Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Another child's death, another cry for help

The Riverview foster mother charged in the death of a 17-month-old wasn't the first one to fail the toddler. Case records show that the boy, who had complex health and developmental problems, was handed to an inexperienced foster mother instead of medically trained caregivers and that his repeated medical emergencies did not trigger intervention by child welfare workers. Aedyn Agminalis' death is the inescapable outcome when the system charged with looking out for Florida's most vulnerable kids is chronically overburdened and underfunded.

Aedyn was taken from his parents after investigators determined they often left him alone in a filthy bedroom. Latamara Stackhouse Flythe, who took him in September, seemed in many ways an ideal foster mother. College-educated with a $70,000 income, she lived in a nice Riverview neighborhood with her two teenage children. Her job: marketing manager for an agency that recruits foster parents. But Flythe had only been licensed since June, and in the five months Aedyn lived with her she took him to the hospital three times. The Department of Children and Families, which investigated Aedyn's death, said that level of medical attention meant he should have been considered for placement with a medical foster family. Worse, his hospital visits were logged but not recorded in a way that alerted caseworkers that a child was having repeated medical incidents, an inexplicable lapse. Eckerd Kids, the agency that runs Hillsborough County's child welfare system, says it has since changed its system to raise those flags.

Aedyn was rushed to the hospital on Dec. 7, minutes after a caseworker left Flythe's house. Flythe said she was changing his diaper when his body went limp. Doctors found that he was suffering from hemorrhaging in his brain and spinal cord, likely the result of blunt force trauma. The toddler was resuscitated but had no brain activity and was removed from life support days later.

Flythe, charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, will be appropriately punished if convicted. But the system also must be accountable to taxpayers and Florida's abused and neglected kids. A federal report released in January found the state is lagging in meeting the educational, physical and behavioral needs of children in the foster care system. In more than half of 80 cases reviewed, child welfare workers removed children from homes without providing appropriate services, failed to make concerted efforts to deliver care or did not monitor safety plans or engage families in safety services. It cited an array of systemic problems, such as gaps in services, long waiting lists and a failure to tailor aid to a culturally diverse population. Many of those problems were raised by the same federal agency eight years ago.

Funding is a key issue. The nonpartisan Florida TaxWatch recently said that the state should be investing millions more in child welfare services. Meanwhile, more kids are entering the system, further stressing caseworkers, facilities and foster parents. More money could add staff, reduce turnover, ease caseloads, provide better training and improve services for families whose needs are complex and ingrained. The head of the Florida Coalition for Children is asking for a $49 million increase in state funding — still not enough to adequately fund the system but a boost big enough to make a difference.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18