The head of Florida’s Department of Children & Families went before a Senate committee Thursday to talk about a 3-year-old Hollywood boy who died a violent death after several abortive investigations.
Mike Carroll, the secretary of DCF, related the many complicated factors leading up to the death of Ahizya Osceola, who was found last month stuffed in a box in the laundry room of his father and stepmother.
He said he could not discuss what he knew about the ongoing police investigation or the child welfare investigation, but could talk about the department’s dealings with the family before the death.
Carroll appeared at the request of State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who chairs the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. Sobel helped draft an overhaul of the state's child welfare laws last year after a Miami Herald series about child deaths.
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Ahizya, a member of the Seminole Tribe, was reported missing March 19 from his Hollywood home after his stepmother, Analiz Osceola, told her mother that she couldn’t find the boy. Seminole police were called. They turned the case over to Hollywood police.
After an exhaustive search, police found the boy’s badly beaten body in the laundry room. Analiz Osceola, 24, was arrested several days later and charged with, among other things, aggravated manslaughter. The boy’s father, Nelson Osceola, 24, was also arrested and charged with child neglect.
Carroll on Thursday described Ahizya’s extended family tree as consisting of “two moms, four dads and six kids.” He went on to say that there were at least two case services and multiple investigations “across all the family lines.”
Earlier documents released showed that DCF’s contact with the boy’s parents — Osceola and mother Karen Cypress — appears to have begun in August 2013 with a child abuse hotline call. Carroll said that Analiz Osceola had her own DCF history with her now 5-year-old son.
Because Ahizya was a member of the tribe, the state had to follow the Indian Child Welfare act, “which provides the tribe with the right to intercede in child welfare cases when it reaches the point that court action is necessary.”
Carroll said that one thing he knows at this point is that there needs to be more “information sharing,” between the tribe and the state.
“While I appreciate the need to respect the sovereignty of the Indian nation in these cases the best interests, well-being and safety of the children should be of the foremost concern of both parties involved,” he said.
Despite invitations, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Seminole Tribe did not attend the hearing.