure to provide the child with a mandatory medical screening led to her death from untreated tonsillitis. According to the Times, the child went without a medical screening for three days, which is a violation of state requirements.

A mentally disabled woman who pleaded guilty to attempting to smother her baby withdrew her guilty plea on Monday, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Volusia County Sheriff's Office

A Volusia County woman has been charged in an attempted murder-suicide after serving non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner to her two children and ingesting it herself, the Orlando Sentinel reports. 

Administrators with the Florida Department of Children and Families had recommended that a child protection program administrator be fired after involvement in a 2013 case where a 2-year-old was killed by his mother’s boyfriend.

State child welfare officials are looking into what went wrong in their handling of an investigation of a Florida man who shot himself and his family in North Florida. The Florida Department of Children and Families say they were actually investigating the man weeks before the mass shooting in Bell. So, in the wake of the deadly rampage, could lawmakers be considering another DCF legislative fix?

About a week ago, Don Spirit shot his 28-year-old daughter Sarah and her six kids ranging in age from about three months old baby to 11-years-old.

A Mount Dora residential treatment center for deaf and autistic children is being accused of abuse and neglect, NBC News reports.

A Lake County home where a severely disabled teen died after 10 days of fever and illness has been the source of 148 neglect or abuse claims since 2001, the Miami Herald reports (paywall alert).

Though Paige Elizabeth Lunsford died in July 2013, the state’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities only filed an administrative complaint against the Carlton Palms Educational Center on Friday, after learning that the Herald was preparing to publish a story.

Child welfare advocates sense a “night and day” difference in the way the state will protect children at risk for abuse or neglect, the News Service of Florida reports. After a year of blistering criticism from the media and Legislature, the Department of Children and Families is increasing the number of child protection investigators and is implementing rapid response teams for child death cases. Legislators attending the DCF’s Child Protection Summit last week said they hope to make more tweaks to laws that helped institute changes, the News Service reports.

Investigators say a 3-year-old Central Florida girl suspected of being killed by her mother was determined to be safe six months before her death, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

An investigation into claims of severe abuse and possible death at the the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee has been launched, more than 50 years after it opened to help orphaned and troubled boys, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Hundreds of child advocates, officials and social workers told a federal panel in Tampa Thursday that Florida’s child death reforms are not enough to protect its children, the News Service of Florida reports. The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities heard hours of testimony about changes to a system where hundreds of children have died while on the state’s radar, NSF’s Margie Menzel reports.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping bill Monday aimed at overhauling the child-welfare system after hundreds of child abuse-related deaths in the past five years.

The new law calls for a fundamental shift in the way the Department of Children and Families investigates and responds to cases. It clearly states that protecting a child from abuse is paramount and more important than keeping a family together. In the past, DCF has placed a premium on putting fewer children in foster care and, instead, offering family services while the child remains at home.

Florida Department of Children and Families administrators vowed more transparency in the wake of the “Innocents Lost” investigation by the Miami Herald. But the agency actually is starting to delay and restrict the release of information, the Herald reports.  A new review by the Herald shows DCF started to black out the details about the deaths in the records in the midst of the newspaper’s investigation.  

A 19-year-old Port Richey woman was arrested after police said she was spotted on hospital video squeezing a 7-month-old relative until he became unresponsive.

Violet Mae Hinrichs was arrested on four counts of aggravated child abuse after St. Joseph's Hospital staff noticed bruising to the baby's neck.

A Florida Keys child whose family had “a long history” with Florida’s Department of Children & Families was found dead in his parents’ home,  the Miami Herald reports. Carter James Turcanu’s April 24 death came within months of two reports to DCF that his mother was spending most of her money on drugs and leaving her children with no food, the Herald reports.

Hope Remains for Child-Welfare Reform

Apr 30, 2014

It’s still unclear what the final version of Florida’s child-welfare reform legislation will look like this year, as the session draws to a close.

Several provisions that concern transparency and accountability could still be in play – both for the Department of Children and Families and for the community-based care agencies that provide adoption and foster-care services at the local level.

On Friday, an amendment to the Senate’s reform bill would have stripped out language requiring more oversight of the child-welfare system.

Fort Myers News-Press

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday named a new interim secretary who will take over the state's embattled child welfare agency amid intense scrutiny following hundreds of child abuse-related deaths.

Mike Carroll's appointment to the Department of Children and Families comes on the heels of a scathing series from the Miami Herald highlighting the deaths of 477 children in the past five years.

A Miami judge is criticizing child welfare administrators who wanted to leave three children at a home where their cousin died days earlier, according to the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee voted to combine three child welfare bills into one (SB 1666) on Wednesday, the News Service of Florida reports. In the wake of reports of children who have died after the Florida Department of Children and Families made contact with them, lawmakers are proposing several changes at the agency. It is unclear how much additional funding lawmakers will ask for; Gov.

This weekend, investigators continued to unravel multiple cases of child abuse as questions about child welfare loom across the state.

"Innocents Lost," a stunning Miami Herald series, recently described how 477 children died from abuse or neglect even though the Florida Department of Children and Families had already been warned they were in danger.

Nearly 100 Florida children who died from abuse or neglect after the state was warned of danger are missing from official reports over the past six years, refuting officials' claims that fewer children are dying, a yearlong Miami Herald investigation revealed.

Another in the “Innocents Lost” series by The Miami Herald, which began last weekend, tells the story of a 5-year-old girl who died despite warnings to the Department of Children and Families. The reporting team found 477 children in Florida died over six years after their families were warned of danger.

'Herald' Series Leads to $$ Talk

Mar 19, 2014
Florida Legislature

A Miami Herald investigation that found 477 children died over six years even though their families had been reported for abuse and neglect is beginning to have an impact in Tallahassee.

On Tuesday, as The Miami Herald published the final parts of its series, legislative leaders were talking about attacking the problem with money.

Nearly 10 years ago, the Florida Department of Children and Families decided that the preservation of families was of utmost importance, even in cases of child abuse or neglect. DCF decided it could  drastically  reduce the number of children taken into protective custody.

Thus, many children who at one time would have been placed in foster care or a group home were instead left with parents who abused or neglected them or were mentally ill or addicted to drugs -- problems of which DCF was aware.

A 3-year-old Florida boy was beaten with a broomstick and burned on his genitals, face and fingers before he died, according to an arrest report charging his mother with murder.

A Palm Beach County woman was charged with child neglect after a dentist found that her 2- and 3-year-old children had mouths riddled with cavities, the Palm Beach Post reports. The dentist, who saw the children at the request of the Department of Children and Families, found infections and a severe cavity on every tooth; six teeth were in such bad shape they had to be pulled.