News & Politics

Florida Sheriff Calls Juvenile Group Home a 'Failure' After Runaways Get Into Shootout with Police

Screenshot from news video about the incident.

Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood is putting Florida United Methodist Children’s Home on blast after two juvenile residents escaped the facility, broke into a nearby home, found guns, and got into a shootout with police. The event ended with a 14-year-old wounded by police. She is in stable condition. The 12-year-old boy was unhurt and taken into custody.

Sheriff Chitwood told Spectrum News 13 that the group home is “a complete failure and a disgrace.” Spectrum reported that Volusia County residents are used to runaways from the home hiding on their property.

Residents in the area said they’ve gotten used to constantly seeing kids who’ve run away from the home hiding in cars or boats on their property but that most of those children are not problematic or concerning. Tuesday night’s shooting, neighbors agreed, is concerning.

Sheriff Chitwood also said that his office has received over 300 calls for disturbances related to that home in the last year including one where a juvenile beat a security guard to death. The president and CEO of the group home, Kitwana McTyer, defended their facility stating, “We are a child welfare facility, not a secure care facility,” and alleged that the shooting is the result of “the system failing our children.”

Florida DCF got in on the blame-shifting and issued a statement as well, claiming they know how to place children properly despite evidence to the contrary. “Placement assessments for children in Florida’s foster care system are determined by the community-based organizations based on the child’s needs and placement availability,” the DCF statement said, taking no responsibility for the incident that occurred after two children were placed in a group home that failed them. “The Department will continue coordinating with state and community agencies to ensure that the appropriate services are in place for the youth involved in this incident. DCF stands ready to coordinate with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to hold those involved accountable.”

That’s highly doubtful. Hardly anyone is ever held “accountable” at any social services office for anything they do for one simple reason: child welfare has no oversight agency other than the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the same agency relying on all the funding for child welfare. The fox is guarding the henhouse. What the child welfare behemoths need is an independent law enforcement division within the U.S. Marshals or the FBI to investigate them and hold them accountable. At the very least there should be citizen oversight boards that can access sealed records and find out what exactly happened to these children in the hands of the child welfare agents. But none of these oversight options are ever instituted. We are left to rely on the people who created the conditions that led to this shooting, who will continue operating as usual.

My own investigations into the conditions that foster children face are harrowing. One foster survivor I interviewed told of being trafficked through over 80 homes and sexually abused in 17 of them. Just recently, NPR uncovered a massive scandal where social services agents are stealing social security checks that belong to disabled and orphaned foster children, leaving them homeless and destitute when they age out. Before lashing out at minor children who are running from unknown conditions and acting out violently, someone should find out what those conditions were and if they were being abused by the system set up to “protect” them. In many of these cases, foster children have been treated like criminals by police from the time they were dragged screaming from their parents’ arms. I’ve covered countless cases where children were taken into custody under false pretenses made up by social workers who lied under oath or took children without valid warrants, beginning a years-long nightmare for families that rarely end with justice.

Newsweek ran a great story about trafficking children through foster care. The U.S. State Department admitted that the majority of sex-trafficked kids in the United States come from foster care. The children stuck in this criminal system are screaming out for help and the longer we ignore their plight the worse the consequences will be. Does anyone hear them yet? 

PJ Media has put in a request for the records relating to the calls that were made for police to intervene at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and will bring you those stories as we get them. The group home did not respond to our inquiry about whether or not they are receiving federal or state funding.