DCF

AP Photo/Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office

Two weeks before a Florida man fatally shot his daughter and six grandchildren, someone called the state child abuse hotline, worried that adults were doing drugs in front of the kids, according to documents released Monday.

Authorities said 51-year-old Donald Spirit called 911 from his mobile home Thursday warning he might hurt himself or others. By the time a deputy arrived, Spirit had committed suicide. And he had killed 28-year-old Sarah Spirit and her six children, including an infant girl born in June.

A child welfare caseworker, two psychologists who failed to report suspected child abuse, and the cousin in charge of caring for a severely disabled preteen have been charged by a Broward County grand jury in her starvation death, the Miami Herald reports. The body of 12-year-old Tamiyah Audain was found emaciated and covered in bedsores in the home of her caregiver last year, as reported by the Herald in its series Innocents Lost. 

A former Department of Children and Families secretary will challenge incumbent Pam Bondi in the race for attorney general, the News Service of Florida reports. Democrat George Sheldon, who was DCF secretary under Gov. Charlie Crist and was an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defeated House Minority Leader Perry Thurston in Tuesday’s primary. As News Service reports, Bondi led the Republican challenge of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The state caseworker who visited the home of 2-year-old Tariji Gordon the morning she died has been arrested, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Jonathan Irizarry, a child welfare worker for a non-profit contractor for the Florida Department of Children and Families, had recorded that the child was awake and doing fine, but then changed his story when questioned by authorities, the Sentinel reports.

While the Florida Department of Children and Families has made some progress in revving up child protection, a Miami-Dade grand jury says DCF is guilty of trying to hide information from the public, the Miami Herald reports.

The Department of Children and Families is now responsible for the inspection and certification of “safe houses” for victims of human trafficking, under one of two new laws signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The bills signed Tuesday help establish screening tools to identify if a child has been sexually exploited and allow DCF to create the safe spaces in communities where none currently exist, according to the News Service of Florida.

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.

DCF

After an embarrassing article appeared in The Miami Herald in September, a regional supervisor for the Department of Children and Families ordered workers not to file required incident reports on the deaths of children who were supposed to be safeguarded by DCF, the Herald reports.

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:

It will be “quite a while” before Floridians know whether Florida's Department of Children and Families is headed in the right direction, editorials in the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel say.

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 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.

The Florida Senate rejected a last-minute amendment supported by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration that would have severely weakened a bill meant to overhaul child welfare laws,  the Miami Herald reports.
 

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.

Higher speed limits, medical marijuana, and child abuse are among the issues in the news today as the Legislature hits its end-of-session frenzy.

Here’s a look at the progress of several health-related bills:

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.

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

According to newly released video footage of a foster-care hearing in December, the Department of Children and Families urged a judge to reunite a mother with her children, one of whom was found dead two months later, the Orlando Sentinel reports. 

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.

Part of the plan to reform Florida’s child-welfare system would update the financial and accountability rules  for the organizations that provide adoption, foster care and case-management services, the

The Children's Academy of Southwest Florida

A Manatee County preschool will no longer be able to provide care to children 12 months and younger, following the recent death of a baby at the center, according to the Bradenton Herald.

The Department of Children and Families issued an emergency suspension of the Children's Academy of Southwest Florida’s infant care section Thursday. An investigation into the baby's death revealed several licensing violations.

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.

 

The head of Florida’s Department of Children and Families is asking Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to increase her department’s budget.

An official with Florida Department of Children & Families met with state senators Tuesday to explain the department’s efforts in the wake of “at least” 40 child deaths between January and July while under state care.

A report by the Casey Family Programs released Tuesday to Florida Senate and House committees showed “a particularly bleak picture” of the state’s systemic failure to protect children.

Casey found that investigators do not take into account factors such as domestic violence and drug abuse when investigating child-welfare complaints.

A mother in West Boca faces a child abuse charge after giving her 6-year-old son one of the Adderall pills that had been prescribed for her, but not him.

Child-welfare workers thought Michael McMullen and his three siblings weren’t safe with their mother, so they sent them to live with their grandmother. They failed to note that conditions there were even worse.

At the house in Lee County, sheriff’s deputies say, the children slept in cages. They were beaten and perhaps even drugged. On Oct. 19, Michael was wrapped up in blankets and tied so tightly that he couldn’t breathe. He died.

George Sheldon, the former head of the state Department of Children and Families, has announced he's running for Florida Attorney General.

He'll be up against incumbent Pam Bondi, a Republican from Tampa. In his Facebook post, Sheldon said the race is about "character," and pledged to be above partisan politics. 

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