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“He Looks Like He Just Came Out of Auschwitz,” But DCF Blames the Child Anyway

| February 12, 2012

Not looking for PR. (D. Sharon Pruitt)

By Florence Snyder

One week every year, the state Capitol is adorned with brightly colored handprints from tens of thousands of children who’ve happily made their mark on banners and streamers.

The annual “hanging of the hands” during Children’s Week is meant to show legislators that Florida’s children are alive and well. The streamers provide a great backdrop for governors and lawmakers to have their pictures taken in the rotunda. The visual message is “we really, really, advocate for children.”

The night before this year’s “hanging,” a nine-year-old boy in North Miami Beach was barely alive, not well, and forced to advocate for himself.

Naked and bruised, he escaped through a window in the home where he lived with his parents and five other children, and begged for food from the police officers who found him.

Hardened medical professionals looking after him in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital were stunned. The child had the body weight of a toddler. Bones showed through his skin.

“He looks like he just came out of Auschwitz,” said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman. “This is like a neon sign….to anyone who came in contact with this family the last few years.”

florida voicesThe Florida Department of Children and Families and its community partners had, indeed, been in contact with the Baileys many times since 2002. And as the boy fought for his life during Children’s Week this year, DCF was in court blaming the victim.

“There was no neglect,” said one state witness. “He just refused to eat.”

florida voices columnists flaglerlive

The agency’s $55,000-a-year spokeswoman scolded a reporter for a “rush to judgment” and pontificated the party line: “In this case and in every case, our priority and focus is the safety and well-being of the children.”

That line has been around since the Chiles administration. A parrot could deliver it at far lower cost than a state spin doctor.

Like the children who’ve come before him, who’ve suffered unspeakable horrors and even death on the state’s watch, the boy will, for a time, have the full attention of DCF’s “leadership team.” Low-level employees will be fired. New policies will be “put in place.” Legislative committees and newspaper editorial boards will be visited and stroked.

This valiant little boy might even get his own grand jury, like the one impaneled after a 10-year-old girl named Nubia was found dead last Valentine’s Day, decomposing in the back of her adoptive father’s pick-up truck in West Palm Beach. The grand jury was rightly enraged that the state had paid Jorge and Carmen Barahona first to “foster,” then to adopt, Nubia and her twin brother Victor, who is struggling to recover from near-death experiences with his state-selected “forever family.”

The Barahona grand jury cited the “persistent, insidious bias of trust” that caused so many state workers to ignore persistent, insidious red flags.

Such biases do not happen in a vacuum. In a system that rewards workers who stage photo-ops — and punishes workers more interested in “getting it right” than “getting it done” — corners will continue to be cut and children will continue to pay the price.

Florence Snyder is a Tallahassee-based corporate lawyer who has spent most of her career in and around newspapers. She can be reached by email here.

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11 Responses for ““He Looks Like He Just Came Out of Auschwitz,” But DCF Blames the Child Anyway”

  1. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    A child who begs for food from a stranger does NOT “just refuse to eat”. The moron who said that should be FIRED IMMEDIATELY.

  2. Liana G says:

    …”DCF was in court blaming the victim. “There was no neglect,” said one state witness. “He just refused to eat.””…

    This is very sad. He probably attended a gov’t school and was blamed for being lazy and not wanting to learn. Either I am becomming very anti gov’t, or gov’t is just very corrupt and incompetent. Can we start fixing the problem and not the blame. That would be the responsible, rational thing to do. Instead we blame the kids, and call them irresponsible. And we have the audacity to pat ourselves on the back and brag how great our generation is. If we are so great, how on earth did our children turn out so messed up? And I am not talking about the boy here, I am talking about his parents.

  3. trucker says:

    Did DCF remove the other children fomr this home?

  4. jespo says:

    Incompetence and apathy from an agency tasked with determining the physical and mental health and welfare of children is reprehensible, as evidenced by the firing of “low level employees’ as if they are the sole culprits in the failure. Indoctrination into corporate culture is top down education, so the pink slips should be sent a few floors up as well. Everyone, even those without children, know what children should look like within a range of hight and body shapes, and to see an emaciated child and attempt blame an eating disorder is incredulous. Extreme eating disorders like anorexia and bulemia are far more rare than obesity in young children and rarely exhibit prior to adolesence. Neglect applies to the cause as well as the effect…the parents are guilty of neglect and DCF needs a shake and throw out of bed wake up call.

  5. Doug Chozianin says:

    PRIVATIZE The Florida Department of Children and Families… OR FIRE THE INCOMPETENTS.

    This is just another example of the hoards of incompetent people “working” in Government.

    Privatize everything. Please start with Public “Education”.

  6. Telly says:

    The children will continue to suffer. They always have. They can not help themselves. and the ones who are suppose to be watching over them need help themselves. Society grows weaker and less kind. The strong will always take from the weak in a society that has no GOD .

  7. Ashley says:

    Some of you are so full of it, it’s unbelievable. Realize that DCF workers are now tasked with doing multiple jobs due to massive cuts and layoffs. This is the result. Good job Scott!

  8. suewho1010 says:

    Don’t gey me started on the DCF or our CPC Depts in Flagler county. They are full of deception, inexperience , corruption. and they stick together like glue covering thier butts blaming everyone but themselves. And Judge zambrano allows this to happen with his lack of interest in listening to parents and outside participants ” theripst, teachers, grandparents, parents” . He basis his judgements from the false stories of his trusted State workers. And I have the paperwork to back up my claims . But have yet to get a newspaper or a news station to take the time to investigate this horrendous corruption.
    its only a matter of time to we find a story like this in our own backyard. Its a shame that the best Interest of the Child is not put first in all cases.

  9. some guy says:

    Is it not amazing how Government agencys manage to do just the opposite of what they where set up to do. Things like this with DCF The department of energy wasset up to move this Nation to energy independence we are more dependent on out side sources of energy now then then. the department of education our kids lern less now then before it was set up.

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