Florida Senate - 2016 (NP) CS for SB 48 By the Committee on Judiciary; and Senator Flores 590-03309-16 201648c1 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of “Survivor” and the Estate of 3 “Victim”; providing an appropriation to compensate 4 Survivor and the Estate of Victim for injuries and 5 damages sustained as result of the negligence of the 6 Department of Children and Families, formerly known as 7 the Department of Children and Family Services; 8 providing a limitation on the payment of compensation, 9 fees, and costs; providing an effective date. 10 11 WHEREAS, on May 30, 2000, 4 days after their birth, a baby 12 boy, hereinafter referred to as “Survivor” and his twin sister, 13 hereinafter referred to as “Victim,” first came to the attention 14 of the Department of Children and Families, formerly known as 15 the Department of Children and Family Services, due to the fact 16 that the children were to be sent to separate foster homes, and 17 WHEREAS, Survivor was reunited with their biological mother 18 and father on July 26, 2000, and Victim was reunited with them 19 on January 8, 2001, and 20 WHEREAS, on August 4, 2003, the court terminated the 21 parental rights of Survivor’s and Victim’s biological mother, 22 and 23 WHEREAS, on March 26, 2004, Survivor’s and Victim’s 24 biological father was arrested, which resulted in both Survivor 25 and Victim being placed in the custody of the state and moved 26 into the foster home of Jorge and Carmen Barahona, and 27 WHEREAS, within 4 days of the placement of Survivor and 28 Victim in foster care, contact was made with paternal relatives 29 in Texas, Mr. and Mrs. Reyes, to explore their potential role as 30 caregivers, and 31 WHEREAS, on March 30, 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Reyes informed the 32 Department of Children and Families that they were interested in 33 caring for Survivor and Victim, and 34 WHEREAS, pursuant to s. 39.521, Florida Statutes, placement 35 with adult relatives takes priority over out-of-home licensed 36 foster care placement, and Survivor and Victim should have been 37 placed in the Reyes’s home as soon as due diligence allowed, and 38 WHEREAS, pursuant to s. 39.001, Florida Statutes, 39 Department of Children and Families case workers are required to 40 achieve permanency within 1 year, either through reunification 41 with a child’s natural parents or adoption, and 42 WHEREAS, due to significant delays in the placement 43 process, the Reyes were not permitted to adopt Survivor and 44 Victim, who were ultimately adopted by the Barahonas on May 29, 45 2009, and 46 WHEREAS, prior to the adoption of Survivor and Victim by 47 the Barahonas, significant events occurred which the Department 48 of Children and Families knew or should have known were 49 indicative of the perpetration of abuse of Survivor and Victim, 50 and 51 WHEREAS, in at least one instance, allegations of medical 52 neglect were reported and, pursuant to Department of Children 53 and Families Operating Procedure 175-28, the allegations should 54 have been verified and Survivor and Victim should have been 55 immediately removed from the Barahona home, and 56 WHEREAS, in January 2005, it was reported that Jorge 57 Barahona had “tickled the private parts” of Victim, which the 58 child protective investigator dismissed as being of “little 59 concern,” and 60 WHEREAS, on March 20, 2007, Survivor’s and Victim’s school 61 principal called in an abuse report to the Department of 62 Children and Families which alleged that, for 5 months, Victim 63 had been going to school at least two to three times per week 64 with serious body odor, smelling rotten, and appearing unkempt; 65 that Victim’s uniforms were not clean and her shoes were dirty; 66 that on one occasion Victim had spilled applesauce in her hair 67 at school and returned the following day with the applesauce 68 still in her hair; that Victim was always hungry and eating a 69 lot at school, hoarding food in her backpack from breakfast and 70 lunch, and there was a concern that she was not eating at home; 71 that Victim was afraid to talk; that Survivor also went to 72 school appearing unkempt; and that both Survivor and Victim were 73 having trouble staying awake during classes, and 74 WHEREAS, on March 29, 2007, the Department of Children and 75 Families learned that Survivor and Victim had been absent from 76 school approximately 20 days, taken out of school early about a 77 dozen times, and were expected to be retained in the first 78 grade, and 79 WHEREAS, on May 29, 2009, Victim and Survivor were adopted 80 by the Barahonas, despite numerous incidents that should have 81 led to an active investigation and discovery of abuse, and 82 WHEREAS, in February 2011, the Department of Children and 83 Families Abuse Hotline received another report concerning 84 Survivor and Victim, this time alleging that Survivor and Victim 85 were being severely abused and imprisoned from the world, and 86 WHEREAS, it was the duty of the Department of Children and 87 Families to remove Survivor and Victim from a placement in which 88 there was a substantial risk of harm and, over the course of 6 89 years, there were multiple instances of abuse which the 90 department either knew or should have known were occurring in 91 connection with their placement with the Barahonas, and 92 WHEREAS, on February 14, 2011, Victim was found dead in a 93 truck parked off I-95 in Palm Beach County, and Survivor was 94 found near death, in critical condition, and 95 WHEREAS, after the death of Victim and the discovery of the 96 severe abuse of both children, the Secretary of the Department 97 of Children and Families, David E. Wilkins, conducted an 98 investigation that culminated on March 14, 2011, with the 99 issuance of a report of findings and recommendations, and 100 WHEREAS, in the executive summary of the report, 101 investigators reported that there were significant gaps and 102 failures in common sense, critical thinking, ownership, follow 103 through, and timely and accurate information sharing, all of 104 which defined the care of Survivor and Victim from the inception 105 of their relationship with the state child welfare system, and 106 WHEREAS, investigators determined that the systematic 107 failure included both investigative and case management 108 processes, as well as the pre- and post-adoption processes, and 109 WHEREAS, the investigative report cited numerous incidents 110 of abuse of the children, including, but not limited to, 111 punching, kicking, choking, beatings, the denial of basic and 112 necessary medical care, forcing the children to eat cockroaches 113 and food that contained feces, sexual abuse, sticking cotton 114 swabs with human feces in the children’s ears, suffocating one 115 child with a plastic bag while the other child watched, smearing 116 feces over the children’s faces and placing feces on the 117 children’s hands for extended periods of time, and binding the 118 children with duct tape and placing them naked in a bathtub 119 together for days on end, and 120 WHEREAS, after the death of Victim and the discovery of 121 Survivor, criminal charges were filed against the Barahonas, and 122 WHEREAS, tort claims were filed on behalf of Victim and 123 Survivor in the United States District Court for the Southern 124 District of Florida, Case No. 1:11-civ-24611-PAS, and a 125 complaint was also filed in the Circuit Court for the Eleventh 126 Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County, Case No. 13-2715 CA 25, 127 and 128 WHEREAS, the personal representative of the Estate of 129 Victim and the newly adoptive parents of Survivor have agreed to 130 amicably settle this matter and have entered into a settlement 131 agreement in which the Department of Children and Families has 132 agreed to pay $5 million to Survivor and the Estate of Victim, 133 and 134 WHEREAS, as a result of the allegations of both negligence 135 and civil rights violations, and pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida 136 Statutes, the Department of Children and Families has paid $1.25 137 million to Survivor and the Estate of Victim, and 138 WHEREAS, the balance of the settlement agreement is to be 139 paid through the passage of this claim bill in the amount of 140 $3.75 million, and such funds shall be allocated between 141 Survivor and the Estate of Victim so that Survivor will receive 142 $1.125 million and the Estate of Victim will receive $2.625 143 million, and 144 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families fully 145 supports the passage of this claim bill, NOW, THEREFORE, 146 147 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 148 149 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 150 found and declared to be true. 151 Section 2. The sum of $3.75 million is appropriated from 152 the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Children and 153 Families for the relief of Survivor for the personal injuries he 154 sustained and to the Estate of Victim for damages relating to 155 the death of Victim. 156 Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw 157 a warrant in favor of the adoptive parents of Survivor, as legal 158 guardians of Survivor, in the amount of $1.125 million, and to 159 Richard Milstein, as personal representative of the Estate of 160 Victim, in the amount of $2.625 million upon funds of the 161 Department of Children and Families in the State Treasury, and 162 the Chief Financial Officer is directed to pay the same out of 163 such funds in the State Treasury. 164 Section 4. The amount paid by the Department of Children 165 and Families pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the 166 amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole 167 compensation for all present and future claims arising out of 168 the factual situation described in the preamble to this act 169 which resulted in the personal injuries of Survivor and the 170 death of Victim. The total amount paid for attorney fees and 171 lobbying fees relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent 172 of the amount awarded under this act. 173 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.