Child abuse investigator fired after boy's death

DCF: Child abuse investigator forged documents months before Catalina Bruno left child to die in car


Child welfare officials have fired an investigator who they said forged documents about substance-abuse treatment for a mother six months before her 11-month old baby died in a sweltering car.

Catalina Bruno is accused of leaving her son Bryan Osceola, along with her purse and a can of beer, in the car outside their Miami home. The boy had a 109-degree temperature when he was found. His mother is now jailed on charges of aggravated manslaughter.

The dogs kept Local 10's Glenna Milberg from Shani Smith's door and her lawyer didn't respond to calls, a day after the Department of Children and Families fired Smith, alleging she lied in reports about the family of Bryan Osceola.

Her case months before the 11-month-old died in his mother's hot car last week.

"We found out none of the providers documented as providing these services," said DCF Secretary David Wilkins.

None of the 428 pages in Smith's DCF personnel file indicate she would lie or fudge facts.

Smith was first assigned to the family last summer, after domestic violence allegations involving Bryan's mother Catalina Bruno.

Because of that history, Smith was reassigned as the Protective Investigator last November, when Bruno was found passed out in her car in gear -- then 5-month old Bryan head down between front seats.

READ: Smith's personnel file |

On that First Investigative Summary, Smith detailed her standard operating procedure, that she, as the "CPI (child protective investigator) has referred for FIS (Family Intervention Specialist) testing and callouts."

She specifically writes, "no recommendations for services," and "FIS was conducted."

That report may never have come under scrutiny, but did last week, when Bruno apparently left her baby to die in the hot car.

"Our computer systems don't show that any of these services were ever ordered electronically or received through the computer system," said Wilkins.

Did Smith lie, asks Local 10's Glenna Milberg? Did she cover-up? And if so, why?

Smith was first hired in April 2001 as a clerk/typist, and was promoted that December as Family Services Counselor.

When DCF privatized case management in 2005, Smith left to work with one of the providers until 2010. Then, DCF rehired her in April 2011 as a Protective Investigator.

All her evaluations are satisfactory or better. In March, a supervisor wrote of her "tremendous growth" and "good leadership skills." Her file ends with Thursday's termination for falsifying records.

"She has performed over 100 investigations over the last year and so we're now going back and relooking at every one of those investigations," said Wilkins.

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