Florida DCF confirmed flaws with the handling of child abuse complaints concerning foster parents following USA Today story
Several tragic cases of Justice for Kids Partner Stacie Schmerling were recently featured in USA Today concerning the failures of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to investigate and respond to credible complaints against foster care providers to ensure children are safe.
Complaints to Florida’s abuse hotline about caregivers ranged from striking children with their hands to sending them to school hungry. The newspaper performed an investigation in March of more than 4,000 records detailing complaints of abuse by foster caregivers, which were not taken as seriously as they should have been by DCF. A USA Today six-part series last year showed that after foster children were taken from their parents by DCF, there was no thought-out plan for where to put the children causing kids to be placed in unsafe, dangerous home environments.
Several of Schmerling’s cases were featured in the USA Today series, including the case of a suicidal teenager who ran away from the case management agency’s office in Gainesville and died by suicide while on runaway in 2015; the case of Naika Venant, a teenager who used Facebook to livestream her suicide from her foster home bathroom in Miami; a case where a three year old child was sexually abused by an older boy in an emergency shelter in Key West and was then placed in a foster home where he suffered further abuse; a Clearwater case where a foster child was sexually abused by his foster father who had previously been accused of sexually abusing another child in his care; and the tragic case of a three week old baby who was sexually assaulted in her Marion County foster home in 2019. In the final story, Schmerling pointed out that allegations against parents are taken more seriously than when posed against foster caretakers.