Guns, children, neglect, animal abuse, human trafficking and forced prostitution.
These aren’t the beautiful, cliché, sundown-on-the-beach Florida stories, but in an attempt to raise public consciousness about these issues we at Florida Politics bring you today’s ‘DCF Files.’
On Monday, the Palm Beach Post published a story citing chilling figures from the Florida Department of Children and Families — in an annual human trafficking dossier, fiscal year 2015-2016 — in which 1,892 reports of human trafficking were recorded during the period.
It marked a roughly 54 percent increase from the year before. Here’s another comparison to raise your consciousness on the issue: In fiscal year 2010-2011 in Florida human trafficking reports totaled 480. The worst region of the state for this infernal problem, according to report, was the Central region, followed by the Suncoast.
According to the Polaris Project — a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that monitors the number of calls to the national trafficking hotline database — Florida ranked third-highest in the nation with reported cases in 2016, trailing only California and Texas.
A large percentage of those abducted wind up in sex trafficking, as the Post pointed out a few days ago when three men in their 20s kidnapped a 19-year-old female with the intention of selling her for sexual services on social media. Other abducted are used for indentured servitude — or slaves. And more and more of the victims tend to be younger, the report noted.
Feel good yet? Let’s move on.
In a few weeks we’ll know more about what will be happening in the case of four-year-old Avion Weaver when on Jan. 20, while alone at home, he discovered the loaded 9 mm handgun of his mother’s boyfriend and fatally shot himself in the in the face, reported Leesburg, Florida’s hometown newspaper, The Daily Commercial on Monday.
Police are deciding whether or not the boyfriend, Demeko Robinson, should be held responsible for the boy’s death. He lived at the residence with the boy and his mother, but was apparently outside talking with friends when the incident happened inside the home, according to The Daily Commercial. Avion’s mother, Deja Perry, was on her way home from having picked up her car after it had been repaired.
DCF has opened its own investigation. Avion had been taken into DCF custody for six months during part of 2014 and 2015. The agency is conducting a review of their own staff to determine whether or not they did their job appropriately, something that keeps coming up with the agency as of late, as cited here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and in this example, in which it was discovered by The Orlando Sentinel that more than 70 DCF case workers had falsified information during investigations over a two-year period.
Don’t stop reading. Stay with us here because there’s a reason we’re dragging you through this.
WJXT NewsJax4, out of Jacksonville, reported Monday Heather Stevenson had been arrested for aggravated child abuse and child neglect in connection to her two-year-old son. Meanwhile, Stevenson’s other son, Chance Vanderpool, 4, who was autistic, died in her care in November.
“According to the original arrest report, investigators found several old injuries on Chance’s body, including bruises on his lower back and upper buttocks, swelling and bruising to his nose, eyes and forehead and a ‘large cigar-size’ burn on his left foot,” WJXT reported.
Last one: Christopher Adam Perez, 28, is facing animal cruelty charges after starving his dog, found by authorities in an emaciated state and yellow-stained feet from urine in his cage, reported The Austin-American Statesman on Monday. The police discovered the animal as a result of responded to investigate a nine-month-old baby who had died in the home.
You might wonder why Florida Politics would bring you such a depressing roundup of news.
Something awful is happening in the state of Florida. We’re not sure who’s to blame — certainly there’s enough neglect on the part of inept and careless parents, and poorly trained child welfare workers, to go around. But is the fault of the overall state system?
Over the course of the 60-day Florida legislative session, we hope to ask many of this state’s elected leaders that, and many more questions in an attempt to highlight what has become an atrocious epidemic sweeping across this state, now known as one of the very worst in the nation in protecting its children.
And that’s just unacceptable. We hope you think so, too.