child deaths

August is Child Safety Awareness Month, and Florida officials are reminding motorists to always buckle up their kids.

Paris Byrd, the St. Johns County girl who died Tuesday after collapsing during basketball tryouts at R.J. Murray Middle School had an enlarged heart, the medical examiner found.

The world is doing a much better job of keeping babies alive long enough to become children, children alive long enough to become teens and teens alive long enough to fully grow up, according to a report in today's JAMA Pediatrics. "I think that the overall highlight of the report is good news," says Dr. Nicholas J.

Unsafe sleep is the number one cause of child deaths in Florida. That’s prompted an ongoing state campaign to prevent such deaths. And, one organization has more tips for parents and caregivers about their child’s sleeping conditions.

August is Child Safety Awareness Month, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles along with several other state agencies are partnering with law enforcement groups to recognize the importance of the month.

Department of Children and Families

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll told a Senate panel late last week that the state's child-protection system appears to have failed two Southwest Florida children whose bodies were found in recent days.

"In both these cases, there's no question we had system failure," Carroll told the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.

DCF, Senators Eye Ways To Bolster Child Protection

Oct 12, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

The chief of the Florida Department of Children and Families told lawmakers Thursday his agency is making progress at carrying out reforms but still has a long way to go.

A couple of measures aimed at helping Florida’s most vulnerable are now heading to the Senate floor, after passing their last committee Monday.

Brevard County Sheriff's Office

  Several recent, high-profile Florida murder cases have brought to light the need for increased mental health services.

Jessica Lacy McCarty, 33, was charged Saturday with the murder of her three young children in Palm Bay, the Orlando Sentinel reports. A Department of Children and Families investigation showed she had previously received mental health treatment from a community provider.

Pasco County Sheriff's Office

Child welfare officials have previously investigated a man who killed his mother and 9-year-old niece.

A SWAT team took 23-year-old Jason Rios into custody Thursday after a three-hour standoff at an unoccupied neighboring house. Rios, who suffers from mental illness, also injured another girl in the attack at their New Port Richey home.

Child protective officials had conducted previous investigations regarding the children but said there were no open investigations at the time of the attack. The last investigation was closed over six months ago.

In less than a week, officials will publish a state report asking whether the tragic death of a little girl last month could have been prevented as part of an investigation. But, a panel of lawmakers got a bit of a preview Wednesday.

Hours before Phoebe Jonchuck was thrown over a bridge allegedly by her father, the state’s child abuse hotline received a warning call that went ignored. It’s a call that’s gotten quite a bit of media attention.

Report: More Work Needed to Fix Child Protection System

Feb 3, 2015

A new report from the Florida Institute for Child Welfare --- created last year as part of a wide-ranging reform law --- calls for state leaders to go well beyond their previous efforts to fix the state's troubled child-protection system.

The 50-page report, submitted Friday to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, focused on "the need for a statewide, system-wide child welfare strategic plan" that pulls together the disparate parts of Florida's response to the abuse and neglect of children.

The two high profile death incidents that occurred in recent months has already spurred a number of changes to Florida’s child welfare agency. That was part of an update two panels in the House and Senate received Thursday as part of a presentation looking at a new law overhauling the agency.

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."

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 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.

DCF Chief: Partnerships Can Protect Kids

Sep 4, 2014
Department of Children and Families

The leader of Florida's embattled Department of Children and Families has pledged not only to save children's lives but to "protect the light" in their eyes.

DCF Interim Secretary Mike Carroll opened the annual Child Protection Summit in Orlando on Wednesday, calling the media scrutiny the department received after a series of child deaths last year "a double-edged sword."

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.

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.

Over the next few days, Gov. Rick Scott will examine the state’s $77 billion budget and decide, what if anything to veto. Among the health items in the budget is an increase in the personal spending allowance for long-term care Medicaid patients from $35 to $105 a month, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. Advocates say the increase is 25 years overdue.

Also awaiting Scott’s signature:

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.

Following another year in which too many children died, lawmakers promised to make Florida a safer place for the state’s at-risk children.  However, according to the Miami Herald, the legislators' own pet home-town projects have taken precedence in the budget.

Many children’s advocates claim that legislative leaders have failed to back their promises with actions that will actually help the state’s abused and neglected children. 

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.

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.

Family photo

Twenty children who had come into contact with the Department of Children and Families have died since April 11 -- four times as many as had previously been named, the Miami Herald reports. One was Jewel Re’nee Howard, a 3-year-old who had told her father of abuse inflicted by her mother’s boyfriend, who had a history of arrests and charges. DCF failed to act, which cost Jewel her life. 

After the unnecessary deaths of four Florida children under supervision of the Department of Children and Families, the agency has begun training 5,000 caseworkers across the state on how to assess a child’s safety, the Associated Press reports. 

So far this year, 15 children have died in the U.S. after they were accidentally left behind in hot cars. Florida has had four of those deaths, more than any other state. 

"We're at a high point for this time of year as far as how many deaths have happened," said Amber Rollins, director of, a national advocacy group focused on preventing non-traffic fatalities"It has so far been a very bad year." 

According to Rollins, 2010 was the worst year, with a total of 49 children who died from heatstroke inside vehicles.