MIAMI (CBS4) – After 15 hours of testimony, an independent blue ribbon panel finally pieced together what went wrong with DCF that led to the death of Nubia Barahona.
“A child died and a child didn’t need to die,” said panel member David Lawrence, Jr. “And we could have done a hell of a lot better!”The panel recommended an overhaul of DCF’s Child Protective Services.
“There are some of these recommendations that sting,” Lawrence said. “But no one suffered more pain than Nubia. No one!”
Nubia was found dead in her adoptive father’s truck on Valentine’s Day. The father, Jorge Barahona, and his wife Carmen have both been charged with first-degree murder.
“I refuse to call her Nubia Barahona,” Lawrence said. “I call her Nubia. She didn’t deserve to have that last name. She didn’t deserve it.”
Lawrence said those entrusted with protecting Nubia failed her at every step of the way. The simple reason was there was no communication.
The panel recommended, in part, that DCF do the following:
- immediately review the quality of case managers
- immediately review of psychologists used by the court system
- modify the Abuse Hotline procedures to give greater weight to calls from school district employees and community-based care agencies
- work with law enforcement to ensure an appropriate join response when children are not located quickly
- correctly identify calls into the Hotline as “immediate” or “within 24 hours” response
In the four days before Nubia’s body was discovered, abuse allegations that were called into the DCF hotline were never reported to law enforcement.
The recommendations also included more intensive training for Child Protective Investigators and higher salaries to keep good employees.
The panel also asked the Department of Education to launch an alert system for at-risk children removed from the school system and placed in home schooling, like Nubia.
“Home schooling was used as the home detention, torture, and execution of one child. That shouldn’t happen,” said panel member Roberto Martinez.
DCF’s assistant secretary for operations, Pete Digre, was at the meeting and responded to the panel’s finding on behalf of new DCF secretary David Wilkins.
“We failed miserably,” Digre said. “The secretary promises that the findings of this panel will be implemented with the urgency that Nubia’s life deserves.”