Monthly Archives: April 2009

Broward County foster child had history of sexual behavior

Miami Herald
The boy who hanged himself in a Broward County foster home had acted out sexually in front of others and showed signs of other behavior problems, a report said.
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
cmarbin@MiamiHerald.com

At age 7, Gabriel Myers was already well on his way to becoming a sexual predator.

He had exposed himself to classmates. He had kissed another boy. And his uncle warned child-welfare administrators Gabriel had described what he wanted to do with several little girls at his Christian private school.

Gabriel, who may himself have been sexually molested by another boy in Ohio before moving to South Florida, had been on several strong psychiatric drugs before he hanged himself last week at a Margate foster home.

A portrait of the brown-haired boy is contained in some 2,000 pages of documents released by the Department of Children and Families last week.

Since Gabriel’s death, administrators at ChildNet, Broward’s private foster care agency, under contract with DCF, have refused to discuss the case.

Earlier this week, DCF’s Broward chief, Jack Moss, declined to discuss the sex abuse allegations, citing a federal law protecting medical records.

Gabriel entered foster care on June 29, 2008, when his mother, Candace Myers, was found nearly unconscious in her car in a Denny’s parking lot. With her: Gabriel, along with an ”extensive amount” of Xanax and other prescription narcotics, records say.

There is no question that, in coming months, Gabriel received much of what the fields of psychology and psychiatry have to offer, including nearly 20 assessments, in-home therapy sometimes twice each week, visits from a mobile crisis team and psychotropic drugs. But his behaviors continued.

On Oct. 10, DCF’s abuse hot line received two separate reports about the boy. In one, an investigator was told Gabriel had been ‘molesting other children at school. He has been kissing them `anywhere he can’ and touching them on their vaginas and ‘behinds’ with his hand.”

The second report said “Gabriel has been kissing and rubbing on girls at school. He has been feeling between their legs, touching their rears and hugging them.”

The hot line also was told that Gabriel’s uncle, Jon Myers, had spanked Gabriel on his bottom with a belt, leaving marks; Myers acknowledged the paddling, and Gabriel later told an investigator he was spanked ”because I got kicked out of [school] for touching girls.” Corporal punishment is forbidden on children in state care.

Gabriel later began treatment at The Chrysalis Center, a Fort Lauderdale program specializing in sexually abused children.

‘SEVERE’ BEHAVIORS

”Gabriel has been exhibiting sexual behaviors. He kissed a classmate, exposed himself, and also stated that two boys held him down, and did something to him,” the Chrysalis report said. “There were concerns regarding sexual abuse when he was initially removed from his mother’s care.”

The behaviors, a therapist wrote, were ”severe,” occurring three to four times per week.

Goals in his treatment: ”eliminate his sexual acting out,” and “increase impulse control.”

A 12-page report written by a therapist at Chrysalis said Jon and Liz Myers, Gabriel’s aunt and uncle, gave up custody of the boy because “they were no longer able to adequately care for the youth in light of his reported sexualized behaviors at school [and] non-compliance with household rules.”

Myers recalls telling Gabriel’s counselors at ChildNet he had grave fears that Gabriel would molest other children, which prompted him to pull the boy from a private school. Gabriel had disclosed to his therapist, Craig Handwerker, and Myers the names of little girls he wanted to touch and exactly where he wanted to touch them, Myers said.

”They couldn’t watch him in the bathroom at school. They couldn’t watch him on the playground,” Myers told The Miami Herald. “They couldn’t watch him 24 hours a day.”

`OUT OF THEIR MINDS’

When Myers realized they were sending Gabriel to a foster home with a 3-year-old boy, he said, “I thought they were out of their minds.”

Wrote Handwerker in an Oct. 27 letter: “I believe Gabriel needs proper residential treatment which will teach him how to properly control his behavior and to think in a healthy and lawful manner, especially as it related to him attempting to sexually violate children.”

Records are unclear as to specific dates, but Gabriel appears to have later attended both a day-care center and a Margate elementary after leaving Myers’ home.

On Nov. 20, foster care workers wrote an incident report saying “Gabriel showed his private to another boy on the school bus and then Gabriel told the boy to show his private to him.”

Four days later, reports say, caseworkers amended his ”alert” status in records from simply being a victim of sexual abuse to being a possible perpetrator.

Still, by mid-December. Gabriel had continued to act out sexually in class, touching and exposing himself to other children, records show.

On. Jan. 9, his day-care center documented another incident in which the school bus driver ‘witnessed another boy reaching towards Gabriel’s `private.’ Gabriel reported to the staff member that he had asked the other boy to touch him.”

PHYSICAL INJURY

By April, when the youngster had begun to completely deteriorate, notes show Gabriel “physically hurt a child [and] destroyed the principal’s property.”

A Broward Schools spokesman would not discuss Gabriel’s case, citing the privacy of educational records.

But a schools source told The Miami Herald that ChildNet never alerted the school district to Gabriel’s past, or the profound concerns of his uncle and therapists over his overly sexual behaviors among other children.

”We never heard of him before,” the source said.

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7-Year-Old With Troubled Past Commits Suicide

CBS 2 / KCAL 9
Gabriel Myers Told Therapist He Was ‘A Bad Person… Born A Liar’

MIAMI (CBS) ― A 7-year-old boy who allegedly hanged himself complained to his therapists that he was “a bad person,” and “born a liar,” taught to lie by his own mother, according to newly released documents.

The nearly 1,500 pages released late Friday night by state officials paint the portrait of a terribly troubled child in the foster care system — going from home to home with a repetitive sentiment: loneliness and anger. In just seven years, Gabriel Myers seems to have experienced a life no parent would want for any child, reports CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami.

Myers, who turned 7 in January, died on April 16th when police say he hanged himself using the extendable shower-head in his foster parents’ Margate home. But according to the documents obtained by the CBS, the child’s troubled life began long before.

In 2003, the 7-year-old’s mother, Candace Myers, was arrested by Hallandale Beach police on charges of cocaine possession and driving under the influence. But it wasn’t until a similar arrest last June by the same police agency that a judge ordered the child be removed from his mother’s custody. He had been found in a car with his unconscious mother, surrounded by powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.

That’s when a child in the midst of losing his innocence — and ultimately his life — is captured on paper.

“My mom taught me how to lie. She always lied to the police, to everybody,” he told a therapist after throwing scissors in school. “I lied when I was 1 year old, I lied when I was 2 years old. I was born a liar and I will always be lying,” he said in another therapy session.

“[The] devil makes me lie and do all those bad things. He is bad and he makes you do bad things,” the boy told the therapist.

In the documents, the child recalls being molested by another 12-year-old boy and being told to “pee in [the 12-year-old’s] mouth.” The records also show the child had been molesting girls and boys at school, touching them inappropriately, and threatening to kill others and himself. He repeatedly said he had no friends.

“I used to have some imaginary friends. I still have one but I haven’t been talking to him a long time,” Myers reportedly said.

Psychiatrists and therapists wrote that the young boy wasn’t suicidal or psychotic, but from time to time, had dramatic tantrums. It was during one of those tantrums that he lost his life and, according to a DCF spokesperson reached Saturday, the circumstances surrounding that tantrum could have been a violation from the start.

According to the DCF documents, when Gabriel Myers was found dead April 16th, he was left at the Margate home with 19-year-old Miguel Gould. Gould is the son of Michael and Daver Gould, Myers’ foster care parents. He was visiting from Canada, according to the DCF spokesperson.

Miguel told Margate police that he was “caring for Gabriel for the day because the boy was home sick from [school].” The child reportedly threw his bowl of soup into the trash, “so Miguel sent the child to his room,” Margate police documented. While in his room, the boy began throwing toys then told Miguel Gould that “he was going to [go] into the bathroom and kill himself.” Miguel Gould told police that he later called his stepmother to tell her what happened and couldn’t get into the bathroom for another five to ten minutes. That’s when the child was reportedly found hanged.

The problem is Miguel Gould wasn’t even supposed to be left alone with the 7-year-old, according to the DCF spokesperson. He had not been officially screened by the agency.

“Kids in Distress [one of the organizations charged with overseeing Gabriel Myers] was aware that Miguel was coming to visit. They had begun background studies on him, but he was not a part of the recently signed safety contract so he should not have been left alone with Gabriel, if that’s what happened,” said DCF Regional Spokesperson Leslie Mann.

A REPETITIVE CYCLE

The Gould foster home was Gabriel Myers’ third in less than a year. The DCF documents obtained by the I-Team show he first entered the foster care system on June 29, 2008. He was placed in a licensed home through Kids in Distress. Some days later, he was moved to the home of his aunt and uncle. He lived there for some three months until Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) investigators received a report alleging sexual and physical abuse.

While investigators found no signs of sexual abuse, the uncle revealed he “did try corporal punishment” and hit the child with a belt. A Broward County judge issued an emergency order and moved Gabriel Myers back to the licensed home.

However, that wasn’t the last move for Gabriel. In March, the foster parent thought Gabriel might be a threat to his baby and requested “expedited service” in removing the child from his home. Officials with Kids in Distress, ChildNet, and DCF moved Gabriel to the Gould home.

MEDICATION COCKTAIL

According to the documents, when Gabriel first entered the system, he had with him a prescription bottle of Adderall XR, a drug typically taken for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The medication appeared melted. A new prescription was filled, but ultimately stopped. The DCF documents show Gabriel began seeing a psychiatrist soon after entering the system.

The psychiatrist later prescribed Lexapro, a drug for depression and anxiety, and Vyvanse for the child’s ADHD. In March, doctors took Gabriel off Lexapro, and put him on Symbyax, also for depression and possible schizophrenia.

All three of the drugs have an FDA-mandated “black box” warning — a statement on the prescription’s box which describes its possible adverse reactions, including suicidal thoughts.

DCF INVESTIGATION STALLED

Meanwhile, DCF intends to continue its investigation and Mann says an important piece of the puzzle is whether he was left alone with the 19-year-old, the DCF spokesperson said. But law enforcement won’t allow DCF to interview the Gould family to see if Miguel had any prior training to take care of Gabriel, until after Margate police finish their investigation

“Urgency is our mission and transparency is our mission. It’s difficult to answer because we don’t have all the answers. We’re thinking Gabriel was home alone with the 19-year-old but we don’t have 100 percent confirmation of that. If he was, that would have been a violation,” said Mann.

The documents show a child shuffled around, seemingly not wanted by anyone, and in the end, alone in a Margate bathroom.

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Seven-Year-Old Suicide Victim: ‘I’m a bad person’

CBS4
By Gio Benitez
CBS4 I-Team Producer

MIAMI (CBS4) ― A 7-year-old boy who allegedly hanged himself complained to his therapists that he was “a bad person,” and “born a liar,” taught to lie by his own mother, according to newly released documents.

The nearly 1,500 pages released late Friday night by state officials paint the portrait of a terribly troubled child in the foster care system — going from home to home with a repetitive sentiment: loneliness and anger. In just seven years, Gabriel Myers seems to have experienced a life no parent would want for any child.

Myers, who turned 7 in January, died on April 16th when police say he hanged himself using the extendable shower-head in his foster parents’ Margate home. But according to the documents obtained by the CBS4 I-Team, the child’s troubled life began long before.

In 2003, the 7-year-old’s mother, Candace Myers, was arrested by Hallandale Beach police on charges of cocaine possession and driving under the influence. But it wasn’t until a similar arrest last June by the same police agency that a judge ordered the child be removed from his mother’s custody. He had been found in a car with his unconscious mother, surrounded by powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.

That’s when a child in the midst of losing his innocence — and ultimately his life — is captured on paper.

“My mom taught me how to lie. She always lied to the police, to everybody,” he told a therapist after throwing scissors in school. “I lied when I was 1 year old, I lied when I was 2 years old. I was born a liar and I will always be lying,” he said in another therapy session.

“[The] devil makes me lie and do all those bad things. He is bad and he makes you do bad things,” the boy told the therapist.

In the documents, the child recalls being molested by another 12-year-old boy and being told to “pee in [the 12-year-old’s] mouth.” The records also show the child had been molesting girls and boys at school, touching them inappropriately, and threatening to kill others and himself. He repeatedly said he had no friends.

“I used to have some imaginary friends. I still have one but I haven’t been talking to him a long time,” Myers reportedly said.

Psychiatrists and therapists wrote that the young boy wasn’t suicidal or psychotic, but from time to time, had dramatic tantrums. It was during one of those tantrums that he lost his life and, according to a DCF spokesperson reached Saturday, the circumstances surrounding that tantrum could have been a violation from the start.

According to the DCF documents, when Gabriel Myers was found dead April 16th, he was left at the Margate home with 19-year-old Miguel Gould. Gould is the son of Michael and Daver Gould, Myers’ foster care parents. He was visiting from Canada, according to the DCF spokesperson.

Miguel told Margate police that he was “caring for Gabriel for the day because the boy was home sick from [school].” The child reportedly threw his bowl of soup into the trash, “so Miguel sent the child to his room,” Margate police documented. While in his room, the boy began throwing toys then told Miguel Gould that “he was going to [go] into the bathroom and kill himself.” Miguel Gould told police that he later called his stepmother to tell her what happened and couldn’t get into the bathroom for another five to ten minutes. That’s when the child was reportedly found hanged.

The problem is Miguel Gould wasn’t even supposed to be left alone with the 7-year-old, according to the DCF spokesperson. He had not been officially screened by the agency.

“Kids in Distress [one of the organizations charged with overseeing Gabriel Myers] was aware that Miguel was coming to visit. They had begun background studies on him, but he was not a part of the recently signed safety contract so he should not have been left alone with Gabriel, if that’s what happened,” said DCF Regional Spokesperson Leslie Mann.

A REPETITIVE CYCLE

The Gould foster home was Gabriel Myers’ third in less than a year. The DCF documents obtained by the I-Team show he first entered the foster care system on June 29, 2008. He was placed in a licensed home through Kids in Distress. Some days later, he was moved to the home of his aunt and uncle. He lived there for some three months until Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) investigators received a report alleging sexual and physical abuse.

While investigators found no signs of sexual abuse, the uncle revealed he “did try corporal punishment” and hit the child with a belt. A Broward County judge issued an emergency order and moved Gabriel Myers back to the licensed home.

However, that wasn’t the last move for Gabriel. In March, the foster parent thought Gabriel might be a threat to his baby and requested “expedited service” in removing the child from his home. Officials with Kids in Distress, ChildNet, and DCF moved Gabriel to the Gould home.

MEDICATION COCKTAIL

According to the documents, when Gabriel first entered the system, he had with him a prescription bottle of Adderall XR, a drug typically taken for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The medication appeared melted. A new prescription was filled, but ultimately stopped. The DCF documents show Gabriel began seeing a psychiatrist soon after entering the system.

The psychiatrist later prescribed Lexapro, a drug for depression and anxiety, and Vyvanse for the child’s ADHD. In March, doctors took Gabriel off Lexapro, and put him on Symbyax, also for depression and possible schizophrenia.

All three of the drugs have an FDA-mandated “black box” warning — a statement on the prescription’s box which describes its possible adverse reactions, including suicidal thoughts.

DCF INVESTIGATION STALLED

Meanwhile, DCF intends to continue its investigation and Mann says an important piece of the puzzle is whether he was left alone with the 19-year-old, the DCF spokesperson said. But law enforcement won’t allow DCF to interview the Gould family to see if Miguel had any prior training to take care of Gabriel, until after Margate police finish their investigation

“Urgency is our mission and transparency is our mission. It’s difficult to answer because we don’t have all the answers. We’re thinking Gabriel was home alone with the 19-year-old but we don’t have 100 percent confirmation of that. If he was, that would have been a violation,” said Mann.

The documents show a child shuffled around, seemingly not wanted by anyone, and in the end, alone in a Margate bathroom.

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State officials investigating whether 7-year-old suicide victim was given mind-altering drug

Sun-Sentinel
By Jon Burstein

MARGATE – State officials are investigating whether a 7-year-old boy who hanged himself in his Margate foster home had been given a powerful, mind-altering drug in violation of Florida law.

Three weeks before his April 16 suicide, Gabriel Myers was prescribed the drug Symbyax, which is a combination of the generic forms of the anti-depressant Prozac and the anti-psychosis drug Zyprexa, according to state Department of Children & Families records released Friday night.

But there was no court order in place for Gabriel to use the drug, the records show. Under Florida law, parental consent or a judge’s ruling is needed before a foster child can be administered a psychotropic drug.

It’s unclear whether Gabriel was taking Symbyax. Margate police have his medication logs as they investigate his death, according to DCF spokeswoman Leslie Mann.

Mann said the agency is examining why a court order was not obtained to put Gabriel on the drug.

“We are not sure at this time if the medication played a role in Gabriel’s death, but the department will seek a professional medical review of the treatment and prescription medication in Gabriel’s case,” she said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Prozac for use in children, but not Symbyax and Zyprexa. Even so, doctors have the right to prescribe any drug for any patient they think it will help.

Symbyax, like all anti-depressants, carries a “black box” warning – the strongest the FDA can issue – because anti-depressants increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in minors. Studies have not linked the drugs to an increase in suicides.

The FDA first issued the warning about Paxil in 2003, then extended it to all anti-depressants the next year.

In addition to Symbyax, Gabriel also was on Vyvanse, an attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder drug, records show.

At the time of his death, Gabriel was home alone with the 19-year-old son of his foster father. Gabriel got upset with the young man during lunch, locking himself in the bathroom and saying he was going to kill himself. The young man used a screwdriver to pick the lock and found Gabriel hanging from a shower hose, according to DCF records.

Gabriel was pronounced dead one hour later at Northwest Medical Center in Margate.

DCF is also investigating why Gabriel was being watched by the 19-year-old.

“The bottom line is that (the 19-year-old) should not have been left alone with Gabriel, if in fact he was,” Mann said.

DCF began releasing more than 1,000 pages of Gabriel’s child welfare records about 7:30 p.m. Friday, detailing a tragic life in which he was both a victim and an apparent danger to other children.

A month before his death, Gabriel told a therapist he was “a bad person,” the records state.

“(Gabriel) said, ‘I lied when I was 1 years old, then I lied when I was 2 years old. I was born a liar and I will always be lying,’ ” according to the therapist’s report.

DCF first learned of Gabriel in June after his mother was found passed out in a parked car in Hallandale Beach and he was in the back seat. The boy had come from Ohio–where authorities were looking into allegations that he had been sexually abused by an older boy, according to DCF records.

While in Florida, he bounced between his uncle’s home and two foster homes. He lived in one foster home from October until March, when fears arose that he might hurt a toddler in the house, according to DCF records. He was then moved to the Margate foster home, where he lived for the three weeks leading up to his death.

Staff Writer Bob LaMendola contributed to this report.

Jon Burstein can be reached at jburstein@SunSentinel.com or 954 356-4491

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Answers needed in case of child’s suicide

Miami Herald
OUR OPINION: Mistakes apparent in death of seven-year-old Gabriel Myers

By the time it becomes necessary for the Department of Children & Families to intervene in a child’s life, the youngster almost certainly has already been severely traumatized by neglect and abuse. The agency faces tough, agonizing choices, but the objective never changes: Always act in the best interest of the child. That didn’t happen in the depressingly sad case of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, who threw a tantrum last week and hanged himself in the shower of a foster home.

Clearly, somebody dropped the ball. Now it becomes the responsibility of police, DCF and other agencies to determine what happened, how it happened and why. Then, DCF and all of the other public entities and individuals who had a hand in this matter — including the state lawmakers — should determine what must be done to prevent another child from suffering a similar fate.

Doctor `red-flagged’

A good place to begin the examination is with the menu of potent, mind-altering drugs that Gabriel was taking under a doctor’s prescription. The boy was being treated by a Broward psychiatrist who had been red-flagged by a state agency as having ”problematic” prescribing habits, according to a state Medicaid drug-therapy expert. The term applies to doctors with a high volume of prescriptions of mental-health drugs or who prescribe potentially risky drug combinations.

DCF has of history of relying too heavily on psychotropic drugs to manage children in its care. After a series of Miami Herald stories describing the problems, the Florida Legislature passed a law that attempted to control and limit the use of psychotropic drugs on children. The legislation cited a DCF study in 2004 showing that 13 percent of all children in state custody were receiving and least one psychotropic drug. The study also showed that 25 percent of the children living in foster care were being treated with psychotropic drugs, a rate five times higher than in the general population of Medicaid-eligible children.

Sound judgment needed

Laws can be prescriptive, provide guidance, set parameters. They specify fines and penalties when the intent, if not the spirit, of a statute isn’t followed. No matter how well it is crafted, though, no law can substitute for the human intuition and sound judgment of caring individuals.

People who cared about Gabriel, including a guardian ad litem and some of his relatives, believed that the psychotropic drugs he was being given could have been doing more harm than good — something the 2005 law attempted to address and cautioned against. More to the point, allowing potent drugs to be used inappropriately to control a child’s behavior would be a short cut that is contrary to DCF’s mission.

With Gabriel’s death, the question to be answered is whether the DCF is living up to its goal of acting in the best interest of the child.

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7-year-old who killed himself made death threats

Miami Herald
Three weeks before his death, 7-year-old Gabriel Myers made a chilling threat: He said he wanted to kill himself — and another foster child in his Margate home.
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
cmarbin@MiamiHerald.com

Gabriel Myers returned home from school one day the last week of March with marks and bruises on his neck. Questioned by foster-care workers, he insisted a classmate had choked him. He later confessed: He had choked himself. And he said he would try to kill himself again, along with a toddler living in his foster home.

Three weeks later, Gabriel, 7 years old, hanged himself from a shower cord in the bathroom of his foster home in Margate. Now, Broward child welfare administrators are asking whether they could have done more to save the brown-haired youngster.

”When any child dies, it’s a horrible, horrible thing,” said Leslie Mann, spokeswoman for the Broward office of the state Department of Children & Families. “When we heard about it, our hearts were in our shoulders with sadness. The death of a 7-year-old boy is unfathomable.

”We are going to work tirelessly until we get to the bottom of this,” Mann said.

In the weeks before his death, Gabriel had been prescribed medications that have been linked to a heightened risk of suicidal behavior in children.

Gabriel’s foster care was overseen by ChildNet, a private agency under contract with DCF.

Said Emilio Benitez, ChildNet’s chief executive officer: “We feel terrible for the family. It’s just a tragedy.”

Benitez declined to discuss details of the boy’s case, citing the confidentiality of foster care, medical and mental health records in Florida.

According to sources with knowledge of the case, ChildNet administrators received a report in late March that Gabriel returned home from school with bruising around his neck. ”However, he tried to blame it on another student,” case notes say.

ChildNet workers called the mobile crisis unit from Henderson Mental Health, a Broward community mental health agency, to the boy’s foster home to evaluate whether he should be committed for psychiatric treatment, sources familiar with the records said.

DISCUSSED THREATS

Gabriel acknowledged to the crisis team that he was thinking about killing himself. What’s more, he said he wanted to kill the toddler who also was living in the foster home, sources said. But when the crisis team asked him how he planned to end his life, the youngster said he hadn’t thought it through that far.

”He told them he does not have a plan, but he would think about it,” said a source who reviewed the records.

The agency decided the boy did not meet the criteria under Florida’s involuntary-commitment law, called the Baker Act, to be placed in a mental hospital for evaluation, according to Jack Moss, DCF’s Broward chief. So the crisis team declined to commit him.

Officials at Henderson did not reply to a request from The Miami Herald to discuss the boy’s death.

Based on Gabriel’s threats involving the young boy who also lived at his foster home, ChildNet moved him to another foster home without young children, a knowledgeable source told The Miami Herald.

Benitez declined to discuss what measures were taken to protect Gabriel from himself.

On April 16, about three weeks after he showed up with the bruises, the boy hanged himself after arguing about lunch with the 19-year-old son of his foster father.

A story in Wednesday’s Miami Herald reported that Gabriel had been prescribed a cocktail of three psychiatric drugs in the weeks before he died. More recently, one or two of the medications had been discontinued, and a third drug prescribed.

Since at least March 11, Gabriel had been taking anti-depressant drugs that the Food and Drug Administration has said have been linked to an increased risk of ”suicidal thoughts or behaviors” in children.

”The department has a concern as to whether the drugs were appropriately prescribed in the first place,” said Moss, the Broward DCF chief. Earlier this week, Moss said child welfare workers still have unanswered questions about the drugs administered to Gabriel because Margate police took the foster home’s medication logs as part of their investigation.

On Wednesday, a Broward judge, acting on DCF’s petition, ordered that Gabriel’s foster-care records be released to The Miami Herald and other media that had requested them.

After the hearing, Moss said there appeared to have been good oversight and care for the child. But DCF was examining what drugs were prescribed to the boy leading up to his death.

Child-welfare experts said Wednesday that the state may have squandered what few opportunities were available to protect the boy from himself.

KIDS `IMPULSIVE’

”We’ve seen children as young as 5 kill themselves,” said Ronald Davidson, director of mental health policy at the department of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Children don’t plan the same way as an adult would. They are impulsive. A child’s idea cannot be compared to an adult’s idea of a plan.”

Davidson said Gabriel should have been committed the first time he told authorities he wanted to kill himself.

Cheleene B. Schembera, a 27-year child welfare administrator and inspector general at DCF, who now works as a consultant, said foster care workers could have placed Gabriel in a home or facility in which he was under constant watch.

”If Henderson had valid reasons to reject him, or not taking him into a crisis stabilization unit, it would have been incumbent on ChildNet to get one-on-one supervision, round-the-clock supervision, and get him access to appropriate treatment as expeditiously as possible,” Schembera said.

”If they took steps to remove the threat to other children,” Schembera said, “it begs the question: why not remove the threat he posed to himself?”

Miami Herald staff writers Michael Vasquez and Diana Moskovitz contributed to this report.

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Margate 7-year-old’s sad journey began 10 months ago

Sun Sentinel
DCF is examining whether psychotropic drugs could have played a role in foster child’s hanging death
By Jon Burstein

FORT LAUDERDALE – Six-year-old Gabriel Myers and his dog, Travis, sat together in the back seat of the sedan parked outside a Denny’s one morning. His mother was in the driver’s seat — passed out over the steering wheel with a purse full of painkillers and a crack pipe.

That’s how Hallandale Beach police found them, beginning Gabriel’s sad 10-month journey through Florida’s child welfare system that ended last week with the 7-year-old boy found hanging in the shower of his foster home.

State authorities say all signs point to suicide.

While Margate police continue to investigate Gabriel’s death, the Department of Children & Families is examining whether psychotropic drugs could have played a role.

Gabriel is believed to have been taking two mental-health drugs at the time of his death, Jack Moss, DCF regional director, said Wednesday.

The agency is looking not only at the drugs Gabriel was taking, but the dosages, and whether they were appropriately prescribed, Moss said. DCF officials declined today to detail what drugs Gabriel had been prescribed.

ChildNet, a private agency under contract with DCF, received a report in late March that Gabriel returned home from school with bruising around his neck, according to The Miami Herald.

”However, he tried to blame it on another student,” case notes say.

Gabriel acknowledged to a team that was sent out that he was thinking about killing himself, and also wanted to kill a toddler who also was living in the foster home, the Herald reported, citing sources knowledgeable about the case.

The agency decided the boy did not meet the criteria under Florida’s involuntary-commitment law, called the Baker Act, to be placed in a mental hospital for evaluation, Moss said.

ChildNet moved the toddler to another foster home without young children, according to the Herald.

Jon Myers, Gabriel’s uncle, said the boy needed structure, not medicine. Last year, Gabriel was off of any mind-altering drugs for several months and was getting all As and Bs in school, Myers said.

“He had behavioral issues, but the drugs were not going to modify his behavior,” said Myers, who took the boy into his home from June 2008 to October 2008.

More details of Gabriel’s final months will be coming out soon. Today DCF successfully petitioned a Broward judge to unseal his case file in response to media requests.

An attorney for the state agency said releasing the approximately 2,000 pages of reports was necessary for the public to understand what happened. Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch agreed.

“I think it’s important for the public to know what’s contained in the records,” he said. “It’s a very sad case.”

Moss said today there’s one thing he hasn’t seen in the reports — any indication that Gabriel had suicidal tendencies.

Gabriel had been home sick from school on April 16 when his foster mother went to the drug store, leaving him in the care of his foster father’s 20-year-old son, Moss said. Gabriel got upset about what he was having for lunch, locking himself in a bathroom. By the time the young man broke down the door, he found Gabriel with a shower hose wrapped around his neck, DCF officials said.

The 20-year-old called 911. Gabriel was pronounced dead an hour later at Northwest Medical Center in Margate.

Gabriel had been living in the foster home for three weeks and was set to be reunited with his grandfather in Ohio.

Moss said the foster family is heartbroken. The foster father is an assistant principal at a school for special needs children, and the foster mother is a registered nurse.

Gabriel’s mother, Candace Myers, 37, is incarcerated in Ohio after serving a stint in the Broward County Click here for restaurant inspection reports Jail following her June 29 arrest outside the Hallandale Beach restaurant. When a police officer woke her from her stupor, she got out of the car and passed out again, according to court records.

Gabriel told the officer that his mother was sick, court documents show.

She ended up pleading guilty in January to four felony drug charges and a misdemeanor count of reckless driving, agreeing to a 364-day jail sentence.

Jon Burstein can be reached at jburstein@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4491.

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