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Sobel: State Shouldn't Add to Barahona Tragedy, Should Compensate Surviving Child

Florida House

The lawyer for the Florida Senate has recommended placing an indefinite hold on millions of dollars worth in settlement payments for a child who was abused under the state’s child welfare agency’s supervision. But, a bipartisan group of lawmakers say that’s not right.

Forced to eat cockroaches and eyes glued shut after putting hot sauce in them—those were just some of the torture that Victor Barahona says he and his twin sister received at the hands of their former adoptive parents, before they were found in 2011 on a truck—Victor just barely alive and Nubia doused in toxic chemicals in a garbage bag.

Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) already filed a claims bill (SB 74) months ago on behalf of Victor Barahona. The state paid part of the $5 million settlement agreement, after admitting fault by missing the abuse signs. But, the Miami Herald is now reporting the General Counsel for the Senate President, George Levesque, wants lawmakers not to vote on the claims bill that would give $3.75 million—the rest of the compensation—to Victor and his new foster parents because it may damage the state’s attempts to fight two other child abuse lawsuits connected to adult the Barahonas.

Flores has said she’ll fight to make sure Victor gets the money, and Hollywood Democrat Senator Eleanor Sobel says she’ll do the same. She’s also chairing the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs in 2015.

“I will support Senator Flores’ efforts and work with the Senate President [Andy Gardiner] to honor our commitment to help this young man who basically will need a lot of help for the rest of his life because of what he experienced with the Barahonas,” said Sobel.

Because she added, “The state gave its word, and the state needs to live up to its word!”

Meanwhile, the story of the Barahonas has already spurred a number of reforms, including a revamp of the state’s abuse hotline and hiring more child protective investigators at the Florida Department of Children and Families.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.