Lately, Gladys Jaramillo’s idea of caring for her adult son with autism was locking him in a squalid, sweltering room, which got her arrested and charged with aggravated abuse, neglect of a mentally disabled adult, and false imprisonment.
But she apparently did once try to get son George Portugal real help from Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Portugal was on the agency’s waiting list when police found him with his mother in their Sweetwater trailer on Thursday evening.
He’d been on the list for 13 years.
Jaramillo, 56, who is Peruvian, is in a Miami-Dade lockup pending an immigration hold. Her son, thought to be 30, is in the care of Florida’s Department of Children and Families.
Melanie Etters, a spokeswoman for APD, said about 22,432 people are on the waiting list for services.
Last spring, lawmakers set aside $36 million in new dollars to help reduce the wait. Since then, APD administrators say they have offered services to 944 new clients, 190 of them foster children with disabilities.
Esther Jacobo, DCF’s interim secretary and the agency’s regional director in Miami, confirmed that DCF got an abuse or neglect report involving Portugal in March, but said she “cannot legally discuss the specifics of that investigation’’ because of state privacy laws.
A source said that DCF closed its investigation — which involved allegations that Jaramillo had pushed Portugal months earlier — as unfounded, because too much time had passed between the alleged incident and the report.
The agency did, however, check with APD to confirm that Portugal was on the waiting list.
“I can say that we are very concerned about the reported conditions in which this young man was found’’ at the Li’l Abner Mobile Home Park, 11250 NW Third St., on Thursday, Jacobo said in a prepared statement.
“We will continue to work with our partners to address his long-term needs. The Department is taking appropriate court action on behalf of the victim.’’
Portugal’s rescue from a urine-soaked room with nothing but a bare mattress comes at a particularly sensitive time in Florida, as state leaders struggle to explain how seven small children with child protection histories have died of either abuse or neglect since May.
Another child nearly died of a severed liver weeks after DCF had investigated the circumstances under which he broke his leg.
Jim DeBeaugrine, who oversaw the disabilities agency for three years under former Gov. Charlie Crist, said human service administrators take enormous risks when they allow vulnerable adults and children to languish without state assistance.
“Bad things happen when people go years and years without getting the supports and services they need — and especially when families can’t’’ provide the help, DeBeaugrine said.
Some families “are very ill-equipped to care for a disabled person’s needs on their own. It’s a shame, but this didn’t have to happen,’’ DeBeaugrine said.
But now that Portugal is in “crisis,’’ DeBeaugrine added, “I guess he’ll get enrolled’’ for aid.
DCF was expected to file a petition in Miami-Dade probate court seeking a court-appointed guardian to oversee Portugal’s care and placement. An initial hearing could be held by Thursday.