For children who are victims of physical abuse and sexual abuse, the Florida child welfare system is designed to find and help children in its care. So imagine the horror of a 17-year-old girl who had been a victim of forced prostitution, only to later allegedly be given alcohol and forced to have sex with a social service worker hired only days before.
Child abuse advocates and sexual abuse attorneys are watching closely as Florida child welfare officials investigate the case of the sexually trafficked girl who was made a victim again after a social service agency “transporter” hired only days before – with little to no background check – took advantage of the girl on an assigned ride to the keys.
“It was…the kind of encounter that prompts child welfare judges to write scathing orders, which is what Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia did late last month, when she called the actions of a private social service agency borderline ‘reckless,'” wrote the Miami Herald in covering the story.
“The Court feels impotent as to what actions or sanctions it can legally take,” the paper reported of the judge’s order dated May 29. “Nothing that this Court can do or order the agency to do can fix all the wrongs this child has suffered. The agency is one more entity that has failed this child.”
The community-based care provider who employed the transporter, Our Kids, oversees foster care and adoption services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties under contract with the Department of Children & Families. Our Kids, the Family Resource Center, an Our Kids subcontractor hired to handle the girl’s case, both declined to discuss the case.
“The alleged abuse this child suffered, at the hands of the employee of the Family Resource Center of Miami, is outrageous,” the Herald reported a Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman saying.
The case is a reminder of the importance of background checks and effective screening of the organizations who care for Florida’s at-risk children, and the employees hired to provide all levels of their care.