Bradenton, Florida -- Eleven-year-old Janiya Thomas was the child who revealed cracks in a system with the responsibility of protecting kids.
A year ago today her body was found inside a cardboard box stuffed in a freezer in Bradenton. Janiya’s mother, Keishanna Thomas, is charged with her murder. The trail has been moved to Aug. 21, 2017.
“As a parent to know this happened to a child was absolutely sickening,” says state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-District 70.
10News WTSP called six legislators from the Bay area -- state leaders charged with protecting the defenseless. “This is Isabel Mascarenas with 10 News.”
Rouson was the only state legislator available to answer questions.
What changes are in place to investigate child abuse cases so kids don’t fall through the cracks again?
“It is my understanding … critical safeguards been put into place both by DCF (Department of Children and Families) and the sheriff’s office so that children, vulnerable children will be protected,” says Rouson.
In the Janiya case, the extent of disciplinary action was a two-day suspension for closing the case too soon, for not reporting that Janiya was missing for weeks and thoroughly investigating.
While Rouson says case workers are human and can make mistakes they should be held to a higher standard.
Rouson says, “We can’t achieve perfection but if we strive towards it, we can hope for excellence. That’s the standards we expect from government employees.”
In some cases -- lives depend on it.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office -- the agency who initially investigated Janiya's case through its Child Protection Investigation Division -- would not comment either.
We at 10News WTSP will continue to stay on top of this story and won't stop until questions are answered.
Statement from DCF Secretary Mike Carroll:
“Every child death is an absolute tragedy. We continue to pray for those who loved Janiya and still face the unimaginable grief of losing a child. The horror she faced still resonates with us today in heartbreak and outrage. Among the most important lessons learned is the need for all agencies within the system of care to work together toward our common goal of keeping kids safe. In response to Janiya’s senseless death, we have enhanced training at all levels and across agencies and renewed our focus on communication and partnership in collaboration with our partners, including the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, community-based care agencies, and DCF’s Children’s Legal Services.
“We, along with our partners, collectively share the understanding that child safety and wellbeing is not and should never be the sole domain of a single agency, community organization, or program. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our children will always be the collective mission of all who protect our state’s most vulnerable.”
Here is a link to the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team report that was released last year following its deployment to review the system’s involvement with Janiya and her family. We also encourage you to reach out to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office as the agency that conducts child protective investigations in Manatee County if you haven’t already. The CIRRT report includes information from MCSO regarding their response to this case.