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Disappearance, Presumed Death of Miami Foster Child Rilya Wilson Puts Florida DCF in the Spotlight

September 10th, 2011   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

By Gloria W. Fletcher

The tale of Rilya Wilson is as heartbreaking as they come – even if the Florida Department of Children and Families, child care attorneys, legal advocates, guardians and others don’t know for certain the whereabouts of the Miami foster child. Wilson was 4 when she disappeared in 2000. Her case raised an uproar among child welfare advocates who let it be known that there were over 400 missing foster children like Rilya on any one day in Florida.

Although there were exhaustive efforts to find Rilya and some systemic reforms implemented to find other missing foster children, some 11 years later, no one has seen her since – and her onetime caregiver, Geralyn Graham, stands accused of kidnapping, abusing and smothering her. Indicted in 2005, she is scheduled to stand trial for first degree murder later this year.

Throughout the intervening years, the Florida Department of Children and Families has borne the brunt of criticism of its handling of such cases. Such was the case with the death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona and the critical injuries suffered by her twin brother, Victor, allegedly at the hands of adoptive parents Jorge Barahona and his wife, Carmen. The couple faces the death penalty, if convicted.

These cases, like others before it, shine the light of urgency on a failed system that has been the subject of recurring “repairs” – only to fail again. Finding justice for Rilya, Nubia and Victor will be a start.

“Shame on us if we cannot get justice for this little girl,” David Lawrence, former publisher of the Miami Herald and the South Florida advocate who led blue ribbon panels that looked into DCF’s actions in both cases, was quoted in the Sun-Sentinel. “Two precious lives were lost, and in both cases that did not need to be.”

Read more on Rilya Wilson.

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