The murders drew national attention to the small town of Bell and led to questions about whether the Department of Children and Families could have done more to protect the children. The department and the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office visited the family’s home as recently as Sept. 2.
The 9-year-old boy is accused of grabbing the girl’s breasts from behind, asking her to “give me a hug or I’ll rape you,” and hitting her with a flip-flop when she got away from him.
Florida just passed a law requiring the reporting of all child abuse deaths in an annual report. That’s not enough, Sen. Sobel says, proposing that all criminally-related child deaths, even in car wrecks, should be part of the report.
After an embarrassing article appeared in The Miami Herald in September, a regional supervisor for the Department of Children and Families ordered workers not to file required incident reports on the deaths of children who were supposed to be safeguarded by DCF, the Herald reports.
The legislation got its start last fall, after media reports about a wave of child deaths from abuse and neglect — and gained momentum as it became clear that many of the victims were already known to the Florida Department of Children and Families, which had failed to protect them.
With Florida’s coffers filling again and state leaders focusing on child protection, advocates are hopeful the 2014 legislative session will bring both policy and funding gains for children’s services as high-profile issues include a massive crackdown on sexually violent predators and an overhaul of the child-welfare system.
At the time, about 5 percent of all U.S. children were treated with psychotropic medications, but in Florida’s foster care system, 15.2 percent of children received at least one such medication. Of these, more than 16 percent were being medicated without the consent of a parent, guardian or judge. Not much has changed.
Josie-Lynn Walters, 22, a resident of Espanola, was arrested on two counts of child neglect–a third-degree felony–after her children were found wandering unsupervised and in soiled underwear for over an hour near a busy intersection as Walters slept at home.
Florida’s recent series of child-abuse deaths took center stage at the Capitol on Tuesday, as a report blasted the state child-welfare system and as both chambers of the Legislature signaled they would craft bills to address the system’s shortcomings.
With substance abuse still threatening to overwhelm child-welfare systems like Florida’s, officials are looking at drug courts for troubled families as a way to address the problem.