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The Gang that Can't Shoot Straight
March 17, 2011 permalink
Florida child protectors removed son Jermaine McNeil and daughter Ju'Tyra Allen from mother Felicia Brown. Then they allowed the mother to adopt her own children. The mother's body was found in a garbage dump and the bodies of the two children were were fished out of a canal.
DCF 'did its job' in case of 2 children found dead in Delray canal, and their slain mom
DCF records detail life of abuse, neglect before mom, two kids killed
WEST PALM BEACH
Officials with the Florida Department of Children and Families on Tuesday said the agency "did its job" in the handling of a case involving a mother and her two young children later found dead in Palm Beach County.
Perry Borman, the DCF Circuit Administrator in Palm Beach County, prefaced that statement by praising Felicia Brown, 25, for overcoming an abusive childhood that continued through at least two of three teen pregnancies and ultimately resulted in state-approved reunions with son Jermaine McNeil, 10, and daughter Ju'Tyra Allen, 6.
Brown's body was found in a West Palm Beach trash dump in August and was tentatively identified earlier this month when the bodies of her two children were found stuffed in luggage and floating in a Delray Beach canal on March 2. Their names were tattooed on her leg, police said.
The abuse investigations involving Brown ended in 2005 and her child custody cases were resolved by 2008, according to DCF files released on Tuesday.
"Felicia Brown had demonstrated she deserved the chance to have her children back and that's the decision that we supported," Borman said.
But Brown's problems began years earlier when she was known by her maiden name, Felicia Flint, and was listed as a victim of abuse 10 times by the age of 14, according to DCF.
When she was 14, she gave birth to Jermaine while living with her mother in Lake Worth. Over the next few years, Brown and Jermaine were listed as victims of abuse and neglect in five cases.
In those reports, Brown accused her mother, Suzanne Flint, of kicking and beating her with a belt, according to the records. Investigators who visited their home saw beds stained with urine and a butcher's knife on the couch. Jermaine had dirty diapers and a swollen belly button.
Jermaine and Brown were placed in foster care when she was 15. Two years later she gave birth to a baby girl with the initials J.G., who was later put up for adoption. When Brown was 19, she gave birth to Ju'Tyra, who was immediately put in the care of the father's mother.
Eventually, Jermaine was put up for adoption and moved out of state. The adoption fell through after the prospective parents complained about Jermaine's aggressive behavior.
In 2006 she was reunited with Ju'Tyra, and two years later she adopted Jermaine on National Adoption Day.
Attorney ad litem Jennifer Gardner, choked back tears at Tuesday's DCF news conference as she described the lengths to which Brown went to get her children back.
"[Jermaine] wanted to go home to his mom," Gardner said. "As soon as we notified [Felicia Brown] that it was an option, she said 'I will do whatever I need to do to get him home.'"
Brown completed parenting classes, therapy sessions, a domestic violence program and substance abuse treatment, according to the records.
She had been caring for Ju'Tyra for two years without state help and was living in Boynton Beach, married to Peter Brown.
"The adoption process was better vetted than your standard adoption," said Judith Karim, CEO of Child and Family Connections, a nonprofit agency contracted by the state to handle child placement cases.
"The Felicia we knew would have died to protect these children," said John Walsh, lead attorney with the Foster Children Project, who once represented Jermaine's interests.
That's why Walsh is urging the public not to "further victimize" Brown and her children by comparing their case to that of Jorge and Carmen Barahona who are charged with the death of adopted daughter Nubia and the attempted murder of her twin brother Victor, last month.
Dozens of DCF documents outlined the abuse and neglect that thrust Felicia Brown and her children in and out of foster care over the years.
DCF said when it last checked on Brown in 2008, she was living at an address in Boynton Beach. Caseworkers were unaware that she had been missing from her home since August, or that Jermaine and Ju'Tyra were living in Delray Beach with their mother's ex-boyfriend.
The ex-boyfriend, Clem Beauchamp, 34, is now a suspect in the childrens' murders, but he has not been charged in their deaths or in the death of Brown. He is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail on unrelated federal weapons charges.
Brown may have been killed because she was a potential witness against Beauchamp in the gun case, federal prosecutors said in a hearing earlier this month. The pair had a relationship that began in 2007, according to her relatives.
"No matter what job we do sometimes, even when we do the best job, it ends up in tragedy," Borman said.
Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel