A lawyer representing the biological family of a teenager in foster care who broadcast her suicide on Facebook live says the tragic death is just the latest evidence that the state’s move to privatize foster care is not working.
WLRN-FM reports the death of 14-year-old Naika Venant in January was the second teen suicide in a Miami Gardens foster care home overseen by the agency Our Kids in the two months. In December, 16-year-old Lauryn Martin hanged herself with a scarf in her room at the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter on Plantation Key.
Howard Talenfeld, a lawyer representing Naika Venant’s biological family, said it is the Department of Children and Families that gives the job to a contractor like Our Kids.
“We’re seeing kids that just aren’t in the right kinds of placements, don’t receive the right kinds of services. In her case, she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the internet,” he said in a story published by Health News Florida.
The Department of Children and Families contract out cases with management agencies, such as Our Kids.
“We’re trying to get at the truth. Until we know what the truth is, we couldn’t even begin to try to determine what’s appropriate,” he said
Talenfeld says it’s been 40 days since his firm requested relevant records from DCF and Our Kids, and it hasn’t gotten anything yet.
“We’re hopeful that this kind of information becomes available very soon so that the Florida Legislature can hear more than the fact that ‘this kid was just a kid we couldn’t help,” he said.
Representatives of DCF and Our Kids did not respond immediately to requests for comment, WLRN reported.
Venant was a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, bouncing in and out of state care since 2009 – 10 just since April of last year until her death She hanged herself from a shower stall while about 1,000 people watched on Facebook, many of them taunting her, according to the Miami Herald.
At a news conference in January, Naika’s mother, Gina Alexis, said: “I am sick and devastated. I have trusted Florida foster care people to care for my baby. Instead, she kills herself on Facebook.