Two Southwest Florida babies have been found dead in less than a week. In both cases, at least one parent had been investigated or arrested for prior drug use.
NBC2 discovered these cases follow an alarming statewide trend: More children are being taken out of their homes because of a parent’s drug addiction.
By Nestor Mato.
Officials in Florida say they have seen a 24 percent spike in the state’s foster-care population from 2013 to 2015, compared to just 7 percent nationwide.
A six-month-old girl was declared dead in Immokalee on Saturday. Collier County deputies said the home was filthy, with signs of drugs and a scent of marijuana.
On Thanksgiving Day, an eight-month-old boy was beaten to death in Fort Myers. His babysitter was arrested, accused of killing the boy. The baby’s father was in jail when it happened.
“It’s heartbreaking, really,” said resident Denis Cartagena.
Some in Southwest Florida say they are hearing about more and more parents getting high around their children.
“I have never in my entire life seen so many people being on something,” said Cornelia Reinhardt, herself a mother.
Florida’s foster-care population has increased by more than 20 percent in just two years. Officials say a crackdown on the abuse of prescription drugs has more parents turning to heroin and other street drugs.
“Parents around here that, you know, just want to get a quick high.”
Denise Cartagena said the community needs to do more to make sure children are safe.
“There are countries that before you are even allowed to have children, you have to go through adequate training just on how to care for a child because it is a daunting experience,” Cartagena said.
Others say the problem won’t end until people realize they need to get help and get sober.
Last year, baby Chance Walsh was killed in North Port. The Department of Children and Families received a call saying baby Chance’s parents were heavy drug users, but nothing was done. Nine weeks later, the baby was found buried in the woods.
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