Barahona case could spark policy changes - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Barahona case could spark policy changes

MIAMI (WFLX) - The investigation into the death of a 10-year-old western Miami-Dade girl and alleged abuse of her twin brother will likely cause a major shift in the way state child welfare officials handle child abuse cases, the head of the Department of Children and Families said this morning.

DCF Secretary David Wilkins also announced a three-person "management review team" to independently look into how the agency responded to the case of Victor and Nubia Doctor.

The twins were found in their adoptive father's pickup truck in Palm Beach County last Monday; Nubia's dead body in a plastic bag and Victor seizing in the front seat covered in a toxic chemical.

Jorge Barahona, 53, has been arrested and charged with attempted murder for the abuse suffered by Victor. His wife, Carmen, 60, has not been charged in the incident that has left Victor in critical condition in the burn unit of Holtz Children's Hospital in Miami.

But while Andrea Fleary, the DCF investigator assigned to look into an allegation that the twins were being bound by their hands and feet and confined to a bathroom, has come under intense scrutiny over the past week so has DCF.

Long one of the state's largest and most troubled agencies, DCF hasn't had a case garner the sort of national attention given this one since the death of 4-year-old Rilya Wilson.

Allegations of abuse that resulted in the death of the Miami-Dade County girl launched investigations into DCF's management of cases.

More than a year after Rilya was last seen, DCF realized in 2002 that she had disappeared. Later that year, the state legislature passed a law requiring the agency to track any efforts to find missing children, among other changes.

Wilkins confirmed today that by the time the dust settles on what really happened in Nubia's and Victor's household, DCF officials may once again be forced to look at their policies governing caseworkers.

Fleary, a 22-year veteran of DCF, meanwhile, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

To look into the tragic incident independent of DCF, Wilkins said he has asked David Lawrence Jr., former publisher of The Miami Herald and currently head of the Children's Movement of Florida; Coral Gables attorney Bobby Martinez, a former U.S. Attorney in South Florida; and Dr. Jim Sewell to make up the review team.

The group will have regular public meetings, although no dates have been set, Wilkins said.

He said their final report will have to be turned into DCF by March 11.

The guardian ad litem at that time, Paul Neumann, had raised concerns about the Barahonas' household when they were attempting to adopt the twins.

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