A graduate of a Tampa Bay-area girls program was at a summit for sexually trafficked youths when she was moved to make a startling disclosure to a therapist: One of her former youth care workers had been sending her “flirtatious” messages via Facebook.
“Flirtatious” was one way of putting it.
“You’re gonna be my baby, you just don’t know it yet,” one of them said. Another included a picture of a person’s bottom, with two hands grabbing it. It was captioned: “I JUST WANT TO LAY IN BED AND RUB ON YOUR BOOTY.”
The girl had been released on probation from Central Pasco Girls Academy on Oct. 3, 2014, and received her first Facebook message from the worker two days later. She described the messages as “inappropriate,” and said they left her “somewhat shocked.”
The messaging continued for almost three weeks.
“I just feel like screaming your name,” one said.
After the girl told her secret to the therapist, he reported it to the facility administrator. “He recalled telling [the administrator] that he could not believe what he was seeing,” a report said.
The program administrator allowed the worker to resign instead of being fired, and didn’t report the misconduct as required. The Department of Juvenile Justice found out nearly a month later, after a nurse was fired for “document errors,” and reported the colleague’s behavior to DJJ. The agency sustained an allegation of failure to report against the administrator.
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.