3-year-old's drowning latest death under DCF review
MIAMI - A toddler who drowned in a dirty swimming pool two weeks after he had been found wandering near his home is the latest child to die of abuse or neglect after a state worker deemed them safe. The Miami Herald reports 3-year-old Dakota Stiles died Thursday in the pool that a Department of Children and Families worker had described as "exceptionally unsafe." In mid-July an investigator found that Dakota's parents "appear to be paralyzed in parenting the children." But the children remained in the Vero Beach home. "These conditions, and the parents' flat reaction to the child victim getting out of the home," an investigator wrote, "pose a significant risk of harm" to Dakota.Nevertheless, DCF did nothing to protect Dakota as it continued to investigate his parents. "At this time," a report said, "there does not appear to be an immediate negative impact on the victim's safety." The Herald reports Dakota became the seventh child to die under DCF's watch and the second to die since interim secretary Esther Jacobo took over the department from David Wilkins, who resigned two weeks ago. Jacobo said she's outraged by Dakota's death. "Late last week, I learned of the tragic death of Dakota Stiles," Jacobo told The Herald on Monday. "I am deeply saddened and outraged. We have only begun to review DCF's prior involvement with this family, but we will now turn our full attention to determining what could have been done to prevent this tragedy. No one will bring a more critical approach to this review than me, because we must fully understand what happened and move quickly to take any corrective action that is needed to keep children safe." Other recent deaths connected to DCF include Cherish Perrywinkle. The 8-year-old Jacksonville girl was raped and strangled by a registered sex offender her mother had befriended, police said. Cherish's family had been investigated by DCF multiple times in the years leading up to her death. The sex offender, Donald James Smith, was indicted on June 21 on charges of first-degree murder, sexual battery and kidnapping. He is facing the death penalty.