The Associated Press recently reported that a 13-year-old Orange Park boy told police that his grandmother and his aunt beat him, locked him in a box and chained him to a couch for days without food. According to Local 10 News, “Orange Park police said the boy was treated in October for a severe injury to his genitals that he said he received jumping over a fence. But doctors in the Jacksonville suburb found other injuries, scars and burn marks and notified police.”
This horrific story is sadly another example of the extreme mistreatment of children by those who are supposed to be protecting them. Take the New York case of Judith Leekin. Although she was cited for abusing a child in 1980 in Queens, NY, Leekin was still permitted to adopt 11 disabled New York City foster and disabled children. She reportedly abused them in St. Lucie County, FL, more than a decade later, including beating, handcuffing, forcing them to sleep in a closet, keeping them from school and refusing them medical care.
Similarly, the Florida case of Nellie Johnson bears remarkable similarities to the abusive tragedy in Orange Park. For 10 years, agents with Florida’s Department of Children and Families placed children with Johnson, despite multiple reports that she abused kids in her care. And in the Broward County Roe case, Mrs. Lynch physically, sexually and emotionally abused and neglected her foster children. She locked the children in a 10 x 10 room, bathed them in the swimming pool, and fed them as a group out of a single bowl.
These tragic stories remind us that too many children are the victims of bizarre abuse and neglect by their parents and of the need for continued reforms to strengthen our child welfare system. The privatization of Florida’s child welfare system was no panacea and much work needs to be done to protect our children.