Questions swirl around state agency in case of missing girl

Author: Associated Press
Miami Police Department

MIAMI (AP) – Records show that a woman who told a Miami judge in July that her missing toddler is dead was on Florida’s welfare agency’s radar when the girl and her twin brother were born in April 2014.

As the search continues for little Angela Dufrene, the Miami Herald reported that just-released records from the Department of Children and Families renew troubling questions about the agency’s oversight of at-risk children.

Marjorie Dufrene’s history with the agency included a child abuse arrest and six separate investigations. In one incident, a report said she “accidentally” hit one of her older children in the face with a belt with so much force the child required surgery.

Even so, when Angela and her twin brother were born, the Herald reports child welfare investigators left the infants in Dufrene’s care without a protective order in place.

Angela’s disappearance was discovered in July after an anonymous tip spurred a DCF investigation. Police believe Angela was last seen in November 2015. The newspaper reported that heavily redacted and incomplete records show child protection workers and lawyers chose not to monitor the safety of the twins.

A DCF investigator was probing the family’s 11th child-abuse hotline report in July – involving an unidentified child – when Dufrene could only account for four of her five children. She first claimed Angela was with her birth father, but investigators quickly determined that was a lie.

“The mother admitted to murdering child Angela in November of 2015,” a report said. She also later told a judge the toddler was “no longer with us.” The report added that “Angela would not stop crying.”

Almost no record was left of the child. Police investigators searched several days before finding a single photo of Angela.

DCF removed Angela’s twin from their mother. Her three older children are in Broward County with their father.

In an interview with the Herald, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll declined to discuss Angela’s case in detail, saying state law prohibits that until the child is formally presumed dead.

“Based on some comments the mom made in open court, we have grave concerns about this child,” Carroll said.

He told the newspaper that child protection administrators who met in April 2014 erred by failing to add the twins and one other sibling to an ongoing court case in which the woman’s two older children were under state supervision.

“If the older children were not safe, how in the world can a newborn be safe,” he said. “It defies logic.”

Carroll said he’s asked staff to look into whether DCF needs to make changes to mandate that infants born into families already under state supervision be added to such court cases as a matter of course.

Dufrene hasn’t been charged with a crime.

In another Miami case, a child also went missing after child protection workers became involved in 2000. Four-year-old Rilya Wilson disappeared after caseworkers placed her in the home of Geralyn Graham. A caseworker reported making numerous visits to the home – which never took place. In April 2002, another caseworker discovered the girl was gone. Her body has never been found.

Graham was convicted of aggravated child abuse and kidnapping and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

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