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Florida DCF Workgroup to Research Death of Foster Child, Gabriel Myers

Department of Children and Families Secretary Convenes Workgroup to Evaluate Circumstances Surrounding Death of 7-year-old in Foster Care

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary George H. Sheldon today announced that the Department is establishing a  workgroup to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragic death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers.

Gabriel died on April 16 when police indicated he apparently hanged himself in the shower of his foster parents’ Margate home.

Following Gabriel’s death, the Department of Children and Families petitioned the court to release case files and notes relating to the child while in state care. Normally, case files are only made public following a death that is verified as a result of abuse or neglect, per Florida Statutes. However, DCF believed it was in the public interest to open the records to public scrutiny. A judge agreed and the petition was granted on April 22, 2009.

“It is difficult for any of us to comprehend how a child so young could have deliberately and consciously made the decision to end his life,” said Secretary Sheldon. “But in order to help prevent this type of tragedy from happening again, it is critical we review all available information to determine the factors that led to Gabriel’s death.”

“The workgroup will conduct a full inquiry into the facts of the case, in light of case management and judicial decisions, as well as determine the contributing effects that psychotropic drugs and sexual abuse had,” Sheldon continued.

The workgroup will be led by former assistant commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Jim Sewell. Other members include DCF Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Bill Janes; Pharmacy Director for the Agency for Health Care Administration Ann Wells; attorney and child advocate from Florida’s Children First Robin Rosenberg; and Rajiv Tandon, MD, psychiatrist with the University of Florida.

The Secretary has asked that the workgroup consult with professionals from many different areas during this process, including those in law enforcement, the courts, the school system, child welfare officials, the Department of Health, the Agency for Health Care Administration and health care practitioners.

“When a child comes into state care, we become the parent of that child and must actively participate in all decisions regarding that child.  To do otherwise would be shirking the responsibility of this Department,” said Sheldon.

The workgroup will be asked to prepare a report based on their findings. The report will be submitted to the Secretary and to the Department’s Task Force for Fostering Success, chaired by former Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

The Secretary will ask the Task Force to provider recommendations based on the workgroup’s report.ast week Secretary Sheldon directed DCF staff to do a thorough review of every foster child’s file to determine how many children in foster care have been prescribed psychotropic drugs and to what extent. A 2005 study found that 6% of children under the age of 18 in Florida were prescribed at least one psychotropic drug. That figure was nearly four times higher for foster children. “Much progress has been made since that 2005 study, but we need to continually review protocols to ensure children are not unnecessarily medicated or inadequately monitored if medicated,” said Sheldon.

“We need to develop a refined protocol for the use of these types of drugs in our children,” said Secretary Sheldon. “I want to ensure that prescription drugs of this nature are used appropriately, always under medical and judicial supervision and with consultation with DCF staff.”

“By reviewing the facts of this case carefully, we can work to continue to improve the child welfare system in Florida.  While much progress has been made, Gabriel’s death starkly reminds us that when it comes to a child’s life, we cannot relax.  Every decision we make profoundly affects the life of that child,” said Sheldon.


5 Responses to “Florida DCF Workgroup to Research Death of Foster Child, Gabriel Myers”

  1. Heidi Kiesler says:

    It sounds like there is finally someone who cares about children. These situations are so sad and unbearable for parents, like me, who feel helpless in the court system. My children have been traumatized from our seperation and now dcf is using all their efforts to make it permanent. I don’t have money for legal representation, but I need to have my children.

  2. It is tragic how these powerful drugs are being used and should be stopped. We are having a situation with our child, and we are trying to stop it before a tragic ending happens. I have written a generic atricle with some interesting links at http://hubpages.com/hub/starwriter.

  3. Terry Lee says:

    I am a single father who is living in Florida but i need some advice on how to go back to Philadelphia which is where my children are living. My wife passed away in 2005 and i left the children with her mother because i didn’t want them to be seperated. That was a promise that I made to my wife on her death bed. One of our other children called me earlier today and told me that DCF has taken custody of my children, and I need to know that they are ok, and how can I get them back. Please call me at (850) 693-5530>

  4. me me says:

    i know how you feel we are in that same situation my mom is trying to get us back and our advocate is trying all she can to prevent that

  5. This and the other stories regarding document why I put real effort into my cases as their Guardian ad Litem. One of these cases concern children who had been shuttled from two
    states, both with charges made and supposedly in process with DCF ; N.Carolina and W.Virginia; I was determined this would not happen in Florida.

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    Miami Gardens, Florida - December 20, 2012 - (AP) - DCF Chief David Wilkins Inspects Adult Nursing Home Where Child Died -- Florida's top child-welfare administrator secretary, Department of Children & Families Secretary David Wilkins, made a surprise visit to the troubled Golden Glades Nursing & Rehabilitation under investigation over its treatment of medically fragile children in state care and subject of one of the harshest federal fines in recent history after the death of a 14-year-old Tampa girl who was taken to the home last year despite her mother’s emphatic objections.

    Tallahassee, Florida - December 2, 2012 - (AP) - DCF Chief David Wilkins: Rilya Wilson's Death Spurred Important Changes -- In an editorial, Department of Children and Families chief David Wilkins writes, "As the current murder trial proceeds, it is important that Floridians know that Rilya’s tragic death was more than one awful incident. It spurred decisions that have made children safer today."

    Tallahassee, Florida - November 30, 2012 - (AP) - More Than 500 Children Adopted Across Florida During November -- More than 500 children from Pensacola to Miami were adopted during dozens of November celebrations of National Adoption Month. “Our goal for children in foster care is to find a forever family who will love them, accept them and give them the home that they deserve,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. "I am so proud of our agency and our partners who are always looking for a permanent home for our kids.”

    Miami, Florida - November 28, 2012 - Miami Herald - South Miami-Dade Woman Adopts Five Siblings -- A South Miami-Dade woman, Katrina Deshazior, 32 and a single mother of a teenager, adopted her drug-addicted sister's five children, because she “wanted to give them love.”.

    Miami, Florida - November 26, 2012 - Miami Herald - A League of Their Own: Special-Needs Kids Play Ball -- The Miami-Dade Miracle League offers children with mental and physical challenges the chance to play ball. Players ranging in age from 3 to 22 gathered at Suniland Park in Pinecrest on Nov. 17 for the Miami-Dade Miracle League’s inaugural game.

    Parkland, Florida - November 8, 2012 - (AP) - Broward School Bus Attendant Accused of Choking Autistic Boy, 13 -- A Broward County School District bus attendant is accused of choking an autistic boy on a bus ride from Westglades Middle School to the child's Deerfield Beach home, according to a Broward Sheriff's Office report. Darryl Blue, 48, of Fort Lauderdale, was charged with aggravated child abuse. The child, Moises Mancebo, has not been himself since the alleged Oct. 9 incident, his mother said.

    Coral Gables, Florida - October 31, 2012 - (AP) - Child Welfare Officials Discuss Human Trafficking -- Florida's child welfare officials are discussing their plans to fight human trafficking. The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet will hold its regular meeting Wednesday in Coral Gables at the University of Miami. In attendance will be Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins, Florida's Chief Child Advocate Zack Gibson and the Director of the Governor's Office of Adoption. The group will discuss the state's plans to fight human trafficking and provide assistance to victims. A new volunteer Advocate for Human Trafficking will also be named as part of the Governor's Office of Adoption and Child Protection.

    Tallahassee, Florida - October 29, 2012 - WFSU - Foster Kids Turn Up In Unlicensed Facilities -- The Florida Department of Children and Families is launching an investigation to figure out how a number of Florida foster children wound up in unlicensed homes. Florida DCF officials have identified a handful of kids who’ve been unlawfully placed in facilities that aren’t licensed by the Florida department. Spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said the department is working to make sure it won’t happen again. She said the placements were not made by DCF employees.

    Miami, Florida - October 25, 2012 - Miami Herald - Miami Archdiocese Suspends Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse The Archdiocese of Miami changed course Wednesday and suspended the Rev. Rolando Garcia, pastor of the St. Agatha Church, after an Iraq veteran accused him of abuse in the 1990s in Hollywood.

    Treasure Coast, Florida - October 24, 2012 - TC News - Thumb Down: Domestic Violence Remains a Major Problem in Florida FAMILY VIOLENCE: Last year, in Florida, there were 111,681 reports of domestic violence. Clearly, there were many more such situations that were not reported. Of those that were reported, 192 individuals died from that violence, representing almost 20 percent of all homicides in the state…The cycle of domestic abuse in Florida must end. Recognizing the problem and taking action are critical steps.

    Tallahassee, Florida - October 5, 2012 - 10 News Tampa Bay - Child Abuse Reports Increase Under New Florida Law Anyone in Florida can be charged now with a felony for failing to report child abuse. A new state law took effect this week that's being called the "Penn State law" because it followed the Jerry Sandusky child molesting scandal. The Protection of Vulnerable Persons law requires anyone to report child abuse to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Failure to do so could result in felony charges, or if someone at a university fails to report, the school could face fines of up to $1 million.

    Pembroke Pines, Florida - October 1, 2012 - Pembroke Pines Juvenile Center to Close After Contract Isn't Renewed A Pembroke Pines juvenile center with a history of complaints is scheduled to close its doors in January, officials say. The decision comes after the Broward Public Defender's Office in July had asked a three-judge panel to help scrutinize the academy — a 154-bed youth offender and treatment facility — over allegations of children being physically abused at the facility..

    New Smyrna Beach, Florida - September 18, 2012 - Deputies: DCF Worker Wanted Sex With Woman in Exchange for Clean Drug Test A former Florida Department of Children and Families investigator was arrested Friday for soliciting sexual favors from a New Smyrna Beach woman in exchange for using his own urine for her drug screening. Andrew Thomas, 32 (10/22/80), was taken into custody at his current home in Carlisle, Pa. on a warrant charging him with bribery by a public servant, official misconduct, and falsifying records.

    Tallahassee, Florida - September 10, 2012 - Mother Jones Rick Scott Rejects Health Care Funds That Would Keep Disabled Kids Out of Nursing Homes Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott loathes Obamacare so much that he turned down $40 million in federal health care funds that would keep hundreds of disabled kids at home with their parents, rather than warehoused in nursing homes. So says the Department of Justice, whose civil rights division recently investigated the situation in Florida.

    Miami, Florida - September 6, 2012 - State of Florida Child Abuse Hotline Upgraded Child welfare officials are overhauling the state abuse hotline, adding faster technology and retraining staff so they can provide investigators with more updated information about alleged abuse and a family's background before a home visit.

    Hollywood, Florida - August 15, 2012 - Police: Parents Arrested After Leaving Toddler Alone in Hard Rock Casino Hotel RoomThe parents of a 20-month-old were arrested after allegedly leaving the boy alone inside a Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino hotel room while the two went out for dinner and drinks. According to officials, the couple put the child to sleep on a bed and unplugged the telephone so he wouldn't be disturbed. Investigators with the Seminole Police said the child was left inside the room for at least 45 minutes.

    Central Florida - August 12, 2012 - Florida Hospital Claims Fertilizer Company Pushing Probe by Department of Children & FamiliesThe Department of Children and Families — with two other state agencies — conducted an unannounced inspection of The Florida Institute of Neurologic Rehabilitation last week, just days after Bloomberg News published a story outlining abuse allegations. The Institute says a local fertilizer company is pushing the probe and claims the charges are old and being rehashed as part of the nearby fertilizer company's efforts to gain a lucrative permit to extract millions of dollars of phosphate.

    Miami, Florida - August 12, 2012 - Miami Herald: Nightmare on Flagler Street: After Arrest of Parents, Neighbors, Cops Find Filthy MessThe arrest form was shocking, but so was the home on West Flagler Street. Used needles littered a dirty windowsill beside a bilingual Bible. Piles of brightly colored toys and soiled, smelly clothes covered the floor where cockroaches scurried through kitty litter between two stained mattresses. The smell was overwhelming; a blend of human filth, animal excrement and the stench from an empty, mildewed refrigerator.

    Los Angeles, California - August 6, 2012 - AP: Boy Scout Files Reveal Repeat Child Abuse Internal documents from the Boy Scouts of America reveal more than 125 cases in which men suspected of molestation allegedly continued to abuse Scouts, despite a blacklist meant to protect boys from sexual predators, the Los Angeles Times reported. A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files from 1970 to 1991 found suspected abusers regularly remained in the organization after officials were first presented with sexual misconduct allegations. In at least 50 cases, the Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to discover they had re-entered the organization and were accused of molesting again.

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida - August 3, 2012 - Miami Herald: Broward Sheriff's Office Investigates Death of Boy, 4, Left in Sweltering SUV Broward authorities are investigating the death of a 4-year-old boy left in a sweltering SUV for more than two hours by the 20-year-old daughter of a Sunrise day-care operator. Sources told The Miami Herald Thursday that the boy, Jordan Coleman, and seven other children had been taken to a Tamarac apartment complex by van on Wednesday, allegedly because the owner of 3C’s Day Academy was afraid that child-care-licensing administrators would visit and discover she was caring for more children than her license allowed.

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