A sub-contracted case manager with the Florida Department of Children and Families was arrested for falsifying information regarding the well-being of children living alone, officials confirmed Thursday.
Spokespeople for both DCF and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Vanessa Arias, 33, was arrested Friday for lying on safety reports.
“The department has no tolerance for any individual compromising their integrity and, thereby, potentially jeopardizing the safety of a child,” Jessica Sims, a spokeswoman for DCF, told FloridaPolitics.com by email. “We immediately investigated Ms. Arias upon receiving these allegations and referred this case to law enforcement soon after.”
Arias is accused of knowingly stating erroneous information in records she had visited the home of five children in Kissimmee, roughly 22 miles south of Orlando, when in reality she had not, and further, didn’t return more than a dozen phone calls made from one of the children trying to notify her of their plight.
Lying on child welfare records is a felony offense in the state of Florida. She was booked into the Osceola County Jail, according to FDLE.
“One of the children said Arias was last in the home just after Thanksgiving of 2014,” the Orlando Sentinel reported, citing a report by FDLE Special Agent Stephen A. Brenton. “She stopped by and dropped off some Christmas cards in early December, but ‘stayed in the car because she did not like the roaches in the home.’”
The mother of the children was there only “sporadically,” a child told police. Officials confirmed the mother had been arrested for child abuse and neglect.
But Arias claimed on her Jan. 8 safety check report the children were “free from any visible signs of abuse/neglect with all their basic needs being met at this time.”
A statement by FDLE said a child made 16 phone calls to Arias in the home between Dec. 2014 and Jan. 2015, but none were returned. A single candle was being used to provide “light and heat to the children,” the statement said, due to the electricity being shut off.
FDLE agents finally responded to the home on Jan. 18 after receiving notice from DCF.
Arias, who worked for Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services (GCJFCS) as a dependency case manager, was fired on Jan. 23, 2015.
DCF subcontracts referrals in the Orlando area to Community Based Care of Central Florida, who are the lead community-based care agency – commonly referred to as a ‘CBC’ under Florida’s privatized child welfare parlance – over Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. Community Based Care of Central Florida, in turn, subcontracts out the case management to GCJFCS, a common practice with the CBCs throughout the state.
The investigation into Arias is ongoing, according to DCF spokeswoman Sims, who said a report would be released as soon as the inquiry concludes.