Saturday, February 24, 2018
Public safety

Caseworkers fired after death of Lee County 3-year-old

FORT MYERS — Two child welfare caseworkers have been fired after the death of a 3-year-old boy in southwest Florida.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office says 45-year-old Donella Trainor tightly wrapped Michael McMullen in a blanket Saturday as a type of punishment and put him face down in a crib as he screamed to be released. When she went to check on the boy, he didn't respond. Trainor and two others in the house were charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child. Three other children living with Michael were placed in foster care.

Child welfare officials said the family was known to them and was receiving services at the time of Michael's death, according to Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Terri Durdaller.

The caseworkers were subcontractors of Children's Network of Southwest Florida, which handles foster care for DCF.

Lutheran Services CEO Sam Sipes told the News-Press of Fort Myers that the caseworkers violated policies.

"While these policy violations did not cause the death of Michael, LSF will not rest until all questions are answered so we can ensure the safety of children in our care," Sipes said.

DCF is also doing a comprehensive review of this case and planned to release results Monday.

Michael is among nearly a dozen other children who have died while being monitored or having recent contact with agency in the past several months. Many of the deaths have been in South Florida and involved children under the age of 3.

DCF Secretary David Wilkins abruptly resigned in July as the number of deaths increased and fights with the agency's private contractors escalated. Esther Jacobo replaced him as interim secretary and immediately directed the agency to review all cases in which a child was abused or killed after previous reports of abuse had been filed.

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