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2 abuse cases reported at DCF-contracted site

Published March 15, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Four state agencies are looking into reports of abuse at a Department of Children and Families- contracted facility that holds mentally ill and disabled juvenile delinquents who aren't competent to stand trial.

It's believed an employee used excess force Feb. 28 while grabbing a child and transferring him to a "time out" room, but he was not severely injured, said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Andrew Agwunobi.

Another boy's arm was broken during a conflict with employees March 6 at the Liberty County facility managed by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Both boys are 14 years old, said Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth.

The first boy is from Broward County, and the boy who broke his arm is from Indian River County.

Phillpe Davidson was fired after the first event, and Anthony Vowell and John Davis were placed on leave after the second, according to DCF.

The Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp was almost shut down after the Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses the facility, reviewed the cases. The agency agreed to keep it open after DCF assigned staff to monitor the facility 24 hours each day, Agwunobi said.

"We are very, very confident that these children are safe. They are safe for now," said Agwunobi, adding that his department was still reviewing the facility and could still suspend its license.

"This facility is not out of the woods yet."

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating and will likely decide next week whether any charges should be filed in the cases, Bailey said.

There is a videotape of the first case, but not of the second, which occurred outside one of the facility's buildings.

Chris Moya, a lobbyist representing Twin Oaks, defended the facility, saying that there aren't widespread problems at the center.

"The institution called in the abuse, the institution called DCF, the institution removed the employee and the institution the following morning showed the videotapes to DCF investigators," Moya said.

"So if the institution in fact is the one reporting the abuse, I'm not sure how that constitutes institutional abuse."

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 01:53:01]

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