South Florida

Innocents Lost wins freedom of information award

Innocents Lost, a Miami Herald series investigating neglect and abuse in Florida’s child welfare system, took home another award on Tuesday.

The stories, investigated over three years, followed the deaths of nearly 500 children whose families had prior history with the state. The investigation uncovered the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Department of Health’s attempts to under-report cases of death and neglect.

A year-long Miami Herald investigation found that, in the last six years, 477 Florida children have died of abuse or neglect after their families had come to the attention of the Department of Children and Families.

After the stories were published, the state changed the law and gave an extra $50 million to family service and child abuse investigators.

Innocents Lost won the 30th annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award, which recognizes reporting about freedom of information and the First Amendment. The center is located at the University of Florida.

“This outstanding series demonstrates one of the most important reasons for a strong public records law, protecting children, the most defenseless and vulnerable members of our society,” Sandra F. Chance, executive director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, said in a statement. “By using the law that allows the public to hold our government accountable, the reporters were able tell the stories of 477 children who died and the public officials who failed them.”

The project’s team included investigations editor Casey Frank, senior investigative reporter Carol Marbin Miller, reporter Audra D.S. Burch, designers Laz Gamio and Kara Dapena, and videographer Emily Michot.

Previously, the series was awarded: