Today Fair Start Movement is petitioning Gov. Rick Scott, as well as state officials and a presiding judge, to consider the possibility of an unusual order in the event a Sarasota couple is convicted of child abuse or neglect.
In late January, 2018, the Department of Children and Family Services went to the home of Shane Samuels on a child welfare check. Inside a home with cigarette butts and trash strewn about the floor, investigators found a four-year-old boy with a large red, swollen handprint on the side his face. Samuels told investigators (and later Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies) that this child had simply fallen in the backyard and that his injuries were the result of an accident. Doctors’ reports described the boy’s injuries, bruising and hemorrhaging on his face, neck and ears, as the result of “severe physical child abuse” and, on February 13, 2018, the Sheriff’s deputies arrested Samuels and charged him with aggravated child abuse.
Fair Start Movement is urging state officials to consider a Fair Start court order, in the event of a conviction, temporarily prohibiting the couple from having additional children during the pendency of any probation in order to facilitate the couple’s rehabilitation and recovery, and also to prevent the neglect of any future children.
In 2015 alone, there were more than 160,000 reports of child abuse and neglect referred for investigation in Florida. Even more alarming, there were a staggering 126 fatalities from child abuse and neglect in Florida in 2017 – twice as high as the national average. This contributes to Florida’s dismal ranking of 40th in the nation for child wellbeing.