jury rules florida’s department of children families failed to protect 6-year-old, family to be awarded $28 million

Jury Rules Florida’s Department Of Children Families Failed To Protect 6-Year-Old, Family To Be Awarded $28 Million

A jury has decided that Florida’s Department of Children and Families agency failed to protect a 6-year-old girl after her own mother attempted to kill her. 

The jury awarded $28 million to the child’s grandparents who are now her legal guardians. But according to Florida law, the maximum they can receive is $200,000, unless the Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis approve more.

jury rules florida’s department of children families failed to protect 6-year-old, family to be awarded $28 million
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And while the sum is impressive, the family lawyers say the verdict is more about what needs to change within DCF and less about the compensation. The case originally dates back to June 2015, when an investigation was launched after a parent was charged with the attempted murder of her daughter.

“It’s very tough on her with the nightmares, and then can’t get no sleep, and the pain she goes through,” said the girl’s grandfather.

Sarasota police stated how they found the 6-year-old girl suffering from stab wounds on her stomach. She was wrapped in a pink comforter and small adhesive bandages had been placed over her wounds. 

jury rules florida’s department of children families failed to protect 6-year-old, family to be awarded $28 million
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Police then arrested the girl’s mother. Investigators said she had a history of being ‘mentally unfit.’ And then, twelve hours before she was arrested, they say she had threatened suicide. 

DCF had been called to the house but left the woman with her daughter.

“It is incumbent on our state to make right what our state made wrong,” said attorney Damian Mallard.

Both Mallard and attorney Alan Perez represented the family in the case. They stated how DCF failed to follow its own protocols in the case. In addition, they relayed how DCF investigators did not call police for records that would have shown the mother’s mental state.

“It’s obvious [that] this goes beyond just two child protection investigators, that there’s a systematic problem,” said Mallard.

Attorney Perez agreed.

jury rules florida’s department of children families failed to protect 6-year-old, family to be awarded $28 million
Image via Shutterstock

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“This case is, and always has been, about the protection of children and what happens when these investigators don’t have immediate access to all the important information when they are investigating a present and impending danger. [That] is what happened in this case,” said Perez.

A Sarasota County jury sided with the child’s lawyers, which resulted in the $28 million. Attorney Mallard said the verdict highlights how change is needed within DCF.

“We are hopeful that by shedding light on this, the Legislature and the powers that be at DCF will change the way they do these investigations, making sure they identify the parents and making sure these investigators have immediate access to these local police reports so they can find this information out and you don’t have half of the staff doing it one way and half the staff doing it wrong,” said Mallard.

The family hopes DCF will prevent another tragedy from happening.

“It’s sorrowful. It hurts your heart just knowing that another kid could be hurt like this. It’s horrible,” said the girl’s grandfather.

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