From the beginning, state child protection administrators wanted to send Marie to a nursing home. Freyre’s attorney suggested such a move could kill her.
“With this type of child, when you institutionalize them,” attorney Steve Zucker said, “they never do well. And I’m very concerned.”
“Can the [state] do better than this?” asked the judge.
At the end of the hearing, Corvo required child welfare administrators to do better. She wrote an order that Marie be returned to her mother, with additional nursing care through the night.
It was an order the state simply ignored.
Records obtained by The Herald show state child welfare workers disregarded Corvo’s order that Hillsborough Kids, which is under contract with the Department of Children & Families, pay for the extra nursing hours while caseworkers looked into additional dollars from Medicaid.
The state “is not recommending the child return home,” a caseworker wrote 12 days after Corvo’s hearing.
Two days after that, the state Attorney General’s Office and Hillsborough Kids appeared before a different judge, Emily Peacock. AHCA, which runs Medicaid, had refused again to pay for 24-hour care, a lawyer said. With no permanent solution in sight, the state said, a nursing home was the only option.
“The best placement for the child right now is a…nursing home where she can get that 24-hour supervision and care that she needs,” said Angeline Attila, an assistant attorney general. The state, she added, “is recommending that the child remain in a nursing home.”
The new judge, who never asked why the state ignored a prior judge’s order, agreed — though she granted Freyre the right to visit with her daughter all she wanted.
But even that kindness proved meaningless.
A DCF review of Marie’s death said that only one of the state’s six nursing homes that accept children was willing to take the girl, the Florida Club Care Center in Miami Gardens.
At first, the state Attorney General’s Office, which was representing Hillsborough Kids, asked that the long trip be delayed so lawyers could seek permission from a judge to move Marie. “There is no legal order indicating that child cannot be moved out of county,” case workers wrote in Marie’s file. “However, knowing the judge’s feelings on this case, it would be best to have the judge hear this…prior to the child being moved.”
Prosecutors changed their minds. They were under significant pressure to get Marie out of Tampa General, which, records show, had been complaining bitterly that it was losing money on her care. A hospital social worker, records say, “was adamant about the child leaving the hospital today.”
“The [Attorney General’s Office] later determined that the issue did not have to go before the court for the child to be moved,” a DCF review said.
So, at 11:30 a.m. on April 25, 2011, workers at Tampa General Hospital loaded the teen onto a stretcher in a private ambulance — as her mother and grandfather begged them to stop. Even as caseworkers were packing Marie’s belongings, her grandfather was frantically filing hand-written emergency motions in court to delay the trip, Brudny said.