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‘It’s a nightmare’: Volusia family claims child’s medical condition led to child abuse accusations

In World
June 08, 2024

A Volusia County family says they are living the unimaginable.

For months, they’ve been fighting to get their kids back after the family claims the state wrongly placed their children in foster care.

The family said it all started in January after they took their youngest to the hospital, where unexplained injuries were flagged as child abuse.

The family claims those injuries are the result of the baby’s medical condition.

Denita Werblun says her family has spent close to $100,000 fighting to get their 7-month-old and 2-year-old back.

Read: 3 Central Florida counties join new foster care organization

Werblun told Channel 9 the children now are in state custody, but she said she would stop at nothing to get her granddaughters home.

Werblun invited Channel 9 to her house in Daytona Beach, where she once lived with her husband, daughter, and two grandchildren.

But she told Channel 9, the home now feels empty and serves a painful reminder that her grandchildren are no longer there.

“It’s torture what they’ve done to our family,” said Werblun.

She told Channel 9 that since January, both she and her daughter, Kiana Slocum, have been living a nightmare.

WATCH: ‘Out of Time: A Focus on Florida’s Aged-Out Foster Youth’

Slocum’s attorneys advised her not to interview because of the ongoing legal fight, but Werblun spoke for the family and told us this all began in late January.

Werblun said the baby’s father took her to the hospital on Jan. 24 because the three-month-old’s shoulder appeared red and swollen.

Doctors ran tests on the baby and found multiple fractures consistent with “non-accidental trauma” as a result, the hospital reported possible child abuse.

According to Werblun, the very next day Child Protective Investigators with the Florida Department of Children and Families got involved.

The state eventually removed the three-month-old and her older sister from their mother, Kiana Slocum’s custody.

But court documents given to us by Werblun show from the beginning, doctors thought the injuries could have another cause.

Read: Crews respond to brushfires in Volusia County after lightning strikes during severe storms

The Court Petition for Placement in Emergency Shelter provided to Channel 9 by Werblun showed on January 25th, doctors had informed DCF investigators the baby’s injuries, “may be due to an infection to the bone due to no bruising.”

Then in late February, hospital progress notes provided by Werblun to Channel 9 show doctors diagnosed the baby with Osteopenia.

The Cleveland Clinic says Osteopenia is a loss of bone density that can “make them weaker and increase your risk of bone fractures.”

However, the Department of Children and Families continued with their proceedings.

Court documents cite the mother’s background, including two battery charges that were eventually dropped, as well as two prior DCF investigations that were closed without evidence.

Then, in May, the court scheduled a termination of parental rights trial for mid-September against Kiana Slocum and the youngest child’s father.

Werblun explained that trial will decide whether the kids can return to their home.

However, Werblun says the damage is done. They’ve already missed a birthday and months of major milestones in the two children’s lives.

“We are not okay. We are never going to be okay. This will now be my fight for the rest of my life for the rest of my life,” said Werblun.

Channel 9 contacted DCF for more information on the case.

A spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on specifics because investigations are confidential.

However, the spokesperson said removal happens in just 5 percent of the cases the state investigates and is a last resort.

DCF’s entire statement is below:

“Removal of a child from their parent(s) is only done as a last resort. In fact, the Department only removes a child in about 5% of the cases that we investigate due to reports of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Florida law clearly lays out how the Department and the Court must handle removals and placements, and can be referenced in Section 39.401(3), Florida Statutes (F.S.). Additionally, F.S. 39.303 requires that the Department must work in consultation with the medical professionals at the Child Protection Team whenever specific circumstances are present in a case, including specified physical injury allegations.

Florida is at a 20-year low for the number of children removed from their homes. To accomplish this, we have implemented several initiatives under Secretary Harris’ leadership to support parents by connecting them with resources and supports that help keep families intact.

We take every step necessary to work with a parent on areas of concerns by making referrals for services, when this can be done safely, before deciding to remove a child. Additionally, this decision is not one done unilaterally by the Department. There must be sufficiently supportive evidence presented before a dependency court judge who makes a final decision in the best interest of the child.

The Department conducts investigations concerning all allegations of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Information regarding investigations is confidential per section 39.202, Florida Statute.”

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