Schools unable to track children after they're withdrawn from classes

Posted at 6:52 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 18:52:29-04

In light of a major child neglect investigation in Tampa in which five children were found living in deplorable conditions, we wanted to know how these kids fell through the cracks.

According to police, the children hadn't been to school in two to three years. The Hillsborough County School District reports the children were withdrawn by their guardians. According to experts, that's part of the problem. 

"I think there are safe guards in place, but nothing that is full proof," said Nikki Daniels, therapist and former director of the Family Justice Center.

According to the Hillsborough County School District, it's the guardian's right to withdraw their children from school. They don't need to give a reason, a forwarding address or the name of the new school. As soon as they're withdrawn, the school stops monitoring them.

"The school's hands are tied as far as what they're able to do once they're not enrolled anymore, and there's no other system out there really that now will track those kids and make sure they're getting the education and the support and care that they need to have to develop," Daniels said.

And, unlike police, child protection investigators don't patrol for crimes and rely almost completely on tips.

"So they rely on the community and teachers. So that was the sad part for these kids is. They didn't have teachers and school staff to watch out," Daniels said.

Daniels believes the only way a change can be made is if the state legislature makes changes and adds funding. Until then, it's up to concerned neighbors to report what they see.

Daniels said some things to look out for are kids who are very young who seem to be fending for themselves, children who don't seem to be dressed well and fed well, children who seem very needy for attention or children who are extremely withdrawn.