ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

heavy-rain-night Created with Sketch.
80°
Mostly Cloudy
H 92° L 76°
  • heavy-rain-night Created with Sketch.
    80°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 92° L 76°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    88°
    Afternoon
    Mostly Cloudy. H 92° L 76°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day Created with Sketch.
    82°
    Evening
    Thunderstorms. H 89° L 75°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

News
Former DCF contractor arrested, accused of falsifying records, FDLE says
Close

Former DCF contractor arrested, accused of falsifying records, FDLE says

Former DCF contractor arrested, accused of falsifying records, FDLE says

Former DCF contractor arrested, accused of falsifying records, FDLE says

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Vanessa Arias, 33, over the weekend and she was charged with official misconduct and falsifying records.

FDLE agents said she lied about checking on the welfare of children who were under a case management plan to try and keep them with their mother. The children were found in January 2015 with no food, running water or electricity.  Arias was just arrested because the investigation has been ongoing for two years.

Arias was terminated in 2015 shortly after the investigation was launched, DCF confirmed.

“This is a sad case of vulnerable children reaching out to someone in a position to help them, but instead they were ignored,” said FDLE Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks.

Arias worked for Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, which is a Department of Children and Families subcontractor.

9 Investigates reporter Daralene Jones found at least five other employees who have been investigated for similar claims of falsifying records in the last five years.

Read: 9 Investigates DCF investigators accused of falsifying records

Arias was responsible for developing a safety plan once a DCF investigator determined the children were being neglected. Arias was supposed to make sure the children's mother was following that plan. Sometimes the plans can include substance-abuse treatment, conflict resolution counseling because of domestic violence, or even job and education cases.

In the investigative report, agents noted Arias went by the home and wrote a report describing “the children were dressed appropriate and they were free from any visible signs of abuse/neglect with all their basic needs met.”

The next day, Kissimmee police were called to the home and found the five children, who said their mother was only staying at the home sporadically. The power had been turned off for about three weeks and there was no food in the house and no running water. One child told a police officer they tried to call other family members and Arias, but nobody helped, so she called police.

>>> Other 9 Investigates stories

Nan Connolly is an outspoken critic of DCF, and how it trains its child protective investigators and contracts work for its case managers.

“We send them into that job, some of the worst qualified, youngest, greenest, most inexperienced people in state government. It's outrageous,” Connolly said.

9 Investigates earlier this month exposed more than 250 cases statewide, over the last five years, in which DCF child protective investigators and contracted case managers were accused of falsifying case notes.

About 60 percent of the cases were supported with clear evidence that the case managers or child protective investigators claimed to check out allegations of abuse or neglect and didn’t. In some cases, they checked out the claims and even performed followups and implemented case management plans, but didn’t always follow up as noted in reports.

A majority of workers complained about trying to manage too many cases. The same day our 9 Investigates story was published earlier this month, DCF announced a major effort to reduce caseloads. Since then, we have received weekly updates.

In the latest update, the DCF secretary said: “I remain committed to ensuring our maximum caseload does not exceed 25 cases for a CPI at any given time and it will take all of us working together to meet that goal. About six percent of our CPI’s are carrying a caseload greater than 25 and we will continue to get those caseloads down in an effort to provide the best possible services to the families we serve.”

Connolly believes the agency should arm their CPI’s and case managers with cameras, in an effort to hold them more accountable. 

“Just as police have gone over to recording devices in many areas, everything a CPI does from the state, what they call commencement of a case, should be recorded, whether it's a phone call, whether it's a face-to-face visit with the child. Sometimes they go into a school, wherever they are, they should be recorded so there's an accurate, memorialized record that a judge can use. Judges have no choice but to rely on what these CPIs say, there's no alternative for that information,” Connolly said.

The five children in the DCF investigation were removed from the home and placed in the foster care system.

Arias was not home when 9 Investigates stopped by, but her father told us the mother of two is now working a new job and believes she’s innocent.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Police in Georgia are hoping surveillance video that captured a violent attack will help them find the people responsible. Video shows a restaurant owner and her teenage daughter being beaten by two customers Thursday afternoon in Baxley, Georgia. >> Read more trending news The victims told police the suspects were unhappy with their order. The verbal argument turned violent when one of the suspects began punching the restaurant owner repeatedly. When the victim’s teenage daughter came out of the car to break up the fight, the male suspect punched her in the face. WJCL reported that Baxley police have issued warrants for the suspects, Nathaniel Smith and Latasha Smith. The pair could be charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to children. The suspects drove away from the restaurant in a cream or tan Cadillac Escalade with tag number REU8495. Officials said they headed north on Highway 144. Anyone with any information about the assault is asked to call the Baxley Police Department at 912-367-8305 or the 911 call center at 912-367-8111.
  • A dive team is searching a ditch along I-4 from which Orlando firefighters removed a car early Saturday, police said. A car flipped into the ditch near the Kirkman Road exit. Emergency services responded to the car around 8:15 a.m. App users click here to see the video. 
  • The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a small plane crash that occurred Saturday morning near Fort Meyers, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said. Deputies said the plane crashed into an unoccupied day care building. >> Read more trending news One person died in the crash while another was taken to the hospital. The survivor’s condition has not been released.
  • A Transportation Security Administration agent has been arrested after he was accused of stealing money from a passenger at Orlando International Airport in Florida, Orlando police said. >> Read more trending news Alexander Shae Johnson, 22, was arrested Thursday night. Passenger Kathleen Duddleston entered the TSA checkpoint and was stopped for additional screening, police said. While she was patted down, Duddleston told TSA security officer Michelle Metz that she couldn’t see her luggage, so Metz moved her closer. Duddleston complained again that she couldn’t see her bag, and Johnson moved slightly. After the pat down, Duddleston reached for her bag and could not find her money, police said. She said she noticed a bulge in Johnson’s left front shirt pocket. Duddleston asked Johnson if that was her money, and he said he got the money from the bank, police said. The woman complained to Metz that she believed Johnson stole money from her. Metz contacted her supervisor. Duddleston has been charged with third-degree grand theft. TSA said in a statement to WFTV: TSA has a zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace. The TSA immediately reported the allegation to OPD and we aggressively investigated the incident with our law enforcement partner. TSA officers represent a professional and honorable workforce that is trained to treat passengers and their personal belongings with care and respect. No exceptions will be tolerated. We immediately ended the federal career of this individual.
  • A scare happened at a Leominster, Massachusetts, supermarket after a 4-day-old newborn was left locked inside of a hot car while her mother was inside shopping. >> Read more trending news Mother Sharma Murphy said that on her way to Market Basket supermarket on Friday, she stopped by the fire house to make sure her baby’s car seat was properly installed. Less than an hour later, those firefighters helped rescue her 4-day-old baby, who was locked in her hot car. A shopper called Leominster police after spotting a newborn alone inside a car. It was Sharma Murphy's silver Chevy Malibu. >> A reminder of hot car dangers as temperatures climb Murphy said she was out for the first time with her newborn daughter, 4-day-old Katherine, and was nervous. “I went, I bought it. Came right out and this lady just starts screaming at me. Screaming at me,” said Murphy. Murphy said she brought her newborn inside with her to Market Basket and then returned to the car when Katherine fell asleep. She said that she ran back inside for two or three minutes to buy some baby formula. “I went (in and) I bought it,” Murphy said. “(I) came right out and this lady just starts screaming at me.” Related: Two toddlers dead after 15 hours in hot car, police say Police said the windows were rolled up. “I believe she locked her keys in the car because they had to use the jimmy to get the baby out,” witness John Casey told WFXT. According to WFXT meteorologists, the outside temperature was 84 degrees at the time. Murphy said she didn’t want to wake her newborn. “I thought, ‘OK, if I run in and run out...’ It was one of those things where she's gotta eat because I have nothing left for her and that's when everything happened and I'm like, oh my God,” Murphy said. Katherine was taken to the hospital to be checked out. Her mother said he is fine. The baby is currently in custody of DCF. No charges have been filed.