Keishanna Thomas’s name — and those of her five children — appeared again and again in reports to the state’s child abuse hotline. The calls began more than a decade ago. There were an even dozen.
In June 2014, just as state lawmakers were passing the most far-reaching reform of Florida’s child protection system, Thomas decided she had had enough of caseworkers coming to her home and scrutinizing her children. “Ms. Thomas became uncooperative” a report said.
The Department of Children & Families could have asked a judge to force Thomas, now 32, to let workers into her home, to accept their oversight. But agency lawyers instead insisted the state walk away.
It was a tragic mistake.
When the next report — No. 13 — was phoned to the hotline earlier this month, an investigator made a startling discovery: Thomas now had only four children. Eleven-year-old Janiya was nowhere to be found, and her mother had nothing to say about her whereabouts. What is believed to be Janiya’s body was found Sunday night inside a locked freezer in a relative’s garage. “The freezer was brought to the relative’s home by the mother . . . under the guise that she was being evicted,” a DCF report said.
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll declined to discuss the case Wednesday with the Miami Herald. In a short statement, the agency’s press secretary, Michelle Glady, said Carroll has dispatched a “Critical Incident Rapid Response Team” to Bradenton to look into the agency’s long history with the Thomas family, and to investigate the actions leading to Janiya’s death.