The deaths of two young children in Miramar, Florida, at the hands of their mother should serve as yet another warning of how children’s protective services need to be more protective of the children. Ariel, a toddler, and St. Leo, 7 months old, were taken from and later returned to their mother by social service authorities in their hometown of Philadelphia.
Then this month, their mother – Sophia Hines – allegedly smothered both children while staying in South Florida. The woman previously had been under care for severe depression, and the children “were receiving in-home services” from a Philadelphia social services agency, according to the Miami Herald, which fought Philadelphia authorities and the Florida Department of Children and Families successfully to review the family’s case file.
What the records revealed was a history of domestic violence between the parents, and even a stay by the mother in a shelter before the boy was born. “A Philadelphia child abuse investigator told counterparts in Florida that [the mother] ‘had a pattern of mental health behavior’ dating back to before St. Leo was born,” according to the paper. Philadelphia authorities told counterparts in Broward that the mother was ordered to twice-monthly mental-health counseling and classes for medication management and parenting.
Then the mother fled to Florida with the children she allegedly later killed. The result leaves the family, authorities, and child abuse advocates and foster child lawyers to wonder whether warning signs should have received more attention.