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Child Deaths Grow: Sheriff Says Child Known to Florida DCF Strangled; Mother, Boyfriend Charged with Abuse

Attorney and lawyer advocates for Florida foster care children and at-risk youth are following the story of a boy strangled in Central Florida. The Florida Department of Children and Families reportedly had visited at least three times over the past few years the family of a boy whom the Orange County Sheriff office says was strangled this week. His mother and her boyfriend have been arrested and charged with abuse. This brings closer to 500 the number of deaths of children who were known to be at risk by DCF.

In this sad case, 2-year-old Justin Polk was found unresponsive at an Orlando-area motel. Investigators attributed his death to blunt force trauma and strangulation. His mother, Merissa Anderson, and her boyfriend, Jonathan Charapata, were arrested on child abuse charges.

In documents released later by Florida Department of Children and Families, it was revealed DCF had investigated the family three times in the last two years, according to News13.

Three investigations were opened. Three investigations were closed. Investigators reported no evidence of high risk existed, though one investigator called his home “disgusting,” according to news reports.

Following his death, DCF now took custody of Justin’s two siblings.

Even in the aftermath of the high-profile investigative reporting of the Miami Herald that revealed the almost 500 children who have died while they or their families were known to the Florida Department of Children and Families, the death toll continues to rise. It’s a horrible and growing list indeed.

DCF leaders have promised reform, and we all know reform is a process that will take time. Florida child welfare attorneys and foster child lawyers can only hope that the process is thorough, the time is limited, and children like Justin Polk become the last of the names on this list.


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