But this story isn't happening in some far-away country where we are more or less helpless to change things. Its about something going on in the state of Florida (and other states) as a direct result of Republican attempts to demonize government and cut off its resources. So I'm going to ask you to risk a few tears in order to inform yourself and then get busy changing things.
Carl Hiaasen tells the story in the Miami Herald.
Most of the dead are babies and toddlers, and they perish in horrible ways — starved, punched, shaken, burned, thrown from cars or simply forgotten. There’s nothing left to protect them except the state of Florida, which fails over and over.No, I'm not blaming Republicans for parents who abuse their children. But when Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Florida legislature cut funding for government services and turn down federal funding for child abuse prevention programs simply because its part of the Affordable Care Act - I sure as hell will blame them for that.
Kyla Joy Hall was beaten to death by her father at age 10 months. Eight months earlier, she’d been hospitalized with multiple fractures and a bleeding brain, yet no one got arrested.
Tavont’ae Gordon was smothered at age 2 months while sleeping on a couch with her mother, who was high on coke. Tavont’ae’s sister, Tariji, was removed from the home by child welfare officials, but she was later returned when Rachel Gordon said she’d kicked her drug habit.
A few months later, Tariji was killed by a blow to the head and buried in a shallow grave by her mother, now in jail.
Since January 2008, at least 477 children have died for no other reason than being overlooked by the system. Their families were known to the Department of Children & Families, yet they’d been allowed to remain with reckless parents in high-risk homes.
As Hiaasen points out, the budget for Florida's Department of Children and Families (responsible for child protection) has been shrunk by $100 million in this fiscal year alone. But that's not the only culprit.
Of the 477 child deaths during the last six years, 323 involved alcohol or drug use by parents or caregivers. Meanwhile, legislators have cut funds for drug treatment.When we talk about cuts to state budgets, Democrats usually bring up teachers, cops and firefighters to make their case about the importance of government services. That's because these children and families live in the shadows and we'd rather not talk about all this. Oh...we can get enraged when Republicans take food from poor children, but when they slash funding that might prevent their death - not so much. And of course, reading this as SCOTUS considers the claims of Hobby Lobby that including contraceptives in their health care plans somehow violates their moral principles shows the utter hypocrisy of the conservative position that they actually care about the lives of children.
The reality is that protecting these children is the responsibility of government - not charity. That's because their deaths - whether intended or the result of gross neglect - are murder. I'm relieved that Hiaasen is reporting that at least one Florida Republican seems to be getting the message.
One person who’s been paying attention is Senate President Don Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville, who acknowledged that it will take “tens of millions of dollars” to start making DCF function as the law intends.I have a hard time calling the death of 477 children a "mistake." I think a term like "criminal negligence" would be a better fit. Until we do a better job of protecting these children, we're all complicit.
“I think in child welfare we have gone on the cheap, and I think that’s been a mistake,” he said.
A terrible, frequently fatal mistake.