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Following 10-Year-Old Nubia Barahona’s Murder, DCF Seeks More State Support

| September 16, 2011

Nubia Barahona

Nubia Barahona

Shaken by the high-profile torture and murder of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona in West Palm Beach in February, the state Department of Children and Families is preparing to ask lawmakers next year to bolster child-protective investigations.

Barahona was found decomposing in a bag in the trunk of her adoptive father’s pick-up truck three days after she’d been killed. Her twin brother was in the vehicle, in critical condition. Both had been bound and held in a bathtub for hours before Nubia’s death, which, an autopsy revealed, was the result of relentless brutalization, allegedly by Jorge and Carmen Barahona, who face first-degree murder charges.

DCF had been tipped off that abuse was taking place in the Barahona home, and an investigator had visited there the day before the murder, but was misled by Carmen Barahona about the children’s whereabouts.

A DCF budget proposal submitted this week seeks tens of millions of dollars to add and retain child-protective investigators, improve technology and better coordinate efforts with local law enforcement.

The budget documents outline problems with high turnover among investigators, large caseloads and low pay. The proposal, which would need legislative approval next year, comes seven months after the death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona caused outrage in the state.

“It (the proposal) is part of an overall focus to make sure our front-line workers are getting what they need,” DCF spokesman Joe Follick said.

Part of the proposal seeks $15.8 million to improve technology in the child-protection program, such as equipping investigators with mobile technology that would allow them to get case information remotely and also enter notes and details.

The proposal, sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday, says that linking such devices to a child-welfare database would “deliver real-time updates about criminal history and late-breaking case events to the investigator.”

DCF also wants to shift nearly $25.3 million into the child-protection program, including adding investigators, improving pay and providing money to local law enforcement to better coordinate in child-protection probes.

The budget documents point to communication “gaps” between DCF and local police that can have dangerous consequences.

Follick said DCF has added about 100 child-protection investigators since Nubia Barahona was found dead. Nubia’s adoptive parents are alleged to have long abused the children.

But the budget documents indicate the state needs to do more to add and retain investigators and give them a “career pathway.” It said, in part, that investigator pay is relatively low when compared nationally and that turnover and high workloads feed off each other.

“Children and families involved in the child-welfare system live in chaotic circumstances in which the (investigator) may be the only resource to investigate,” the proposal says. “However, high … turnover can disrupt the continuity and stability of service delivery that helps families obtain the support they need.”

The agency’s budget proposal is only an initial step in a months-long process. If lawmakers decide to pursue the ideas, they will have to find a way to pay for them — a tricky issue as the state is expected to have another tight budget during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

In the budget documents, DCF proposes shifting money from other programs to help bolster child protection. But that also would have ramifications, as DCF raises the possibility of shifting money away from such things as homeless programs.

While it’s unclear whether lawmakers would approve such ideas, Follick said the agency is trying to set budget priorities. He said improving the child-protective system could help prevent other problems and costs for the state in the future.

“An investment now is going to save money in the long term,” Follick said.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive

In an unrelated case, DCF was asking on Sept. 16 for the public’s help in finding 9-year-old Richard Bryant. DCF received a court order to locate the child, according to an agency news release. He may be with his father, Timothy Bryant, 30, according to the Gainesvulle Sun. DCF and Alachua County sheriff’s officials failed to find the boy or his father at a home on Wednesday night. “We are asking for the public’s help because we believe that Richard may be in danger,” DCF spokesman John Harrell says in the news release. Anyone has any information on Richard’s whereabouts can contact the Sheriff’s Office at 352/955-1818.

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9 Responses for “Following 10-Year-Old Nubia Barahona’s Murder, DCF Seeks More State Support”

  1. Jon Hardison says:

    I don’t know enough about how they work and what their budgets are like to really say anything useful, but I can’t imagine millions of dollars resolving what a few well placed laws could address for free. “Law Pay”? What does that mean? The current investigators took the jobs, no? Why would they take the work and then not do it, to the potential detriment of a child?

    Second, why isn’t misleading an investigator as to the physical location of one’s own children actionable in itself? Children are worth the money. They’re on of the few things that always is, but we’re not talking about helping children. It ‘sounds’ like we’re trying to eliminate stupid by smothering it with 15+ million dollars, or possibly a more accurate description: It sounds like DCF might be trying to raise money using a horrifying event, but again… I don’t know enough to make a judgement, but I don’t think money would have fixed the parent’s ability to lie to an investigator.

    …just sayin’.

  2. Jon Hardison says:

    Sorry for another post. I keep reading this and every time I do I’m more and more bothered by it.

    We want to take money away from programs designed to help children that HAVE NO HOME to aid children who do, but who have the misfortune of being born to incredibly horrible people? That, by itself, isn’t so bad, but when you start asking questions about what happened with Nubia Barahona, this seems like a ridiculous discussion. In this case, the investigator was clearly short on one of two things; authority or brains. Nearly 16 million dollars isn’t going to fix either.

    Investigator: “Excuse me, I’m an investigator with DCF and I need to see your 10 year old child.”
    Parent: “Oh, she’s not here right now. She’s over at BLANK’s house.”
    Investigator: “Well, I’ll need that address.”

    If the child isn’t there and was never was there, the parents are negligent (actionable), and if the child was there, but isn’t any longer, it’s the parent’s responsibility to be able to locate that child. If they can’t, this is also negligence or at the very least criminal as it relates to the person that does have the child.

    How did an investigator walk away in this situation? Do they have the ability to get the police involved, and if so, how quickly? Seriously! Is this ‘investigator’ still employed, or was he/she simply powerless at that point. THIS is the problem as I see it. More money wouldn’t have address this AT ALL!

    In Florida, we don’t even have laws on the books that define the age it’s okay to leave your child alone, and we’re talking about throwing money at this problem? THESE ARE CHILDREN and Florida’s “protections” seem, given what happened with this case, criminally negligent.

    Now I’m just disgusted. Thanx for listening. :-\

  3. NortonSmitty says:

    Jon, here’s the problem buddy. For more than the last ten years, Republicans have been reducing the budget of all social services drastically. This last year, Rick Scott about cut the already grossly inadequate budget in half. You may have seen him brag about it..

    So the “investigator” was more than likely an inexperienced and unqualified person who was hired after the older more experienced in the field quit or retired out of frustration with the reduced salary, benefits and appreciation that they used to have in this job. Out of desperation.

    In addition to these high hurdles, the reduced staff means that he or she probable has about ten minutes per month to spend investigating hundreds of at-risk poor kids that nobody above her gives a rats ass about. From the supervisor to the head of the county DCF to the Secretary of DCF in Tallahassee to the Governor to Washington all the way to Rush Linbaugh. Nobody really paysw more than lip service to acually doing the job the agency was designed to do back in the ’60s. You remember, the silly old days when foolish people thought a governments job was to actually take care of the less fortunate citizens among us. How quaint.

    Not one deficit cutting Republican or Democrat ever gave one dime or one shit to provide any help for this poor desperate little girl when she was alive.

  4. Liana G says:

    …”DCF had been tipped off that abuse was taking place in the Barahona home, and an investigator had visited there the day before the murder, but was misled by Carmen Barahona about the children’s whereabouts.”

    Jon, I just googled the case but wish I hadn’t. The story and details are too gruesome and the whole tragic mess defies reason. The invesatigator was fired but is appealing her firing claiming she is being used as a scapegoat.

    The Barahona’s were foster parents to the twins which means that DCF should have been more diligent in investigating these abuses which were reported by more than one source, including a nurse.

  5. some guy says:

    How sad this is how we as a people look after these kids. also why is it when some Government organization fails at its job the answer we get from it is more $$$

  6. Outsider says:

    I don’t know why everyone expects the government to do a good job of raising children. This story makes me want a law prohibiting jackasses from having children. These so-called parents should be put up against a wall and shot.

  7. Jon Hardison says:

    Thanx Liana and Mr. Smitty for filling in some blanks. Yeah… This is where I draw the line. Failing our children isn’t an option. Gov. Dingleberry aside, the fact that this was a foster situation means that someone needs to go to jail, not simply get fired, and the question still stands: What power do these investigators actually have?

    Mr. Norton: I completely understand the underpaid investigator issue, but again… This is a choice. The realities of the position are perfectly clear as is the pay, and the investigator took the job. It’s always been my position that if I MUST take a ridiculous job, then that’s what I have to do, but there’s no chance I’m going to take a job that I’m not going to do. If I can’t do the job I’ll quit, but I don’t take money for something I can’t or won’t do. So for the betterment of these children, if the environment is actually that bad, these folks need to walk.

    Outsider: I don’t think anyone expects the government to do a good job raising children. I think it’s perfectly reasonable, however, to expect the government to attempt to improve what are impossible circumstances for these children. More over, I think it’s just as reasonable to expect it of our government as I do our civic organizations, churches, etc., and there I’d expect our government to lend a hand to make sure no child predators where volunteering their time. We’re complaining about government, but where are WE as people failing these kids? Do Flagler’s kids have a place, other than a school to go to when they’re in trouble? If so, do they know about it?

    At the end of the day, I’m not comfortable saying this is what we should expect from government. If we don’t want government to handle it, we need to handle it on our own. The fact that there is a DCF doesn’t mean we must use it. If we the people believe we can do a better job protecting our own children than DCF can, we need to get off our asses and make it happen instead of paying our taxes and sitting at our computers complaining about what idiots the government are.

    In this case, as in many others, the government is doing a job because WE’RE NOT DOING IT!
    This is just insane. Indirect as it is, I can’t help but feel we all have a hand in this child’s death, and I hope that feeling motivates me, and lots of other to actually do something about this. There is NO excuse for this.

  8. Jon Hardison says:

    One more thing on prohibiting jackasses from having children:
    Lynchburg, VA had a great little program up till about 1973 where anyone with a mental disability would be involuntarily sterilized. It was eventually expanded to include those who had committed petty crimes and folks some simply didn’t like. It was actually one of the programs Hitler got from us as I understand it. Long and short, it doesn’t work. The cost of our individual freedom is one we all share. We’re not going to neuter it away.

    I’m Sorry. I’m just really stuck on this story. I’m really, really angry about it, and I’m angry that DCF is ‘using’ this to try to raise money. There are a lot of things money can fix, and I don’t think this is one of them.

  9. Outsider says:

    Norton, I could just as easily blame liberals(Democrats) for the breakdown of our societal values, including religion and family. Liberal programs such as welfare, food stamps, the prohibition of morality lessons in school and the like remove consequences of immoral behavior and certainly promote giving birth to children simply in exchange for cash payments. You can’t claim it doesn’t happen because it does. These children are born not out of love, but out of irresponsible behavior that our increasingly liberal society removes all consequences thereof. The result is children being born with little hope of a bright future. No matter how much money you throw at the problem, government will never be an adequate replacement for a loving, caring family.

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