He was expelled from the school, which he described as one of the most traumatic events in his life.Caceres-Gonzalez then picked the youth up from a basketball court, claiming he had a dentist appointment — “which was a lie. I had one two days prior to that,” the teen wrote.
In a letter to the DCF inspector general, Our Kids’ chief of program operations, Barbara Toledo, said Caceres then drove the teen to “an isolated area” where her emotions boiled over as she confronted him. “He said she was crying so hysterically he felt afraid,” the letter said.
“He said that she made him feel guilty and bad about himself to the point that he apologized for the agony he was putting her through,” Toledo wrote.
“After the incident,” Toledo wrote, the teen claimed he was “isolated from others” at the shelter and was sent to speak to a counselor or minister, among others, who tried to “convert” him to heterosexuality. One counselor “mocked” him, asking him if “he’d been converted yet.” Toledo said he endured “hostile and intolerant behavior” from staff and other foster kids.
In Our Kids’ request to the state, Toledo said the guardian program suggested that His House administrators failed to “aggressively” seek the youth’s adoption, and kicked him out of a program that helped pay for his college tuition and living expenses, all “due to his sexual orientation.”
Hirst, the inspector general, rejected the complaint, and asked Our Kids to look into it again.
On Oct. 3, Toledo followed up that initial query with a lengthy letter to DCF, saying high-ranking administrators of both Our Kids and DCF in Miami had met with the teen on Sept. 27. “As part of our work,” she wrote, “we hear from a lot of clients with serious and sometimes outrageous claims. As a result, we have become very good at determining whether a story is related in a consistent and truthful manner. In our evaluation of [the youth’s] account, we found his recitation to be consistent and compelling.”
He is, Toledo wrote, “a credible witness and we believe his statements about how poorly he was treated.”
The teen told authorities he was not alone, and that any adolescent who is gay or questioning his sexual orientation “will likely endure the same treatment while at His House,” Toledo wrote.
Less than two weeks later, Hirst rejected the complaint for the second time.
After consulting with DCF’s civil rights division, Hirst wrote, the agency determined that “no violation of state or federal laws, rules or policies occurred with respect to the alleged harassment/discrimination of the former foster child. As a result, the [Office of Inspector General] stands by its previous determination that an investigation is not merited.”
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, who oversees the county’s foster care program as chairwoman of the Community Based Care Alliance, said she was “disappointed” that DCF investigators declined to look into the matter. “Whether this is a violation of state law or policy,” she said, “it should be.”
“Our job is to help these children in every way possible to reach their full potential, whether they are heterosexual or gay,” she said. “If these allegations are true, then teenaged children should not be placed with this agency.”