The Florida Department of Children and Families has made an important admission: DCF says it could have done better in the case of an 8-year-old Palm Beach County girl, who died after drinking boiling water on a dare from her cousin.
DCF investigated several incidents of abuse and neglect involving Ki'ari Pope, prior to her death in July. As a result, the agency investigated itself.
And in a final report, DCF concludes its agents' failures did not "contribute" to Ki'ari's death, but may have left her in a "high risk" environment.
Ki'ari Pope, according to her family, was a happy girl. On a dare, she drank boiling water from a straw. Afterwards, she struggled to breathe and eventually died two months later.
In the four months before her death, DCF child protective investigators visited her home three times to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect.
In their final report, DCF said "this provided multiple opportunities to assess how the family functioned to determine if she was safe."
But the report goes on to say, that's not what happened every time.
DCF met with Pope and her family in March, right after the girl suffered burns on her mouth and throat. Because of her injuries, DCF says, "there should have been a mandatory referral to the child protection team."
There's no documentation showing that happened. DCF also says the investigator did nothing to determine future safety in the home.
In March, DCF also recommended a psych exam for Pope's mother but never followed up. Two months later, Pope's mother admitted she was having a hard time balancing Pope's medical needs with her basic needs.
DCF ultimately says the investigator closed some investigations without a "thorough assessment."
DCF writes "the family should have been referred for family support services, however, a referral was not completed, nor were services implemented."
Contact 5 has spent more than a year reporting on the problems child protective investigators say they face at the department, with high caseloads, and even higher turnover.
In this case, the department says the investigator had a caseload it described as manageable, but did say she was only 4 months out of training, and "could have used more supervisory guidance."
Here's the report: