In February of this year, Raphaels name appeared once again on the states abuse hotline. Wims said she had called DCF herself, complaining that Raphael had all but given her baby Ezra to raise, but was collecting child support and food stamps herself, and refusing to provide Wims with the kind of power-of-attorney she needed to obtain routine medical care for the boy. Wims had to take Ezra to the emergency room for colds and checkups because she couldnt get the boy access to Medicaid, the states insurance program for the needy.
Wims, 49, a March DCF email said, had been taking care of the baby since June, but when she asked Raphael to transfer child support payments, the mom [threatened] to come and get the baby.
A Feb. 18 email from Mack suggests the agency was strongly considering filing a motion to shelter Ezra a preliminary step toward initiating a case before a child welfare judge. Records suggest the agency was likely to leave him with Wims whom investigators believed to be a capable caregiver but wanted to ensure that Wims had the money and resources she needed to care for him. DCF also wanted to ensure Raphael did not change her mind about raising him herself.
But when Mack closed her investigation on Feb. 21, she concluded there was no reason to intervene on behalf of the child, other than to provide free child care to Wims and resolve the dispute over child support. Though Ezra was at high risk of abuse or neglect due to his mothers lack of fitness, Mack wrote, the risk was mitigated due to the mother being in Miami while Ezra was living in Gainesville with Wims.
Mack wrote she had staffed the case with DCF lawyers, and a decision [was] made to not take legal action. Mack left the door open for intervention later, though, by saying she had instructed Wims to call the department if Raphael sought to regain custody of her son.
Wims insists she made the call in April when both Raphael and Raphaels former foster mom, a Miami Gardens woman with whom Wims is friendly, called her to demand Ezras return. I called there to Ms. Beths office to let her know, Wims told the Herald. She said she had closed the case on Ezra and there was nothing else they could do.
I pleaded with Ms. Beth to please reopen the case, Wims said. But she said sorry, but theres nothing that they can do.
Ezras teacher at the Small World preschool in Gainesville said she spoke with Mack as well.
I asked her nicely I practically begged her, said 45-year-old Brenda Odom, who lives in nearby Lake Butler. I said Ezra was in better hands with Ms. Wims than with his mom. I said if [Raphael] is not capable, why chance it with him?
She said once the case is closed, theres nothing she can do, Odom told the Herald. If I could have met her, I would have been on my knees begging her.