Report: Pinellas foster care system failed Jordan Belliveau

Four months after police say a Largo toddler died at the hands of his mother, the Department of Children and Families is calling for changes in a brand new report released Wednesday.

The document details the short life of 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau, a life punctuated by failures and lack of communication, on every level of a foster system meant to protect him.

According to the report, workers noted worries about firearms, drug and gang activity where Jordan Belliveau lived along with concerns about domestic violence between his parents.

Despite being moved into foster care in late 2016, Jordan was reunified with his mother, Charisse Stinson in May of 2018.  September 1, Stinson reported Jordan missing. Three days later, his body was found and police say Stinson confessed to killing him.

DCF's new Secretary, Chad Poppell criticized caseworkers and investigators saying after the report was released, saying, "Despite multiple opportunities, no one changed his circumstances. DCF policies were not followed, communication throughout the process was poor, and several clear warning signs were missed."

Last September, April Lott, President and CEO of Directions for Living, the case management agency assigned directly to Jordan Belliveau, said their case manager believed the major concerns had been addressed. "No one could have predicted the behavior of the mother, and the tragic outcome," Lott said at a September 12th press conference.

In response to this new report, Lott released this statement:

We at Directions for Living are more than just saddened and forever changed by Jordan’s death; this case is a critical reminder of the need for constant improvement within our own agency and across our industry.

The case manager who was primarily responsible for this case is no longer with our agency. However, the case manager assigned to the case at the time of Jordan’s death, who had been on the case for 5 months at that point, is still with our agency at this time. That case manager, along with every other person who was involved in this case in any way, was placed on an immediate corrective action plan last September, up to and including disciplinary action, including extensive re-training (more information below). Please note that while we immediately took this action following Jordan’s death, we too have been awaiting the release of this report to inform further steps which may be necessary to address concerns related to this case.

In addition to those specific steps to address staff working on this case, Directions for Living in collaboration with Eckerd Connects developed and implemented an agency-wide action plan immediately following Jordan’s death to address the global opportunities and challenges related to this case, which were echoed again in the report which was just released. This action plan, which has been underway for months, includes but is not limited to:

-Facilitation of better partnerships and communication between DFL and all other agencies that work in the child welfare system and with the children we serve, specifically even more timely communication about risk and treatment outcomes related to our cases

-Conducting internal reviews of all children we serve who are ages 0-5 in the post-reunification population, triple-checking for warning signs which we could address to prevent future safety concerns

-All-staff training on effective case planning and how to base treatment around case plans

- All-Child Safety staff training on Mental Health First Aid, which focuses on identifying problems earlier and linking our clients to the services they actually need as soon as they need them

-All-staff training on understanding social determinants of health

-All-staff training on domestic violence and substance abuse, and their impacts on our cases

-Position-specific training on effective safety planning as needed

-Development of a Performance Improvement Team committed to improving the integration of behavioral health and child welfare via revision of relevant policies, procedures, forms, and language used to ensure no future miscommunications occur

Above all else, we want to use this opportunity to improve where needed so that we can continue to provide the most effective services possible to children and families throughout Tampa Bay.

Eckerd Connects, which runs the foster system in Pinellas County is now required to come up with its own action plan. While the organization acknowledges an influx of children and a lack of funding, they say they "will aggressively address any recommendations or corrective action items identified..." on top what has already been addressed.