Innocents Lost: a Miami Herald I-Team investigation

 

After Florida cut protections for children from troubled homes, more children died, often in cruel and preventable ways. To understand the magnitude of the problem — and possible solutions — the Herald studied every death over a six-year period involving families with child welfare histories. This series is the result of a year's worth of reporting by the Herald's Investigation Team, and multiple lawsuits to obtain state death records.

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Preserving families but losing children in Florida: After Florida cut down on protections for children in troubled homes, deaths soared. The children died in ways cruel, outlandish, predictable and preventable.

The littlest victims of Florida's drug binge: When kids are raised by parents who abuse drugs, the state will urge the parents to get clean, but usually won't make them.

DCF investigators stymied by their own lawyers: DCF feared for Aidan Bizier's safety. Investigators wanted to intervene. Lawyers said no. The consequences were tragic.

When everyone sees the hurt except DCF: Joshua Jenkins showed up repeatedly at school with gashes and bruises. Teachers beseeched the state to something. DCF believed the parents' stories.

Boyfriends: The 'huge red flag' that frequently gets ignored: DCF has at times failed to fully take into account the violent backgrounds of live-in boyfriends — with lethal consequences.

Protecting kids with hollow promises: Florida's child welfare agency uses 'safety plans' — signed but unenforceable promises to behave — to control violent, neglectful or drug-addled parents. They frequently don't work.

A snake, a girl and a mom who loved pills: DCF knew the home had a big snake — and a little girl. It knew the mom and her boyfriend liked drugs. It saw no need to intercede.

In prison for manslaughter, a mom deals with regret, denial: As a disabled boy, 'Dooley' Ashe needed the protection of his mother. She is in prison now for failing him.

Death by irresponsible parenting, bureaucratic inaction: One year later, Ashton-Lynette Arnold's grandma laments the many missed opportunities to save her from her mother's demons.

As pills killed kids, the state shrugged: State health officials fretted about pill mills, and how adult addicts were dying. Nobody realized that the storefront drug dispensaries were killing kids by the dozens.

Florida's undercount of child abuse deaths: The state says abuse and neglect deaths are receding after a spike. But are they? And, if so, by how much? A closer look at the numbers.

How Florida can learn lessons from Alabama: Alabama consistently ranks among top states for some child safety and protection measures.

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