Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Carmel on the Case: DCF Lawsuit
The Florida Department of Children and Families is often criticized for not taking enough action to protect children. But now, the state agency is being sued for taking too much action. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On The Case.
WSVN--This is home video of a family being reunited after the state seperated them for close to six months.
The reason - the mother Sara Evans was suspected of harming her little girl emily.
Sara Evans: "They said that somebody had made allegations that I was causing her illnesses."
Sara still doesn't know who that somebody was.
But the Department of Children and Families insisted on putting two-year-old Emily and six-year-old Jacob in a state-run shelter.
Sara Evans: "I cried, I yelled, I cursed."
Alex Evans: "It's a life shattering thing."
The problems began when the family moved to Florida from California last year.
Sara kept bringing emily to the hospital with various ailments.
But when investigators took on the case, they didn't know emily has been in and out of the hospital since birth.
Sara even describes her daughter as more like a 9-month-old infant than a 2-year-old toddler.
Sara Evans: "She doesn't walk. She doesn't crawl really. She doesn't talk other than to say 'mama.' She's doesn't eat by mouth. She eats through a feeding tube."
Carmel Cafiero: "However, DCF didn't see it that way. It decided Sara Evans was somehow making her daughter sick to get attention. It charged Sara suffers from a disorder called Munchhausen's Syndrome by Proxy."
Alex Evans: "I know it's not true."
Sara Evans: "I'm sorry."
Russell Adler: "This is a government agency out of control!"
Attorney Russell Alder represents the Evans family.
Russell Adler: "For whatever reason they jumped to a conclusion. They did not check out the evidence and they took these children and they devastated this family!"
In a videotaped deposition - a nurse who treated Emily in California says she was ignored by officials in Florida.
Attorney: "Did you ever feel that the mother was doing anything to harm the child?"
Kelly Covault: "No."
Kelly Covault says when she learned the children had been taken - she called the DCF investigator to offer Emily's medical records.
Attorney: "And what did Miss Christie indicate to you at that point?"
Kelly Covault: "That if she wanted to talk to me, she would have called me."
Attorney: "And what did she do then?"
Kelly Covault: "She hung up."
The California doctor who treated Emily also defended Sara Evans.
Dr. Mitchell Katz: "There is nothing, nothing that at all suggests that the history I was given was anything but the truth."
Dr. Mitchell Katz was clear - he believes Emily's problems are not of her mother's making.
Dr. Mitchell Katz: "We don't have a specific diagnosis for Emily. But just because you do not have a name to label this child's pathologic process does not mean it doesn't exist."
When the case did go to court it was dismissed for lack of evidence allowing Emily and Jacob to finally come home.
Sara Evans: "To be able to walk into the house and hold them and know that we didn't have to leave them it's amazing. It's overwhelming."
DCF turned down our request for an interview.
But Alex and Sara are now suing the department.
Alex Evans: "I won't want anybody to ever have to go through this."
Meanwhile - the family is leaving Florida and moving back to California.
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE