LAUDERDHILL (CBSMiami) – Tamiyah Audain, autistic and disabled, lost a large amount of weight in the months leading up to her death at the end of September while living with a caregiver — her cousin — in a Lauderhill apartment with a rotting smell and cockroaches all over the kitchen, state records obtained by CBS4’s news partner The Miami Herald show.
A doctor with a state child protection team determined that Audain likely died “due to neglect as there is evidence of deliberate social isolation of this child by maternal cousin, Latoya Patterson leading to weight loss of approximately forty pounds and multiple pressure sores on her lower body.” Audain lived with Patterson after her mother died and child welfare workers determined the girls’ grandparents could not adequately care for her.
Her grandfather, Willie Lee Bryant, disputes that notion. He said Tamiyah was “his heart” and he wishes he could have continued caring for her after mother, Constance Bryant, died in 2012.
“She’s gone,” he told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “She’s in a better place. She’s with her momma so all I can say is, let it go.”
More details are emerging about the child’s final months and days from a trove of documents obtained by The Miami Herald. Reports from the Department of Children and Families as well as the Broward Sheriff’s Office Child Protective Services show that a ChildNet investigator missed Tamiyah’s weight loss and didn’t deal with other warning signs such as Tamiyah’s absences from school, Patterson’s disconnected phone and unavailability for meetings. The reports also indicate that Patterson’s 12-year-old daughter cared for Tamiyah during the day while Patterson worked.
DCF says more training is needed for child advocates. “In this case, the caregiver appeared to provide many explanations, which at best misled the advocate, and at worst, were not truthful. Verifying the caregiver’s statements should have occurred,” one of the reports reads.
However, documents also show that Patterson repeatedly asked for help in caring for Tamiyah and made it clear that she hoped someone else would care for the child permanently but received little assistance.
An investigative report says “The Child Advocate made frequent home visits to the family but there is little documentation that any direct services were provided even though there were opportunities to assist the caregiver of this medically complex child with concrete services.”
For instance, the girl’s caregiver said she needed money to buy adult diapers for the girl but despite guarantees from ChildNet no money came through. In another instance, despite a judge’s order to assist with the child’s insurance and medication needs there was no follow up by the Child Advocate, the report says.
The report says the ChildNet worker had no documented home visits with the child after July 30 of this year.
Bryant, the grandfather, said he does not have an issue with Patterson’s care for Tamiyah.
“I have no problem with my niece regarding raising her,” he said.
Tamiyah’s cousin, Teri Jackson, in Kentucky says she wanted to adopt the girl. But Jackson told CBS 4 News that Childnet made a mistake and never let the adoption go forward.
“I think its wrong and it’s not fair to me not to notify me as to what they were doing and when they did it,” Jackson said.
Bryant said ChildNet and DCF might have failed his granddaughter.
“If they find out that they was at fault then they gonna have to deal with the terms,” Bryant said.
DCF’s Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said in a statement, “Although the Medical Examiner’s report is not complete, it is clear from our findings that Tamiyah experienced severe medical neglect that likely contributed to her death. As a former prosecutor, I understand and respect the role of law enforcement in this process. While their criminal investigations understandably take longer, we have an ongoing mandate to quickly learn from tragedies to assure children in our care are protected.”
Jacobo also said, “This case highlights the critical importance of effective interagency communication and collaboration among the numerous agencies that are a part of Florida’s child welfare system. As the leaders of this system, DCF will take responsibility for ensuring what we’ve learned from this case is implemented not just in Broward County but statewide. For us to be successful on behalf of vulnerable children and families, we must work together seamlessly. With the facts of this case now open, we will begin implementing practices with our partners to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
Included in a report from DCF is a list of ways to improve the system. Some of the recommendations are having better screening of caregivers, including more agencies in the decision making process and increasing the accountability and critical thinking training for child advocates.