Sunday, February 11, 2007

Agency for Persons with Disabilities FUBAR

The tragic mishandling of Marissa Amora by the state of Florida is becoming more apparent. The mother of Melissa's boyfriend severely beat her. The the Department of Children and Families received reports that Melissa was in a dangerous domestic environment. Melissa's collarbone was broken. A Department of Children and Families investigator testified that Melissa's mother "was more interested in getting her boyfriend out of jail" than for her daughter's welfare.

The DCF did not complete their investigation on the previous abuse. She was returned home.Melissa was beaten again.

Her case began in 2001, when her biological mother returned home from work one night and found her badly injured. Marissa's internal organs were damaged and her brain was bleeding. She was rushed to the hospital, where she remained in a coma for weeks.

Melissa's adoptive parents sued and won $26.8 million. The DCF was proven to be negligent. The Jeb Bush administration DCF appealed the verdict. New DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth reversed that decision.

There was other mishandling of Melissa during the Bush years. Melissa is incapable of walking or speaking more than "a few dozen words." The Agency for Persons with Disabilities ruled that Melissa was high risk, but did not quality for disablity. That means Melissa's adoptive parents did not get a wheelchair or railings for the bathtub.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities realized they never did a follow up on Melissa.

After discovering Marissa's unresolved case, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities contacted Amora for new records. But officials determined, based on a special 2004 school district test for nonverbal children, that Marissa's IQ was 81 — 12 points too high to classify her as mentally retarded.

To qualify for additional aid under Florida law, a child must have mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida or Prader-Willi syndrome. Traumatic brain injury, though it can produce similar symptoms, is not on the list.

The AFPWD wrote back on November 22, 2006 that Melissa did not qualify. The Palm Beach Post contacted AFPWD in December of 2006 about Melissa's plight. Suddenly, they had a change of heart. Melissa now is eligible for disability. Sadly, there are still 11,000 people on the waiting list.

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