In the wake of a 14-year old Miami-Dade foster child streaming her suicide live on the Internet, there’s been an outpouring of attention and outrage over the technology and lack of safeguards that allow such videos to be produced and shared online so easily.
Although some of that outrage is fair, the problem isn’t solely the technology that enables such horrific acts to be aired. Equal attention should be paid to the ability for children and their caregivers to access appropriate crisis and specialized, ongoing mental health services ̶ especially children under supervision of Florida’s child welfare system.
Allegations of Rape
Just as importantly, The Children’s Campaign believes Naika Venant’s passing should be reviewed through more than a child welfare lens. Besides being removed from her home for allegations of abuse suffered, she was also, according to news accounts, an alleged victim of rape in foster care.
This changes the view significantly. What services did she receive as a victim of such a serious, violent crime? Were trauma informed clinicians involved? Were other individualized victim assistance services instigated as they would have been for a child raped outside of a child welfare setting? To date, news accounts have not addressed the support she may or may not have received as a rape victim.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) promises a comprehensive, multidisciplinary examination of Naika’s history and treatment is currently underway. Mike Carroll, DCF Secretary, recently updated the Florida Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee regarding the investigation into her death. We support this move and urge the report to include the victim of serious crime service linkage.
In addition, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia is reviewing over “5,000 pages of documents” related to Naika’s case to determine what case-related information could be made public.
Questions We’d Ask
The Children’s Campaign is awaiting the public release of materials and we’re hoping some or all of these other important questions will be answered:
- Why was the child shuttled between upwards of ten foster homes? During the same period, how many case managers were involved?
- Were the required post placement assessments conducted and what measures were taken to prevent multiple moves?
- What tests were performed that encompass the “extensive battery of assessments” that Naika allegedly received? Who administered the tests and what was done with the information?
- What specialized, therapeutic care did she receive, and did it include on-going highly qualified clinical intervention? Was a relationship established with a rape crisis center and was it ongoing?
- Was she receiving Medicaid and, if so, was there a problem with accessing services because of the reimbursement rate?
- What restrictions were in place to “keep the child safe” at the time of her death? Why were these put in place?
- How was Naika’s case plan proceeding? Was the focus on reunification?
We agree with Secretary Carroll who spoke with the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee about the very hard work of saving “broken” foster children. We believe Florida can do more, however, and do it better, and the full report will hopefully light the path.
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This Top Story is brought to you by Roy Miller, Karen Bonsignori and Tiffany McGlinchey