Due to an incident that occurred on Thursday, January 8, 2015, there have been changes made to the Department of Children and Families. A 25-year old man, John Jonchuck, was accused of throwing his 5-year old daughter, Phoebe, off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge approach, where she was dropped 62 feet to her death. The question many people ask is, could this death have been prevented?
“Genevieve Torres, a family law attorney who met with Jonchuck just one day before Phoebe was killed, said she called 911 and the DCF abuse hotline to report suspicious behavior. She said she felt the child’s life was in danger and wanted officials to intervene.” However, officials claim they did not have enough evidence to take Jonchuck in under the Baker Act. As result of this incident, DCF secretary, Mike Carroll states, “changes are going to be made and are already being made in the way the crisis teams investigate calls and the calls will be addressed within 4 hours instead of 24 hours, where the interactions of the families will also be examined.” If this family had been further inspected by the DCF that day, this young girl’s life may have been saved. (wtsp.com)
Kendra Conlon, with Clearwater 10 News reports, “CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute) case workers with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office are contracted through DCF, they had a contract, and they had contact with the family since 2012, surrounded by allegations of domestic violence and drugs, yet Phoebe was never removed from her parents’ custody.” One may have assumed that after having this type of background information, the DCF would have taken action immediately after receiving the phone call from Attorney Torres, that day. (wtsp.com)
There are necessary improvements that are being made in order for case workers to work closely with the professionals to better assess substance abuse and mental health issues. “The director of Florida’s Department of Children and Families made a pledge to do a better job of checking on parents and caregivers who have mental health and substance abuse issues.” The first steps in the right direction of better protecting children, like Phoebe, have already been taken. (dailymail.co.uk)
For help with any concerns related to family law, either request a consultation with one of our family lawyers in Tampa, or call our office at 813-907-9807.