David Wilkins has stepped down as the head of the Department of Children and Families, Gov. Rick Scott announced today. The former technology consultant turned public servant is dipping out at a convenient time. In the past three months, the agency has been accused of dropping the ball in four cases where children ended up dead.
The string of deaths began with toddler Dontrell Melvin, who was found buried in the backyard of his Hallandale Beach home. Melvin actually went missing in 2011, but his parents, Calvin Melvin and Brittney Sierra, weren't caught until child welfare investigators realized there were only two children living in the home when there should have been three.
About two months after Melvin's death was first reported came another depressing discovery. DCF employees had deemed Marisa Catalista Bruno's home "safe" only a few months before she was charged with the death of her 11-month-old son. Bruno, who had a history of alcohol-related arrests, including a DUI, left her child to die inside of a 109-degree car, the Miami Herald reported. In November of last year, she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated; Bruno was found passed out in her car, as her son sat in the front seat.
A month after that, Antwan Hope, Jr., a four-year-old child in foster care, was found dead in Coral Springs after DCF workers said it was OK for him to spend unsupervised time with his mother. Destene Simmons had a history of mental illness and a history of arrests.
The death of Ezra Raphael marked the fourth time in six weeks that a child was found dead after welfare workers said was perhaps the most egregious oversight. Cierrah Raphael was deemed a "high risk" after she left her son with a stranger in Gainesville so she could go turn tricks. She had already been deemed an unfit mother and had lost custody of another child. The two-year-old was found dead in North Miami Beach, where he was left alone with his mother's boyfriend who had a lengthy rap sheet.
After Raphael's death, DCF spokesperson Alexis Lambert told the Miami Herald: "The death of a child so young is a tragedy that is beyond comprehension. We will now focus our efforts on helping determine the circumstances that led to this child's death and working with law enforcement to hold those responsible accountable."
Wilkins is reportedly headed back to the private sector from whence he came in order to "pursue opportunities."
According to Scott: "David did a great job in leading the state's top child protection agency and his service is greatly appreciated."
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