September 16, 2014

Miami-Dade commission asks Gov. Scott to "reform" troubled child welfare system

Innocents LostMiami-Dade County commissioners urged Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature Tuesday to reform the state’s troubled child protection system, invoking the gruesome death last month of a 4-year-old boy in a resolution they adopted unanimously.

The resolution calls on Scott, lawmakers and Department of Children & Families Secretary Mike Carroll to empanel a committee of “experts to investigate, review and recommend changes in law and policy to protect children throughout Florida from the type of preventable harm that took the life of Javon Dade, Jr." who was mauled to death by dogs outside his father’s Goulds home last month. One of the dogs was a pit bull terrier.

Though pit bulls and similar dogs have been banned in Miami-Dade since 1989, DCF investigators took no action in 2011 when the agency was told Javon was in “danger” because his father kept six dogs, two of them pit bulls, and had failed to train them, the Miami Herald reported. The boy’s father, also named Javon Dade, also had been accused of dealing cocaine out of his house, carrying a gun, and being violent towards Javon’s mother and visitors to their house.

Javon was among about 500 children who died of abuse or neglect in Florida over the past six years after the state had received abuse or neglect reports concerning a caregiver. Their stories are detailed in a Miami Herald series, Innocents Lost. Full story by Carol Marbin Miller here. 



September 14, 2014

Regulatory neglect: 140 investigations into abuse at home for disabled = zero discipline

Paige Lunsford tombstoneFor five days and five nights, Paige Elizabeth Lunsford — a severely disabled teen — retched “like a waterfall,” could not eat and thrashed about in an “educational center” staffed with teachers, nurses and a doctor.

Paige was sick, and getting sicker. But caregivers did not send her to a hospital. Instead, they bound her wrists, ankles, biceps and waist with restraints to keep her from flailing.

Paige, nonverbal due to autism, could not ask for help. And none came.

Blond, pigtailed Paige, the child of Margate residents, died at the Carlton Palms Educational Center in July 2013, baking with fever, 10 days after she was sent there. A victim of medical neglect, according to the Department of Children & Families, she now rests beneath a small grave marker etched with musical notes and linked hearts.

An autopsy determined that the 14-year-old succumbed to dehydration, the result of a severe but treatable infection.

Her death spawned the 140th DCF neglect or abuse probe involving the Lake County home since 2001 — there have been eight more reports since then — and yet, the facility has never paid a fine and never been disciplined. Story by Carol Marbin Miller here.

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August 19, 2014

Years before child was mauled by dogs, DCF was warned of dangerous home

Javon DadeThree years before Javon Dade Jr. was mauled to death by his father’s dogs, state child protection workers were warned about “the smell and danger” of the six “untrained dogs” living in an apartment with Javon’s family. Two of the dogs were pit bull terriers, which are banned in Miami-Dade County, a caller said.

“The dogs have not really been trained,” an unidentified caller told the Department of Children & Families’ child abuse hotline. “There is concern for the safe care of the children in the home.”

Javon’s father, also named Javon Dade, told investigators the animals did not belong to him. “Dad’s response has been, ‘I know, I know,’ and that he is trying to get the dogs out of the home,” a report said. But the dogs remained.

Last Wednesday, Miami-Dade police made a gruesome discovery: 4-year-old Javon’s badly mauled body lying in overgrown grass in the backyard of the family’s Goulds home. Javon had last been seen at 5 a.m., about four hours before his father noticed he was missing, and six hours before his body was found, a DCF report said.

Javon became the most recent child to die of abuse or neglect after state child protection workers had come in contact with their families. In a recent series, Innocents Lost, the Miami Herald documented the cases of 477 children — most of them younger than 5 — who died following some DCF activity, and the deaths have continued to mount. Story by Carol Marbin Miller here.

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