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Fla. in Hot Water Over 6 Girls in State Care

June 23, 2002|From Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Six girls in state custody were unsupervised at night and partied with adult men at the hotel where they lived while awaiting foster care, according to a police report.

The girls, ages 11 to 15, were removed from the Marriott Residence Inn on June 3, when hotel workers called police. The girls had lived at the hotel since May 13.

The Department of Children & Families is investigating, district administrator David May told the Palm Beach Post.

May said the girls were supervised by Maxim Healthcare Services, a Columbia, Md.-based company hired to find temporary shelter for children in state custody. Maxim officials refused to comment for this story.

During the day, Maxim's staff closely watched the children, hotel supervisor Melody Major told the Post. But, she said, it was a different story after a 7 p.m. shift change.

"It was crazy. At night, it was like the girls were on their own," Major said. "There didn't seem to be anyone around, no supervision."

May did not say where the girls are currently housed, or if Maxim is still providing supervision.

Police said witnesses reported seeing the girls with men at pool parties that appeared to involve alcohol and marijuana.

"The environment does not appear to be the safest place to house children that are waiting to be placed in foster care," West Palm Beach Police Officer Nicole Maale wrote in her report.

May agreed but said the state has no choice, as the number of children awaiting placement about doubled to 117, from December to May, in Palm Beach County.

"There's just nowhere to put them," he said.

The DCF is under scrutiny for its mishandling of cases statewide. In April, the agency reported the disappearance of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson, who was under state care and was missing for 15 months before officials noticed.

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