Report: State placed foster children in homes of felons


Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 at 11:26 p.m.
MIAMI - The state has placed foster children in the homes of convicted felons, including former drug dealers and armed robbers, according to a newspaper report published Tuesday.
One Miami man convicted of child endangerment in New York for allegedly raping a child later pleaded guilty to raping a foster child in his care in Florida, according to an investigation by The Miami Herald.
Another foster parent pleaded guilty to armed robbery for breaking into a man's apartment and holding him at gunpoint with her boyfriend in 1988. And a Jacksonville man who served 15 years in prison for heroin trafficking became foster parents with his wife in July.
Foster parents contacted by the newspaper said the Department of Children & Families knew about their pasts, but allowed them to care for foster children because they had paid for their crimes and reformed their behavior.
"They know everything about me," said Leon Campbell, who was released from prison in 1991 for heroin trafficking. He now helps run his local church and is involved with a prison drug rehabilitation program. "I showed them how my life has changed. Everything was done properly."
State law disqualifies people who have been convicted of certain crimes from becoming foster parents, but not all felonies are included on the list of disqualifying offenses. Not included among the disqualifying offenses are welfare fraud, forgery and grand theft.
The state also has discretion to consider how a person has reformed themselves in cases where the applicant's criminal record is more than three years old. If the person is disqualified, they can appeal the decision.
The Herald reported that the state placed foster children in the homes of 168 convicted felons in the last five years and received payments of $10 to $50 a day per child. There are about 5,000 foster homes in the state. DCF officials dispute the number of convicted felons serving as foster parents.

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