On November 6, 2020, Florida lost another child that had been repeatedly involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). 22-month-old Rashid Bryant was pronounced dead at Miami Jackson North Medical Center. The cause? Complications of acute and chronic blunt force injuries, attributable to “parental neglect,” according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner. Read more from the Miami Herald.
Regrettably, the little boy’s family, made up of 10 children, had been on DCF’s radar for several years. Rashid and his siblings had been the subjects of at least 16 Florida children abuse reports, ranging in physical injury, parental drug abuse, domestic violence, environmental hazards, and inadequate parental supervision. In fact, prior to the child’s death, Rashid and his siblings were removed from his parents by child welfare authorities and later reunified despite the parent’s failure to complete necessary tasks for reunification. By August 2020, case managers ceased their oversight of Rashid and his siblings and by October 2020, all oversight regarding the family had been terminated. Two weeks later, Rashid was dead. Read more from the Miami Herald.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner report revealed that in the months leading up to his death, the one-year-old suffered a rib fracture, a recently broken leg, and two cracks to his skull – one healing, the other fresh. Various family members reported that they had not seen Rashid in months, as he was “always confined to his bedroom.” One of Rashid’s siblings reported that she had not seen Rashid walk since he injured his leg months earlier. Other statements taken by police indicate the one-year-old had lost weight, could not move his right arm, and would cringe and cry if someone attempted to touch his leg.
As a result of both the medical findings and the police investigation, the little boy’s death was ruled a homicide and his parents, currently awaiting trial, face charges for manslaughter and aggravated child abuse.
Despite these findings, DCF continues to shroud the events leading up to the little boy’s death in secrecy. In accordance with Florida law, when a child dies from a caregiver’s abuse or neglect, DCF is required to release the agency’s records. However, months later, DCF still has not yet determined if Rashid died from abuse or neglect, despite the death being ruled a homicide attributable to parental neglect. DCF’s failure to make this determination allows the agency to continue to restrict public access to Rashid’s records.
While DCF investigations must be performed with the utmost care, the question presents itself, what is DCF hiding? Did they fail another child? Did they allow another vulnerable child to suffer and die while on notice of abuse and neglect? Did they, once again, miss multiple warning signs that this little boy was in danger? These answers remain unknown as DCF continues to fight to keep the records confidential from the public.