ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
77°
Sct Thunderstorms
H 95° L 76°
  • clear-night
    77°
    Current Conditions
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 95° L 76°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    90°
    Afternoon
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 95° L 76°
  • cloudy-day
    85°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 92° L 77°
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

  • Florida prisons were placed on lockdown Thursday following reports of security threats.  >> Read more trending news The Florida Department of Corrections announced that it canceled weekend visitation at all institutions for Saturday and Sunday because of a possible security threat. Correction officials said they received information that indicated small groups of inmates at several institutions would try to disrupt prison operations. The lockdown affects more than 97,000 inmates in Florida’s 151 correctional facilities, including major institutions, work camps and annex facilities. The move affects recreational and educational programs, but inmates are not confined to their cells, officials said. The cancellation does not apply to work release centers, department officials said.  
  • A group of storms east of the Caribbean has developed into Tropical Storm Harvey.   Harvey is approaching the Lesser Antilles and it is forecast to continue traveling west, officially arriving in the Caribbean Friday afternoon. It has been given a 100 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next two days.   It’s also expected to become a hurricane by Monday morning. At this point it is no threat to Florida.   “We have entered the peak of Hurricane season, which is mid-August through late October,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
  • A Cleveland father is upset after he says his son was left on the school bus for hours on his first day of classes. WJW reported that Trevelle Hargrove’s 6-year-old son, Trevelle Jr.,  has special needs. Hargrove said his son fell asleep on the bus. >> Read more trending news Trevelle Jr.  said he was found after he honked the horn of the bus and jumped up and down. A spokesperson for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District said Trevelle Jr. fell asleep on the bus Monday and was there for less than an hour. His father says otherwise. “After an hour and they couldn't tell me what was going on I started to get extremely worried,” Hargrove told WJW. 'I couldn't understand why no one could tell me where my son was.” Hargrove said his son was back four hours later, at 6:30 p.m. “You can’t just forget to do things,” he said. “This isn’t like a normal job where you forget to put the straw in the bag or you forget to clock in or whatever it is you do at a normal job. You can’t do that when it comes to kids.” Hargrove said his son won’t be riding the bus again any time soon. The district is is investigating. Cleveland Metropolitan Schools Chief Communications Officer Roseann Canfora issued the following statement to WJW: “Drivers are trained to follow strict protocols for inspecting every seat at the beginning and end of their routes, and CMSD has a zero tolerance for any violation of these safety guidelines.” The bus driver has resigned. WJW reported they may be terminated pending the outcome of the district’s investigation.
  • Authorities said a terror attack in Barcelona claimed at least 13 lives on Thursday and left 80 others injured after a van slammed into pedestrians on Barcelona's popular La Rambla street. >> Read more trending news Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalonia police force, confirmed the attack in a Twitter post around 5:10 p.m. local time.
  • Many scientists and groups across the U.S. aren’t taking Monday’s eclipse for granted - they want to learn things! There will be lots of experiments happening during the 90-minute event.  Here are just a few: 1. The eclipse movie - Volunteers from national labs and education groups will track the sun along its path using identical telescopes, which will take continuous digital pictures.  The pictures will be later spliced together to make a 90-minute movie.  So don’t fret if you can’t watch on Monday! 2. Sounds - college students at Tennessee’s Austin Peay State University, along with NASA< will measure the sound of the eclipse by setting up low-frequency radio experiments in bean fields.  They’ll capture the noise the eclipse creates and figure out how its different from normal conditions. 3. Animal behavior - Also at Austin Peay State University, scientists will be watching how crickets and cows act when the Moon covers the sun and darkens the sky.  During a solar eclipse in 1991, spiders were seen taking down their webs.  4. Solar flares - We know solar flares happen when the sun’s magnetic field causes a brief burst of intense radiation, but we don’t know enough to protect our technology from them.  During the eclipse, a group of scientists in Wyoming will attempt to take some measurements of the sun’s outer atmosphere.  Usually the sun is too bright to do this, but the eclipse should provide a good view. Want to watch the eclipse?  CLICK HERE to see where you can get free glasses.