ABC 10 – WPLG
7-Year-Old Foster Child Kills Self
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The head of the Florida Department of Children and Families was in Fort Lauderdale Thursday, talking about what could have been done to prevent a 7-year-old in foster care from committing suicide.
Gabriel Myers, 7, killed himself in April at the Margate foster home where he lived, investigators said. The adult son of Myers’ foster parent found the child’s body in the bathroom, where he had apparently hanged himself with a retractable shower head.
George Sheldon, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, is calling for his department to look into the child’s death to learn how his condition and desire to harm himself became so serious.
Officials said Myers was moved to the Margate foster home after allegedly threatening to hurt a toddler in another foster home.
Myers’ biological father is in prison in Ohio, and his mother has lost parental rights. For a time, his grandparents and uncle shared responsibilities for taking care of Myers. He told the DCF in Florida that while he lived in Ohio, he was sexually abused by another boy, Local 10’s Elena Echarri reported.
After all of these traumatic situations, a psychiatrist in Broward County prescribed medication to the boy for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and a powerful medication for depression, which carries a strong warning from the FDA of “an increased risk of suicidal thoughts in minors.”
A 2005 Florida law made it necessary that consent of a parent or judge be obtained before a child could be prescribed the psychotropic drugs. There was no consent obtained for Myers to be given the drugs, the DCF said.
The DCF put together a workgroup, which met for the first time Thursday, to review the events surrounding Myers’ death.
“This is an important job. I can’t overemphasize that. And I was you to be deliberative. I want you to be thorough, and I want you to let things fall where they fall,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon said somewhere along the way, there were missed opportunities to help this child. He called for an assigned working group to reopen all case files of the more than 20,000 foster children in Florida to see if any other were given the mind-altering drugs illegally.
The workgroup will issue a report. Based on that, new recommendations will be made for policy within the DCF to make sure the law that protects the children from dangerous medications is not circumvented.
Myers’ death remains under investigation by the Margate Police Department.