New report blasts state over child abuse deaths

CREATED Nov. 5, 2013

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A scathing new report is critical of the state's efforts to prevent child abuse deaths across Florida.
   
The Department of Children and Families on Tuesday released a report prepared by a private non-profit organization.
   
Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo asked for the review after news reports revealed that several children died from abuse despite previous involvement by authorities.
   
The report by Casey Family Programs found that children had died from asphyxia, drowning, and physical abuse. The report found that investigators did not look at other family problems such as domestic violence or drug abuse that should have warned them that a child was in danger.
   
Jacobo said the agency was undertaking a series of steps in response to the report. But some state legislators called the rash of deaths "outrageous."

The report comes on the heels of the killing of three-year-old Michael McMullen in Fort Myers in October.

The toddler was killed after he was wrapped in a blanket for hours. His maternal grandmother, Gale Watkins, his step-father Douglas Garrigus and family friend Donella Trainor are all charged with manslaughter.

McMullen and his siblings were moved into Watkin's home this summer after DCF deemed his mother's home unsafe after reports of domestic violence and drug abuse.

The report says the main mistake made was not giving Trainor a background check despite the fact she was present in the home during the initial investigation. The report goes on to say case workers didn't follow up on some inconsistencies, like finding out if the children had adequate sleeping arrangements and were going to daycare.


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