What is FCA?

Child Advocacy Blog


Rilya Wilson’s Death: Lessons Learned 10 Years On…

December 3rd, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Commentary

Gainesville, Florida, child advocate attorney Gloria Fletcher’s letter to the editor regarding Rilya Wilson’s senseless death was widely published. It raises key questions regarding the child abuse and wrongful death likely suffered by the young girl. The text of the letter follows…

Ten years after the disappearance of little Rilya Wilson, what have Floridians learned about her fate and the future of others in state’s child welfare system? What do we know about the system itself – and whether reforms have made kids any more safe?

It’s hard to say what we’ve learned. As the first-degree murder trial of her Rilya’s caretaker, Geralyn Graham, gets underway in Miami this week, too many questions linger about Rilya, Graham and the Department of Children and Families.

The state will plead its case for charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated child abuse against Graham, who in 2000 took in the 4-year-old foster child.

But the case for Rilya goes much deeper. For it wasn’t until 2002 – after more than a year since a caseworker had last checked on Rilya – that the state realized she was no longer in Graham’s home. Since she was arrested and charged in 2005, Graham has maintained her innocence, claiming a child welfare worker took the child away.

If she were still alive, Rilya would be 16. But what happened to Rilya, whose name is an acronym for “Remember I love you always,” may never be known. Her body has never been found.

But the case demands answers. What happens from here is critical.

What happens to Graham is important; a first degree murder charge always is. And society needs closure on the case itself.

What’s more important, though, will not be answered by this case. The fundamental question is how did DCF lose track of Rilya for a year – and will sweeping reforms at DCF protect foster children in the future?

We can only hope.

The case likely will last several weeks. Foster child advocates also can only hope the lessons and reforms last a lifetime.

Gloria W. Fletcher, Esq.
VP, Florida’s Children First
Gainesville, Fla.

Leave a Reply