Florida Child Protection News is gathered for KARA by Dr. Denise R. Womer, Ph.D., a former law enforcement officer for 17 years and former DCF Investigator for the State of Florida. Dr. Womer has taught in higher education for 14 years and currently is a Professor for Kaplan University teaching in the School of Social and Behavior Sciences.
In Florida, fourteen news articles reviewed revealed infants and children suffered either abuse, neglect, or death from parents and or their caretakers. These parents or caretakers were discovered in some cases to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, engaged in some form of domestic violence, left an infant or children unsupervised or intentionally physically assaulted the victim. This is only part of the story in Florida.
A Florida Law Professor at the University of Florida of Florida Levin College of Law who helps run the school’s Center for Children and Families was arrested Tuesday and charged with child abuse. Joseph Steven Jackson, 59, of Gainesville, tried to punch the child, a girl in her early teens, in the face during an argument, but the girl backed away as he swung, the arrest report says. The strike was a glancing blow, and the victim was not injured.
Also, results of a federal study examined the Florida Department of Children and Families foster care cases services released findings of foster care services. The agency found between April to September 2016 more than half of the children removed in 80 cases were placed in foster homes were without services and without following all safety plans. Florida in 2005, contracted out services to 17 different private service providers. The agency has 90 days to correct the deficiencies. The agency has already called all service providers around the table to find ways to rectify the issues in the federal review.
Next, the Florida Department Children and Families (DCF) also receives calls of human trafficking of children. A 54% increase from the previous year showed a total of 1,892 reports. The increase per DCF was due to increased training and screening tools developed between DCF, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Attorney General. DCF tracks human trafficking by three primary categories: sexual exploitation by a non-caregiver, such as an adult entertainment club or escort service; sexual exploitation by a parent, guardian, or caregiver; and labor trafficking per the Associated Press.
The Florida Department of Children and Families state website reports all child fatalities within the state. Causes of deaths are still under investigation. What was not found in the news throughout the state indicated 23 children have died due to abuse and neglect.
Cases in the News:
Florida Law Prof Who Heads Children’s Law Clinic Arrested for Child abuse
A law professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law who helps run the school’s Center for Children and Families was arrested Tuesday and charged with child abuse for attempting to punch a teenage girl. Officers with the Gainesville Police Department arrested Joseph Jackson, 59, at 8 p.m. Tuesday after he tried to punch the victim in the face several times, according to the police report.
Drugged out the USA: The moment a couple high on meth and heroin were found passed out in SUV with their two babies in the back
Police in Sarasota, Florida, arrested William Ballard, 36, and Delaney Crissinger, 32. The couple was found passed out in the front seats of an SUV with a five-month-old child and a one-year-old in the back seat. A number of bystanders called 911 and then blocked the SUV with their cars in case the couple woke up and tried to drive away. A search of the car turned up quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, and a loaded syringe next to a container of baby formula.
Fort Pierce woman arrested on child abuse charges
Jan Lindsey, Special to Treasure Coast Newspapers Published 5:29 p.m. ET Jan. 24, 2017 | Updated 7:00 p.m. ET Jan. 24, 2017
A Fort Pierce woman was arrested after she used a switch to discipline an elementary school-aged girl and left marks on her forearm, according to an arrest affidavit. Jessica Denise Graham, 33, of Fort Pierce, was charged with aggravated child abuse Monday after a Florida Division of Children and Families worker notified law enforcement of the case, the report said. Officials did not release Graham’s address in order to protect the victim. She was released from the St. Lucie County Jail on Tuesday after she posted $1,000 bail. Graham told St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputies she was aiming for the child’s hand Sunday. The affidavit states a deputy thought the injury was accidental, but charges were warranted because an injury had occurred.
Holt man charged with hitting pregnant woman, child
A 27-year-old Holt man is facing a slew of charges after a domestic violence incident involving a pregnant woman and a 4-year-old child.
According to a report from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Charles Harney Jr. of Cooper Lane is charged with hitting his girlfriend, whom he knew to be pregnant, in the face. The victim was holding the child in her arms, and Harney struck the boy at the same time, giving him a black eye.
Harney has been charged with aggravated battery on a victim he knew to be pregnant, false imprisonment of an adult, false imprisonment of a child under 13, child abuse without great bodily harm, and obstructing justice. All of the charges are felonies.
Grandmother arrested in drowning of baby grandson
Posted: Jan 17, 2017 3:50 PM EST
NORTH PORT –
A grandmother has been arrested in connection with the November drowning of her infant grandson in North Port. North Port police said Robin Lee Florand, 44, of Lakeland, is charged with the manslaughter aggravated (negligence) death of a child. Police said Florand left her 4-month-old grandson, Anakin David James Ennis, alone in the bathtub for nearly 10 minutes. Anakin was found face down in a few inches of water. A neighbor helped give CPR before Anakin was rushed to the hospital where he later died. Methamphetamine was found in the bathroom and Florand tested positive for the drug, police said. She was arrested Friday in Polk County and remains jailed.
Guatemalan man, 26, is jailed for life for raping and impregnating 10-year-old girl he repeatedly attacked in her mother’s bedroom
A Polk County jury of four men and two women deliberated for about an hour Wednesday before finding Rony Otoniel Mendez of Lakeland guilty of repeatedly raping a 10-year-old girl, who became pregnant from one of the assaults. Mendez fled to his native Guatemala after the abuse became known to authorities. … She said the child had been ‘encouraged’ by officials to give details of the sexual … There is no specific list of crimes to match the description and cases are …
Human trafficking cases increase 50 percent in Florida
Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2017 3:01 am
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Officials say the number of human trafficking cases has increased more than 50 percent in the state from the previous year.
The Florida Department of Children and Families says Florida received 1,892 reports of human trafficking. That’s a 54 percent increase from the previous year. The increase in reported allegations of human trafficking was due in large part to increased training and a new screening tool developed between DCF, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the attorney general.
The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking also implemented specialized training for first responders and other child welfare professionals to help recognize the signs. DCF tracks human trafficking by three primary categories: sexual exploitation by a non-caregiver, such as an adult entertainment club or escort service; sexual exploitation by a parent, guardian or caregiver; and labor trafficking according to the Associated Press.
North Fort Myers mom arrested for leaving kids with stranger
Posted: EST Updated: Jan 12, 2017 11:18 PM
The wrong choice of a babysitter landed a North Fort Myers mom in jail.
Tabitha Neptune, 24, was arrested for child endangerment after deputies say she left her three kids with a stranger who had been drinking.
It happened at Laurel Food Mart and Deli in the Suncoast area of North Fort Myers. NBC2 spoke with Karen Coburn, who sat at the store for several hours waiting for Neptune to pick up her kids. Deputies said Coburn had consumed some alcohol and was in no condition to be watching the kids.
Crestview Man Faces Aggravated Assault and Child Abuse Charges
by PIO Office | Jan 12, 2017 | News Releases |
CULPEPPER ARREST REPORT
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies say a Crestview man punched and pushed his girlfriend and caused a large mirror to fall onto a six-year-old child during a disturbance January 2nd. 39-year old Eric Culpepper of 1855 Riverview Drive is now charged with battery, aggravated assault, and child abuse. Culpepper’s girlfriend, Morgan Johnson, says Culpepper punched her, pulled her hair, and pushed her during an argument at their trailer. She says he also pointed a black shotgun at her. A child at the home added that during the fight Culpepper was knocking things over and a large mirror fell onto his leg. Deputies say Johnson had swelling and dried blood on her mouth and nose as well as scratches and a bruise.
Valparaiso Man Charged with Possession of Child Pornography
by PIO Office | Jan 12, 2017 | News Releases |
SCROGGINS ARREST REPORT
A Valparaiso man is accused of downloading child pornography onto his home computer. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at the home of 67- year old Robert Scroggins of 68 Wolverine Avenue on November 30th. Scroggins admitted he was the primary user of a computer that he used to download child pornography. He said he would view the files, then delete them. Investigators say the seized computer had 128 documented images and videos of child sexual abuse, more than 21,000 images and videos of child erotica, and 180 images and videos of anime depicting child sexual abuse. Scroggins is charged with possession of child pornography and in state electronic transmission of child pornography.
DCF says case workers erred by allowing now-deceased child back in home
BY JESSICA DE LEON email@example.com
Failures were made by child welfare workers in Manatee County when the decision was made to allow Ethan Thompson and his five brothers to return home, according to a Florida Department of Children and Families report.
Child welfare workers failed to properly assess the danger, safety and conditions for the boys’ return home, despite officials gathering enough evidence to support a different decision, according to the findings of the DCF’s Critical Incident Rapid Response Team, or CIRRT. The decision to allow the boys to return home would be a deadly one for the 22-month-old. Ethan’s stepfather, Montez Charles McNeal, 25, of Bradenton, was charged with second-degree murder in December, and he also is charged with aggravated child abuse in the child’s Nov. 15 death.
Infant ‘vigorously shaken’ listed as missing, endangered child
Originally Published: January 10, 2017, 1:55 p.m.
COTTONWOOD – The Cottonwood Police Department has discovered an update regarding the 19-year-old woman who was caught on video “vigorously shaking” an infant at the corner of Main Street and SR 260. The 10-month-old victim of the child abuse arrest of Khadija Greer-Simkins was listed as a missing/endangered child out of Tampa, Fla, according to a news release from Detective Sgt. Tod Moore. According to Florida officials, the infant was taken from the parents and placed into foster care for unknown reasons.
Florida Death Penalty Laws Impact Cases in Pensacola
WKRG-Jan 9, 2017
Christopher Redd and Jennifer Perry were charged with first-degree felony murder after their two-year-old son was not treated for second and third-degree burn wounds on a third of his body for about two weeks. He later died from those injuries.
North Fort Myers daycare worker accused of child abuse
Updated: Jan 05, 2017 10:40 PM EST
Lee County deputies said Janet Crappse violently dropped a baby into a crib at Kings Kidz Academy. A spokesperson for the daycare said everything was caught on surveillance video.
Priest sues diocese, claiming it punished him for reporting sex abuse
WEST PALM BEACH —
A former priest at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church on Wednesday sued the Diocese of Palm Beach, claiming it punished him for exposing a pedophile priest rather than covering it up as they wanted.
GOOD NEWS ADVOCACY FOR CHILDREN
Daily News Person of the Year: Julie Hurst
The Northwest Florida Daily News-Dec 31, 2016
Julie Hurst describes herself as someone with “lots and lots of faith.” That faith came in handy in 2016. Since taking over as the founding CEO of the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center in 1999, Hurst, her staff and volunteers have served more than 10,000 victims of child abuse at their facility in Niceville. In 2016 – after years of planning, fundraising and construction – the Shalimar resident realized the long-held dream of opening a center in Walton County. In recognition of those efforts and that accomplishment, the Daily News has selected Hurst as its 2016 Person of the Year.
Feds find Florida child welfare system underperforming for foster children
Posted By Deanna Ferrante on Fri, Jan 20, 2017, at 1:21 pm
A new federal study of the Florida Department of Children and Families has found that the state system has been seriously underperforming in key areas aimed at protecting and caring for foster children. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Children’s Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has given the DCF 90 days to come up with a plan to improve its care of foster kids.
Four more outrageous reports of child abuse occurred in Florida. A father punished his daughter 10 years old by strapping her in adult entertainment straps beating her with a wooden spatula. His own feelings of guilt he called the Florida Department of Children and Families and the police to report what he had done. He was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse.
In another bizarre form of punishment, a man was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse after holding down a child’s arm against a stove. Police responded to the child’s elementary school to the report of abuse. Claudell Battiste has been charged with one count each of first-degree aggravated child abuse and third-degree cruelty toward a child for the incidents, the most recent of which occurred Jan. 25 and revealed a previous abuse.
As if it does not get any worse, a mother killed her own son with a knife and attempted to kill her daughter in front of her grandchildren ages 4 and 5. The suspect, Francis then stabbed herself in the chest and laid over her son’s body.
Last, a woman now 20 years old sought legal assistance for custody of her 6-year-old daughter, revealed to her attorney that her parents arranged her marriage was she was 13 years old to Antonio Juarez. Antonio Juarez, now 31, turned himself into police. He has been charged with felonies and he could face up to 15 years in prison. Juarez has a court date for February and since he is not a citizen of the U.S. could face deportation back to Guatemala.
Dr. Denise R. Womer, Ph.D., is a former law enforcement officer for 17 years and former DCF Investigator for the State of Florida. Dr. Womer has taught in higher education for 14 years and currently is a Professor for Kaplan University teaching in the School of Social and Behavior Sciences.
Man, charged with aggravated child abuse
UMATILLA – A man has been arrested after he admitted to placing a 10-year-old girl in adult entertainment straps and beating her with a wooden spatula as punishment.
According to an arrest affidavit, Christopher Paul McKeehan was upset Thursday that the child had left some pills out that a 2-year-old got into as well as lying about her report card.
A witness in the home said McKeehan couldn’t find his belt he normally spanked the child with and couldn’t wait, so he grabbed the 12-inch long, two-inch wide spatula to beat the child.
McKeehan admitted to Lake County sheriff’s deputies, who had responded to the home on reports of child abuse, that the adult entertainment straps were already tied to the bed. He added he took the child into the bedroom, made her lie down, used the straps to bind her wrists, took her pants down and beat her.
The witness told deputies that when she heard screaming, she went into the room and yelled for McKeehan to stop. But instead the 175-pound McKeehan climbed onto the child’s back and continued to spank her with the spatula.
The affidavit adds the child was eventually able to get one hand free. But about 75 percent of the child’s buttocks was covered with a bright red and purple bruise.
McKeehan was charged with aggravated child abuse and remained in the Lake County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.
According to the affidavit, McKeehan admitted he went too far and called law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families on himself.
Ives, M. (January 28, 2017). Man, charged with aggravated child abuse. Daily Commercial News. Retrieved from http://www.dailycommercial.com/news/20170128/man-charged-with-aggravated-child-abuse
Police: Florida man used hot stove to punish child
A man in Pensacola has been accused of holding a child’s arm against a hot stove and punching her as a form of punishment, Escambia County police said.
Claudell Battiste, 54, faces charges of aggravated child abuse and cruelty towards a child after a Jan. 25 incident that injured the child, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.
Police responded to the child’s elementary school on Jan. 26 when the child said Battiste punched her in the arm that left a bruise. The child also said that in 2015 Battiste held her arm against a hot stove and punched her in the face while wearing a ring, which left a cut.
Officers arrested Battiste who remains in the county jail on a $20,000 bond, News-Journal reports. He is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 16.
Pensacola News Journal. (January, 28, 2017). Pensacola man accused of punishing child with hot stove. Retrieved from http://www.pnj.com/story/news/crime/2017/01/27/pensacola-man-charged-child-abuse/97155608/
Florida woman kills son, stabs daughter in front of grandchildren
A woman’s grandchildren were horrified when they saw her stab their uncle and mother with a knife, Escambia County Police report.
Janel Francis, 45, faces charges of second-degree homicide and second-degree attempted homicide in the Jan. 24 incident that killed her son and injured her daughter.
A witness told police she found the two children, ages 4 and 5, covered in blood inside the mobile home screaming “Granny just killed momma,” the Pensacola News-Journal reports.
She said she ran over to help after hearing screams and came to find Francis’s daughter lying in the street covered in blood.
Police said Francis’s daughter suffered a stab wound to the neck and was taken to the hospital with her condition unknown. When police interviewed the children, they said Francis had “poked her in the neck with a knife,” the Pensacola News-Journal reports.
One of the children said Francis also stabbed herself in the chest and then laid over her son’s body. She was taken to the hospital for injuries
Todaro, C. (2017, Jan 28). Florida woman kills son, stabs daughter in front of grandchildren. Palm Beach News. Retrieved from http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/florida-woman-kills-son-stabs-daughter-front-grandchildren/IJB49kWgERnN03Vptm4mIO/
Report: Florida girl in arranged marriage at 13, husband arrested
Nearly eight years after a woman got married at 13, police arrested a man in Bonita Springs on charges of child abuse and lewd and lascivious behavior.
The woman, now 20, was only in middle school when she married Antonio Juarez, 31, in a ceremony surrounded by her family. The woman’s marriage was reportedly arranged by her parents, and they were able to hide the it for so long by lying to law enforcement when suspicions arose, according to News-Press.
All of this became exposed when the unidentified woman came to a lawyer last summer asking for legal help because Juarez, who is from Guatemala, wanted custody of their 6-year-old daughter.
When the woman explained to the lawyer that she was married at 13, the lawyer convinced her to come forward to police.
Juarez’s lawyer claims he was “unaware” that he was breaking the law by marrying the underage girl, and there was no “malicious intent,” News-Press reports.
Juarez turned himself into police when he asked the court to grant him rights to see his daughter. The charges against him are felonies, and he could face up to 15 years in prison.
Juarez has a scheduled court date in February and could also face deportation since he is not a citizen.
Todaro, C. (2017, Jan 28). Report: Florida girl in arranged marriage at 13, husband arrested. Palm Beach News. Retrieved from http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/report-florida-girl-arranged-marriage-husband-arrested/aIIAo1HNPftI9Hn4epOZDM/