Abused Kids Will Never Be Safe Until DCF Is Fixed
Uncle Luke, the man whose booty shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke speaks up for neglected, abused children.
It's time to abolish or overhaul the Florida Department of Children and Families, the worst government agency in the history of the state. Unless Gov. Rick Scott takes drastic action, more kids will end up dead because of DCF's incompetence. Their blood is on his hands.
The latest tragedy involves 4-year-old Antwan Hope, who was found dead in his mother Destene Simmons' Coral Springs apartment June 10. DCF should have been familiar with Simmons, because a year ago she reportedly took the child to a motel and tried to smother him with a pillow.
Yet despite the objections of Antwan's guardian ad litem, DCF wanted to return the little boy to Simmons, and Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer sided with DCF. If the goal is to stop child abuse, why would DCF return a child to someone who is harming her kid?
Unfortunately, Antwan is just one of the many helpless victims DCF sentences to death. Last October 16, DCF case workers ignored a call from a Hallandale Beach police officer reporting claims by Brittney Sierra that she hadn't seen her 1-year-old son, Dontrell Melvin, for 15 months. The agency never bothered to investigate, even though his extended family had been the subject of about 30 calls to its child welfare hotline. A week later, police found the boy's skeletal remains in the backyard of the home in which his parents used to live.
Dontrell's case occurred less than two years after the death of Nubia Barahona, murdered by her adoptive parents who repeatedly fooled DCF workers into dismissing abuse complaints. And who can forget Rilya Wilson, who prosecutors say was killed by her caregiver, Geralyn Graham. A DCF caseworker didn't discover Rilya was no longer with Graham until 2002, two years after the woman was granted custody. Graham was recently convicted of aggravated child abuse and kidnapping, but Rilya's body has yet to be found.
I've personally seen DCF's failure. Several years ago, a relative showed up at my house after her mom viciously attacked her, leaving her with two black eyes. The police came to my home, took her statement, and referred the case to DCF -- which did nothing.
Instead of worrying about drug-testing welfare recipients or squashing Obamacare, Scott should focus on cleaning house at DCF. The agency is a joke. It's set up to pass the buck. Let law enforcement agencies and prosecutors bust child abusers.
But Scott won't do it because a majority of the children DCF is supposed to protect come from poor, minority families -- the last people the governor wants to help.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.