I really don't know where one could start to fix the child welfare system but what I do know is that throwing blame around isn't a meaningful solution. It's likely part of the problem. One more panel isn't likely to solve the woes of child welfare in our state. Because the real blame isn't just DCF's or Our Kids' or horrible human beings like the Barahonas and their ilk who take in wounded children and wound them further or even kill them. I don't believe DCF Secretary David Wilkins' claim that no government agency could have protected Nubia and Victor Barahona. I don't believe that as a state, as a country, where we can build marvelous technology, spend billions on entertainment and athletes and the military, that we cannot manage to keep our most vulnerable citizens safe. I cannot believe that Protective Investigator Andrea Fleary couldn't call her supervisor, tell her she was worried about these two children, call the police, arrest Carmen Barahona for obstruction of justice, and get the state of Florida to issue an Amber Alert for two 10 year olds in the company of the very, very scary Jorge Barahona (see photo above, would you like to be a child looking up at that face when angry?), who had already been investigated a number of times, including for sexual abuse and malnourishment, in relation to these children.
Clearly the focus on child welfare is lost in our state and in its child welfare agency.
Until we demand better for the children of our state in Florida, until we are willing to adequately fund investigations and foster care and therapeutic services and youth who age out so that they don't repeat the same sad cycle of mistakes made by their parents, we are almost as wrong as everything that happened between February 10th- February 14th in the lives of Nubia and Victor, and everything that went before. We might not be starving children, drowning them in pesticides, or walking away from their front doors at 9 pm sharp on a Friday night. But every time we turn a blind eye, every time we don't demand better for the children of this state, we are part of the problem.
We need a better child welfare system and I seriously wonder how many children will have to die sad and horrible deaths before the citizens of Florida think about how to build a better one. It might (gasp) take tax payer money. It might (gasp) take public will. It might take not accepting that it was just a bad case management agency decision that led to a finalized adoption, or simply bad-mouthing the callous PI who walked away from these children. It might take demanding a change to the entire system of care, from the very highest levels of our state. And telling your senators and representatives that they can cut their salaries before they cut child welfare and child healthcare in our state. That enough children have died or suffered.
And to Paul Neuman, the GAL who opposed the adoption of Nubia and Victor, I hope you didn't quit. I hope something in you didn't die when you saw the news last week that those children, about whose best interests you thought you had clearly advocated and been ignored or disparaged, and who had some of the very worst that can happen to any child happen to them. But having lived through the adoption nightmare lite version myself, I'm almost certain that something in you did. You have my sympathies.
But I hope you turn around and fight like hell for better child welfare in our state.