Two boys had a secret, and they were giggling about it in class. When their teacher asked one of the boys to spit it out, he shared a disturbing story.
The boy said a youth care worker at the Challenge Youth Academy in Brooksville allowed detainees to touch her under her shirt and panties “when the other youth slept,” a report said. The worker let one boy “kiss and grab her.”
Two boys told their teacher the worker allowed them to give her massages.
Though he had disclosed irregularities to his teacher, one boy later refused to cooperate, saying “he did not want to ruin it for other program youths,” an inspector general report said.
The November 2015 disclosures started a three-month inspector general investigation.
In a written statement, one of the boys said he spoke with the worker “about sex, money and drugs.”
One detainee told his therapist that he had engaged in several risqué conversations with the youth care worker on Facebook. The youth allowed the therapist to access his Facebook account, and the private conversations posted there were adult-themed.
The conversations “hinted of taking [the youth] off the market, giving him some time to obtain a ring,” a report said.
The worker told one of the boys “not to tell anyone of their contact, as she would likely get in trouble.”
In a statement, the worker said the youth initiated contact on Facebook while he was on furlough from the program to attend a funeral. She said her concern for the youth, who had just lost his father, may have clouded her judgment.
She said she never initiated contact with the boy, and “stopped communicating with him to maintain professional boundaries.” That wasn’t true, which the youth worker acknowledged later. “Although she had reservations about doing so, she contacted him on Oct. 24 and 26, 2015.” The report said the staffer was the one who moved the conversation “in the direction of having possible future sexual contact.”
The investigation ended with substantiated findings that the youth worker had engaged in inappropriate contact with a youth on Facebook. There was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the claim that the staffer allowed boys to fondle and touch her.
The youth worker, who was fired, said she had no idea the Facebook messages violated policy.
This narrative is part of Tales from the Front, a collection of short stories about Florida's juvenile justice system. The Miami Herald investigated the state's youth corrections system following the 2015 beating death of a Miami-Dade detainee. Read the full "Fight Club" investigative series here.