Healthcare

State investigates foster father in Jackson South case

 

State investigators are looking at the actions of a Miami foster parent who may be implicated in a plan to take a baby from a Jackson hospital.

cmarbin@MiamiHerald.com

State child welfare administrators are investigating a Miami foster parent who may be implicated in an alleged scheme to abduct a newborn child from the nursery at Jackson South Community Hospital.

The foster father, who has not been identified, brought his family to the Jackson nursery and visited with a baby that had been taken into state care by the Department of Children & Families, said Esther Jacobo, DCF’s top Miami administrator, on Wednesday.

An unidentified Jackson employee had told the foster father the baby was available for adoption, and the foster father could pick up the child.

The incident, which occurred in October, ended up with Jackson announcing on Tuesday the termination of two Jackson South managers, the chief nursing officer and maternity ward director. Jackson spokesman Edwin O’Dell said they were offered the opportunity to resign and they did so. Jackson did not identify the employees.

DCF sheltered the baby after the agency received a call to the state’s child abuse hotline and investigated the child’s welfare, Jacobo said. The agency placed a hold on the baby, meaning the child could not be released back to his or her birth mother. DCF was called back to the hospital within a day or two amid rumors that “people were selling a baby.”

An investigation showed that a high-level Jackson employee was friendly with the foster father, who was seeking to foster or adopt another child. He allowed the foster father, Jacobo said, to bring his family to visit with the newborn.

On the day the newborn was to be discharged, the foster father appeared and tried to take the baby with him, Jacobo said. A Jackson nurse stopped him before he was able to leave the hospital with the infant. The nurse said that, without a valid DCF identification badge, the father could not take custody of the baby.

A source told The Herald the father currently has only one child in his custody.

In the wake of the incident, Jacobo said, DCF agreed to perform a series of training sessions at Jackson involving dependent children.

“We are not placing any other children” in the home of the foster father, Jacobo said. “We are in the legal process of figuring out what to do with his licensure.”

Jacobo said the agency is looking at all its options, including attempting to pull the foster father’s license.

O’Dell said Jackson executives first learned about the problem about Oct. 9. They started an investigation, which led to the resignations on Oct. 15, but Jackson Chief Executive Carlos Migoya did not notify county leaders and board members until he released a memo on Tuesday — shortly before WTVJ-NBC 6 reported the problem at Jackson South.

In the memo, Migoya wrote: “While no patients were harmed as a result of this incident, we concluded that Jackson policies were indeed violated. Consistent with our culture of accountability, employees were terminated or otherwise disciplined. Appropriate reports were made to regulatory agencies.”

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