1. Archive


The Courtney Clark case is not the first one to reveal problems in Florida's child welfare system. Here's a look at some of the major efforts at reform over the past two decades.

July 1985: Corey Greer

Four-month-old Corey was one of 12 children living in a Treasure Island foster home licensed for only four. He died after being left alone in a hot room. Gov. Bob Graham created a Governor's Constituency for Children committee to look into his death. Its findings faulted high staff turnover rates attributed to low pay and recommended more emphasis on prevention and keeping families together.

July 1989: Bradley McGee

The 2-year-old Lakeland boy was killed when his stepfather plunged him head-first into a toilet because Bradley soiled his pants. In response the Legislature created the Florida Study Commission on Child Welfare to review state laws addressing children's needs. Recommendations included lowering caseworker loads, increasing pay and changing the way child abuse investigations proceed. Based on the report, lawmakers passed the Bradley McGee Act in 1991, which included funding for 628 new child welfare workers.

May 1995: Lucas Ciambrone

The 7-year-old Bradenton boy was beaten, tortured and starved by his adoptive parents, undermining the state's faith in its child protection system. Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed a 10-member Community Review Panel, which made 44 recommendations for revamping the system.

November 1997

Gov. Lawton Chiles creates a Child Abuse Task Force, spurred by six child abuse deaths between Sept. 4 and Oct. 28: Beaunca Jones, 2, of Miami; Nia Scott, 2, of Largo; Alexandria Champagne, 21 months, of St. Petersburg; Saydee Alvarado, 8 months, of Palmetto; Walkiri Batista, 3, of Kissimmee, and Jonathan Flam, 2, of Tampa. All six were being supervised by the Department of Children and Families, most because a parent or caregiver had been accused of abuse or neglect.

May 1998

The Child Abuse Task Force issues a report that calls for improved training for child abuse investigators, standardizing investigative procedures, streamlining the dependency court system and improving the cooperation between child welfare and law enforcement workers. The Legislature appropriated $8-million to pay for the changes.

November 1998: Kayla McKean

The 6-year-old Lake County girl was killed by her father on Thanksgiving after she soiled her underwear. The state had allowed her to return home after previous abuse allegations. A grand jury looking into the case found that as many as 10 caseworkers were involved in her case, but none saw her more than once. Lawmakers pass the Kayla McKean Act to improve the system.

May 1999: Natalie Gomez

The 2-year-old Kissimmee girl was killed after her mother's boyfriend punched her in the stomach. The girl was not removed from that home despite warning signs noted by caseworkers. DCF Secretary Kathleen Kearney appointed a "strike force" to investigate the recent child abuse deaths.

April 2002: Rilya Wilson

Gov. Jeb Bush appoints a four-member panel following Rilya's disappearance that month. DCF was left scrambling to determine if, why and how a DCF employee wrote false reports about 5-year-old Rilya, indicating that the girl was in foster care when she had disappeared 16 months earlier. The results: "The chief issue is - and always has been - the same: Florida's child welfare system is overburdened, overwhelmed, understaffed and underfunded."