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Article: Probes Into Alleged Abuse, Neglect at Florida Disabled Home Highlight Concerns

As guardians, advocates and attorneys for Florida’s most vulnerable children fight to prevent wrongful death and personal injury among at-risk children, we continue to learn of instances statewide where some levels of institutional care leave advocates wanting greater oversight. The Florida Department of Children and Families and regulatory officials have investigated claims of abuse and neglect at facilities statewide. One such facility is the Carlton Palms Educational Center in Central Florida, which has been the subject of such inquiry at least 140 times. The facility, which serves children and residents with severe disabilities, never has been disciplined, according to a recent news article.

No disciplined even followed the death last year of Paige Elizabeth Lunsford, a severely autistic and non-communicative 14-year-old child who almost immediately after admission to the facility in 2013. Soon after her arrival, she began retching, throwing up, was unable to eat and thrashed and flailed uncontrollably, according to those reports.

Soon, caregivers at the facility put the girl in restraints. But they never sought care beyond the teachers, nurses or doctor on staff. They never took her to an area hospital. As she lay with her wrists, ankles, biceps and waist bound, Paige grew increasingly ill.

The child from Margate, Florida, eventually died.

The Florida Department of Children and Families deemed her a “victim of medical neglect,” according to a news report.  A medical examiner eventually ruled that Paige died from dehydration that came on from “a severe but treatable infection,” the Herald reported.

From Miami to Central Florida and throughout the state, the Florida Department of Children and Families has investigated – and has been itself investigated – for hundreds of reports of abuse, neglect and even the wrongful deaths of children in its care or in institutions where it sends vulnerable and medically fragile children.

Even when a news organization’s investigation revealed 477 Florida kids had died while known to be at risk of abuse, neglect or physical harm in their current home settings, nothing has put an end to the litany of suffering endured by the state’s at-risk and medically needy kids.

It’s vital that regulators watch the healthcare providers, many of which are contracted by the state to render such care. Otherwise, these kids may suffer horrible lives – and deaths.


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