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Death of Child After Warning to Abuse Hotline Spurs Changes to State Response


To those who advocate for greater protections for any child suffering physical abuse or threatened with harm, the episode this week when a young girl was tossed to her death off a Tampa Bay bridge raises questions and concerns. In the aftermath of the death of 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck, reportedly at the hands of her father, John Jonchuck, the Florida Department of Children and Families has reviewed and will change the criteria for how its child abuse hotline responds to calls and warnings of potentially abusive situations.

Police say Phoebe was thrown by her father off a bridge near Tampa Bay’s Sunshine Skyway after a call was received to the hotline earlier in the day. The caller, authorities said, “regarding the mental health of Phoebe’s father.” In the 2:45pm call, the caller, reportedly Jonchuck’s attorney, warned that John Jonchuck was “depressed and delusional.”

The call came after Jonchuck reportedly referred to his attorney as “God” and asked the woman to translate a Bible. The attorney’s calls to police and the state child abuse hotline led authorities to visit and interview Jonchuck. With Phoebe smiling and at his side, all appeared normal.

Hours later, she was dead. The Florida DCF now has revised its rules.

“If a caregiver is believed to be experiencing a psychotic episode, a child protective investigator would have to visit the child within four hours of a call,” according to news reports.

If you suspect a child or someone else is threatened with child abuse, sexual abuse or other harm, the Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports 24 hours a day and 7 days a week of known or suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and reports of known or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

To make a report you can Report Abuse Online (https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/) or by calling 1-800-962-2873.

If you suspect or know of a child or vulnerable adult in immediate danger, call 911.

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