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Archive for March, 2011

Medicaid Reform Would Limit Families of Child Abuse, Injury, Death Right to Sue

A Medicaid-reform effort has lawmakers seeking to limit the rights of poor people to sue doctors, hospitals and child-welfare companies. “In the midst of expanding HMO-style management in Medicaid, the Legislature is passing a raft of proposals that limit the liability of Medicaid doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and private community-based care companies,” writes the Miami Herald.

Backers of the legislation include doctors and hospitals, the paper writes. Because they’re working for the state (which itself is shielded from lawsuits and some damage awards), the Medicaid providers and child-welfare companies should receive the same protections.

Opponents of the proposed legislation, including Democrats, child advocates and trial attorneys, claim such legislation will hold no one accountable in such cases like Nubia and Victor Barahona. The two Miami children allegedly were abused by their adoptive parents. Such legislation also would help the insurance industry, the paper wrote. Read the entire story here.

North Florida Couple Sues Community Based Care Foster Agency After Child Abuse to Adopted Kids

March 30th, 2011   No Comments   Abuse, Adoption, Court Cases

All the couple wanted was a “forever family” when in 2009 they adopted foster children as their son and daughter via Family Support Services of North Florida. The couple soon discovered the boy and girl, now 6 and 8 respectively, had been in four foster homes and a failed adoption and suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse — none of which was ever disclosed (as required by law) by the community based agency.

The signs soon were clear. The boy punches his nanny. The girl threatens to kill her adoptive mother. Their savings have been depleted seeking care for the children.

The couple were in Jacksonville, Florida, Tuesday, filing a lawsuit that seeks money to care for the children, plus damages for pain and suffering. It says the agency failed to keep track of JD and WD, as they are named in the lawsuit, or advise the new parents of abuse in the foster homes, at least one of which later was closed, said the parents’ attorney.

“My clients were told the reasons why that home was closed were unknown,” the attorney said. “Records reflect that home was closed due to physical abuse on our clients’ children and/or other foster children.”

Read the news story here.

Brutal Child Deaths, Task Force Investigations Nothing New to Florida Deparment of Children and Families

Nubia Barahona, Kayla McKean, Bradley McGee, Corey Greer, Rilya Wilson, Lucas Ciambrone, Beaunca Jones, Nia Scott, Alexandria Champagne, Saydee Alvarado, Walkiria Batista and Jonathan Flam. For the Florida Department of Children and Families — and its predecessor organizations — these names represent children who were reported being injured, abused, tortured or in harm’s way, and who later ended up dead at their caregivers’, families or foster families’ hands. Such cases continue to raise red flags and alarms regarding claims of personal injury and wrongful death.

Most also were the subject of extensive “blue panel” reports that recommended extensive changes to the way the state and its private community based care providers rendered care. Yet, the deaths still came.

The reports number about two dozen compiled over the past 20 years “blasting Florida’s troubled child welfare system,” the Miami Herald reported. “Each resulted from a scandalous child death. Each found similar faults with the system and were soon followed by promises from leaders with the state’s Department of Children & Families to make Florida’s children safer. Fast forward to Nubia’s death this year, and the cycle continues.”

Read the entire story here.

Nubia Barahona’s Death Places Spotlight on Florida’s Largest Private Child Welfare Agency

The worries and worst fears of Florida’s guardians, advocates and attorneys concerned with the welfare of foster children and vulnerable citizens statewide under the care of private child welfare service providers are coming clear with the death of Miami adopted child, Nubia Barahona.

As the Miami Herald wrote today, “After the most scandalous child death in a decade, chinks are beginning to show in the armor of the state’s largest private provider of child welfare services, Our Kids.

“Miami-Dade’s 5-year-old privately run child welfare agency is paid $100 million each year to protect thousands of abused and neglected children. But in recent months, it has been forced to defend itself.”

“When the state of Florida said we were not doing well with our child abuse and child welfare efforts, there were people in the community who raised their hands and said, ‘We can do a better job’ — and by that they meant there will be fewer dead bodies, better outcomes for children,’’ Florida Sen. Rhonda Storms, chair of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, told the Herald.

Read the entire story here.

Palm Beach County (Florida) Judge Agrees Barahona Move to Miami

Jorge Barahona, the Miami, Florida, adoptive father who was found with 10-year-old Victor Barahona in critical condition and twin Nubia Barahona dead in Jorge’s pick-up truck — both victims of alleged abuse — will be moved to Miami, a Palm Beach County judge has ruled.

The news follows a panel’s findings that Florida Department of Children and Families case workers’ efforts in the Barahona case were shoddy and was the result of “fatal ineptitude.”

Judge Karen Miller earlier this week approved moving Jorge Barahona to Miami-Dade County, where he will face multiple criminal charges. Read the entire story here.

Editorial: Investment in Florida Child Welfare System Crucial

The Miami Herald today posted a compelling editorial regarding continued funding of the Florida Department of Children and Families — the state’s lead organization in the protection of vulnerable foster and adopted children. Said the Herald, DCF must get the funding and resources it needs.

“The new head of the Department of Children & Families is right: His agency and its partners were complicit in the tragic death of 10-year-Nubia Barahona. Secretary David Wilkins has pinned the blame not just on mistakes made by select employees, but on a systematic failure of Florida’s child welfare system.

“The question is, with $190 million in budget cuts looming, will Mr. Wilkins’ mea culpa make any difference to the abused, missing and vulnerable children who need help across the state?” Read the entire editorial here.

News-Press Editorial: Florida DCF Cuts Could Cost Kids’ Lives

Low and inequitable pay, difficult hours and increasing demands on investigators. Managerial conflicts and allegations of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and a hostile workplace. The News-Press cites these conditions as having led more than half of child abuse investigators in Southwest Florida to leave what it called a “brutally difficult job” in the past year.

It’s under these circumstances that people wonder how deep budget cuts to the Department of Children and Families will affect employees –and the children and families they are there to protect.

From the News-Press editorial, “As the Legislature reins in state spending lawmakers must not make cuts that worsen the turnover among child abuse investigators in the state Department of Children and Families.

“That high turnover, at crisis level in Southwest Florida for the second time in recent years, directly endangers the lives of children who need state protection.” Read the entire editorial here.

Editorial: Gov. Scott Should Quash Plan to Cut Budget, Eliminate Positions at Florida DCF

March 17th, 2011   No Comments   Uncategorized

Editorial boards, guardians, attorneys and advocates are lining up against proposed cuts to the Florida Department of Children and Families budget. According to today’s editorial in the Florida Treasure Coast Newspaper, “Gov. Rick Scott just doesn’t get it.” Florida’s new Chief Executive called for slicing $172 million from DCF’s current $2.77 billion budget. That 1,849 positions.

The editors asked, “Has Scott familiarized himself with the details of the Nubia Barahona case? She’s the 10-year-old girl whose decomposed body was found last month in the back of her adoptive father’s pickup truck in West Palm Beach. Nubia’s twin brother, Victor Barahona, was found hours earlier. He was coated with toxic chemicals.”

The editorial board concluded, “No doubt the Department of Children and Families can — and will — learn to ‘work smarter’ in the wake of this egregious tragedy. But does Scott really think the agency can improve the state’s protective services for tens of thousands of Florida children by slashing the budget and cutting positions at the Department of Children and Families?”

Read the entire editorial here.

Call Made For Grand Jury Review of Florida Department of Children and Families Handling of Barahona Case

Apparently, the Florida Department of Children and Families’ blue ribbon panel wasn’t enough. Some now are calling for a grand jury investigation in the wake of the grisly death of Nubia Barahona and the critical injuries to her twin brother, Victor.

Past grand juries were able to identify failures and help correct the process. Wrote the Palm Beach Post, “Those grand jury reports a decade ago improved a system that never will be risk-free on its best day. And we don’t want the DCF now to shift away from keeping families together when possible and seeking out adoptive parents for foster children. But what happened to Nubia and Victor was so horrible that only an outside look can determine why these children were not protected.”

Read the entire editorial here.

‘The House is Horrific’: Records Detail Tragic Life of West Palm Beach Child

Jermaine McNeil was no stranger to the Florida Department of Children and Families Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-962-2873). No fewer than 10 reports had been called in by the time the boy – who was found dead and stuffed in a suitcase earlier this month – was five years old. One called his roach-infested home “horrific.”

Now the boy, and his sister, Ju’tyra, 6, are dead, along with their mother. And as with the case of Nubia and Victor Barahona, the twins found dead and critically injured, respectively, in February, DCF finds itself having to answer questions from child care advocates and others interested in how the agency handles these cases.  Read the entire story here.

Florida Department of Children and Families Fires Workers, Plans Changes – But Will Children Be Safer?

The Florida Department of Children and Families this week fired several workers and reprimanded others involved with the Nubia and Victor Barahona abuse case. But guardians and child welfare advocates are left to wonder: Will the dismissals and scoldings be sufficient? Will anything short of a systemic overhaul at DCF result in meaningful change at the agency that was chided by a panel for its “model of fatal ineptitude.”

As the Miami Herald wrote, just a “month after 10-year-old Nubia Barahona was found dead in the bed of her adoptive father’s pickup truck, state child welfare administrators fired two workers connected with the case, including the investigator assigned to an abuse report four days before the girl’s body was located.”

DCF Secretary David Wilkins also proposed changes to the beleaguered agency. Among his suggestions: a new model for performance measurement at the Florida Abuse Hotline (1-800-962-2873), the addition of some 80 child protective investigators, and a re-examination of investigators’ role as part of Florida’s child welfare system. Read the entire story here.

As Florida Handles Child and Foster Care Woes, New York State-Run Homes Face Abuse and Impunity

March 13th, 2011   No Comments   Abuse

A New York Times investigative series has revealed that “nearly 40 years after New York emptied its scandal-ridden warehouses for the developmentally disabled, the far-flung network of small group homes that replaced them operates with scant oversight and few consequences for employees who abuse the vulnerable population.”

Florida is not the only state with issues related to providing care to foster, state-managed and other vulnerable citizens. The paper’s investigation discovered “widespread problems in the more than 2,000 state-run homes. In hundreds of cases reviewed by The Times, employees who sexually abused, beat or taunted residents were rarely fired, even after repeated offenses, and in many cases, were simply transferred to other group homes run by the state.”

Read the entire story here.