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North Florida Gainesville Foster Child Lawyer: We Must Break Cycle of Abuse to Keep Kids From Repeating It

North Florida and Gainesville foster child attorney and children’s advocate Gloria Fletcher wrote this letter in response to news that a 2-year-old boy, Justin Polk, was beaten and strangled to death in an Orlando-area hotel room. While no one’s been charged with his death, the Florida Department of Children and Families had been called to Justin’s home several times for reported domestic violence. If the reports were true and had Justin survived, writes Ms. Fletcher, who also serves on Florida’s Children First, he might have continued to live amid the cycle of abuse that scars society. We must break that cicle. Below is her letter…

Child advocate attorneys like myself in Gainesville, Ocala and throughout North Central Florida often fight in courtrooms and the public realm to protect the rights, health and welfare of Florida’s at-risk children. But all too often, the worst abuses go on in places we cannot see or reach – behind the family’s closed doors.

That’s apparently where 2-year-old Justin Polk died this month. He died in an Orlando hotel room of blunt force trauma and strangulation. No one has been charged with his death, though his mother and her boyfriend were arrested on charges of child abuse.

The Florida Department of Children and Families had investigated the Polk family for high risk three times over the past two years. In what seems a continuation of a horrible tragedy, earlier this year it was revealed more than 470 children known to DCF to be at risk had died. In the case of Justin’s family, each investigation, reportedly for inadequate supervision, environmental hazards or domestic violence, including most recently in March, was closed. Now, Justin is dead and his two siblings are in What is clear now is an apparent cycle of abuse gripped this family. And it’s gripping society.

Domestic violence is a scourge on our families and especially our children. If families cannot be kept together in safe situations, children must be removed from possible harm. Abused children often grow up to be adult victims. Some become abusers themselves.

This goes beyond DCF’s role. It’s each citizen’s responsibility to try to reduce domestic violence. If we see or suspect abuse, we must report it to authorities. Otherwise, children like Justin Polk will continue to suffer from abuse and many will die as a result of abuse. It is each of our obligations to protect our most vulnerable children. Please do your part – the life of a child may depend on what you do.

Gloria Fletcher, Esq.
Gainesville, Florida

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