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Innocents Lost: A special report about a system that failed Florida's children

Innocents Lost
Fraternal twins Tariji and Tavont’ae Gordon were born together but died two years, eight months and 24 days apart. One was buried in a potter’s field; the other was disposed of in a shallow grave covered by earth, plywood and a sheet of tin.

Tavont’ae, the first to die, suffocated at 2 months of age while sleeping on a couch with his mother, Rachel Fryer, who later tested positive for cocaine. Child welfare authorities took Tariji from Fryer and put her in foster care. Then they gave her back, convinced Fryer had tamed her drug habit and neglectful ways. Three months later, Tariji was killed by a blow to the head.

Fryer stuffed Tariji’s body into a leopard-print suitcase, caught a ride and buried her 50 miles from her Sanford home. The girl’s pink-and-white shoe, an unintended grave marker atop freshly turned dirt, was the only hint of her life and death. She would have turned 3 this month.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2014/innocents-lost/stories/overview/

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2014/innocents-lost/stories/overview/#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2014/innocents-lost/stories/overview/#storylink=cpTavont’ae, the first to die, suffocated at 2 months of age while sleeping on a couch with his mother, Rachel Fryer, who later tested positive for cocaine. Child welfare authorities took Tariji from Fryer and put her in foster care. Then they gave her back, convinced Fryer had tamed her drug habit and neglectful ways. Three months later, Tariji was killed by a blow to the head.Fryer stuffed Tariji’s body into a leopard-print suitcase, caught a ride and buried her 50 miles from her Sanford home. The girl’s pink-and-white shoe, an unintended grave marker atop freshly turned dirt, was the only hint of her life and death. She would have turned 3 this month.

The twins joined a sad procession of children who died, often violently, after the Florida Department of Children & Families had been warned, often repeatedly, that they or their siblings could be in danger.

They tumbled into canals and drowned, baked in furnace-like cars, were soaked in corrosive chemicals, incinerated, beaten mercilessly, and bounced off walls and concrete pavement. One was jammed into a cooler posthumously; others were wrapped like a mummy to silence their cries, flattened by a truck, overdosed and starved. An infant boy was flung from a moving car on an interstate. A 2-year-old girl was killed by her mom’s pet python.

The children were not just casualties of bad parenting, but of a deliberate shift in Florida child welfare policy. DCF leaders made a decision, nearly 10 years ago, to reduce by as much as half the number of children taken into state care, adopting a philosophy known as family preservation. They also, simultaneously, slashed services, monitoring and protections for the increased number of children left with their violent, neglectful, mentally ill or drug-addicted parents.

The result: Many more children died. Please read more by Carol Marbin Miller and Audra Burch here.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2014/innocents-lost/stories/overview/#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2014/innocents-lost/stories/overview/#storylink=cpy

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