Florida's Children First

Foster kids starved, beaten and molested, reports show. Few caregivers are punished.

A cache of documents pried loose after USA TODAY’s investigation in October into Florida’s child welfare system reveals allegations of foster care abuse are more widespread than previously reported.

The nearly 5,000 records detail calls to the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse hotline from teachers, health care professionals, day care workers, neighbors and others about the treatment of kids in state care.

None of these cases would have been counted in what Florida publicly reports each year about the number of serious abuse, neglect and abandonment allegations in its foster care system.

DCF said the accusations do not meet its definition of serious harm. Instead, they are classified as foster care “referrals,” potential license violations that may prompt an administrative review and that Florida officials fought to keep secret for years.

The records obtained by USA TODAY include calls that accused foster parents and group home workers of hitting children with hands, belts and household objects; denying them medical care and sending them to school dirty, hungry and dressed in ill-fitting clothes.

Suzanne Hirt, Michael Braga and Pat Beall, USA TODAY




Florida's Children First

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