Boy, 3, Latest To Die Under DCF's Watch

Dakota Stiles (right), and his mother Summer Stile's mugshot from her Tuesday arrest on child neglect charges.
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By Mike Vasilinda
July 30, 2013

A total of seven children who were in contact with the Department of Children and Families have died since May. The spike forced out one Secretary, the new person in charge is searching for answers.

Last Thursday, three year old Dakota Stiles became the seventh child under DCF supervision to die of abuse or neglect since May. The death prompted DCF interim Secretary Ester Jacobo to order a complete review of the deaths. “I’m not sure whether we could have prevented them but what’s disturbing is that I don’t know that because there are things that we could have done better,” says Ester Jacobo, DCF Interim Secretary.

Two weeks before Dakota’s death, the family was investigated after the child was found wandering in a neighbor’s yard. Investigators wrote the child’s room was a pig sty, that an unkempt and exceptionally unsafe pool posed a significant risk of harm to the child. Still, DCF left the child in the home, where he drowned in the pool. Across Florida, advocates for children are debating whether or not the child welfare agency needs a complete overhaul or just minor tweaking.

The agency is also moving forward with a changes in its own. It has a new way of evaluating families. The new program begins in October. The plan is suppose to considers the whole family and not just one or two incidents.”The major difference in this model is that it requires a great deal of critical thinking, not only on the part of the investigator but also our supervisors and case managers,” says Traci Leavine, DCF Administrator

Abuse and neglect take dozens of lives in Florida each year.

Associated Press Release

MIAMI (AP) -- A toddler who drowned in a dirty swimming pool two weeks after he'd been found wandering near his home is the latest child to die of abuse or neglect after a state worker deemed them safe.

The Miami Herald reports 3-year-old Dakota Stiles died July 25 in the pool that a Department of Children and Families worker had described as "exceptionally unsafe."

The Herald reports he became the seventh child to die under DCF's watch and the second to die since interim secretary Esther Jacobo took over the department from David Wilkins, who resigned two weeks ago.

Jacobo says she's outraged by Dakota's death.

In mid-July an investigator found that Dakota's parents "appear to be paralyzed in parenting the children." But the children remained in the home.


Information from: The Miami Herald,

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