TITUSVILLE, Fla. — A new Department of Children and Families report shows several missteps in the case of a 4-year-old girl who died in the care of her foster mother.
Joy King Castro died in the care of her foster mother, Lakeisha Mitchell, 42, last August. Investigators charged Mitchell with aggravated child abuse and murder after they said Joy was beaten and left in a bathtub.
The little girl was first declared brain dead and later died of her injuries.
The newly released 14-page DCF report says there were mistakes made months before Joy was placed in Mitchell’s home, and even while the consideration of her placement was being made.
Joy was placed with Mitchell on June 8, 2021.
But the report determines Joy, who channel 9 uncovered had behavioral issues and had been placed in other foster homes before, didn’t get a proper assessment before being placed with Mitchell.
Belle Fahl, who worked for Brevard Family Partnership, the agency Joy was part of, says the report shows glaring errors in the case and the system as a whole.
“There was a lot of talk about Joy’s behaviors, there was no diagnosis in this report,” Fahl said.
She said if there was one, it would have been in the report.
“She desperately needed that because it was going to match her with someone who could have provided the appropriate care for her,” Fahl said.
The report seems to agree that the placement was troubling, especially given Mitchell’s history.
Two children had previously been removed from Mitchell’s home because of potential abuse and her license was placed on a “hold.”
Joy was placed with her just two days after the hold was removed.
The report says regional leadership should have required approval before any children were placed with Mitchell again. The report says instead, priority for Joy’s placement was based on bed availability.
Fahl said that is no surprise to her.
“Once the hold is lifted they’ll put a child in as quickly as they can, the foster homes do not match the number of kids coming into care,” Fahl said.
The report says several changes were made following the findings in Joy’s case.
The Regional Licensing Team initiated training with all frontline leadership to discuss the institutional protocol and new requirements.
The report also says statewide, as the result of a senate bill that passed, if there’s now a change in the child’s placement, the department now has to have a meeting, attended by “all parties who are involved in the child’s case” to figure out what worked and didn’t work.
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