MIAMI - A tree is now planted in the courtyard of Miami's Department of Children and Families headquarters in memory of Nubia Barahona, whose body was discovered in her father's truck at the side of the highway one year ago.
"I believe there was not only dysfunction in this case but evil in this case," said David Lawrence to a small group of DCF employees and supervisors gathered to watch.
Lawrence was part of a blue ribbon panel that uncovered the DCF's missteps and mistakes that allowed Nubia and her twin brother Victor to fall through cracks and remain with the foster parents then adoptive parents Carmen and Jorge Barahona, who are now accused of their years of abuse and Nubia's murder.
That panel and a grand jury investigation led to changes that DCF Secretary David Wilkins outlined in a letter to his employees Tuesday. They include more child protective investigators, more coordination with law enforcement and improved training and technology.
"Since that day, every decision we have made has been to help ensure such a tragedy does not occur again," Wilkins wrote.
"Things have not gotten better," insisted the twins' guardian ad litem Paul Neumann, who had raised red flags that went all but ignored.
"If you hear a story once a year like this, things have not gotten better. You should never hear the story," said Neumann.
Neumann was among a group of guardians ad litem invited to Tallahassee last week to talk to lawmakers considering more changes to DCF. He came away unconvinced enough lawmakers were committed enough to giving the time, money and resources necessary to make protecting vulnerable children foolproof.
"The state promised the same amount of dollars to the program that they got last year and the year before, but there are more children in the system. They need more dollars. Money solves a lot of problems," said Neumann, referring to the Guardian Ad Litem program.
Anyone interested in volunteering as a guardian or supporting the program can find more information at BeAVoice.org.
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