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.
Jump to a story:• 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.