The details of Nubia Barahona’s death are grisly: Soaked in toxic chemicals, decomposed and stuffed in a garbage bag, she was found rotting on the shoulder of the interstate on Valentines Day. Authorities believe she had been stashed in a septic tank for weeks before her adoptive father dug up her corpse.
Statistically, however, Nubia’s story is rather common: She is one of hundreds of Florida children who died of abuse or neglect during the last decade after child welfare authorities had performed at least one investigation into their welfare. Florida not only leads the United States in the number of such deaths, it dominates the nation.
In the wake of a controversial decision by child welfare administrators to halve the number of children taken into state care — while, at the same time, reducing the number of children receiving protective services with their birth families — the number of deceased children with a child protection investigative history almost doubled, from 35 in 2001 to 69 in 2009. No statistics are available for 2010.
Over the past six years, 41 percent of all children who died of abuse or neglect in Florida had been the subject of at least one prior contact with child protection authorities, the state Department of Health reports. The average for all other states: about 12 percent.
In 2008, the number of Florida children with a history of abuse or neglect reports who later died made up almost half of the U.S. total. In 2009, 64 of the 120 child deaths nationally with a history of prior reports occurred in Florida – or 53 percent.
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