The Florida Department of Children and Families left all 10 of the Aleman children “untreated in a vulnerable state” by not doing a deeper investigation into complaints against the Loxahatchee parents accused of starving their baby daughter to death.
Those findings come after an internal review of the department’s involvement with the Alemans, which records show began in September 2013 after it received word that the children were not in school.
Three more allegations of abuse were pursued before 13-month-old Tayla Aleman died from extreme malnutrition in April.
Officials concluded they “missed opportunities” to intervene, as investigation reports lacked detail, didn’t home in on the father’s lack of cooperation and failed to follow up on unresolved issues such as possible family disputes, records show.
But a heavy caseload isn’t to blame, DCF officials said in their findings.
In regard to the last investigation before Tayla’s death, “there were no indicators the investigator’s caseload or intake of reports was excessively high” at that time, the report states.
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll called Tayla’s death “senseless and avoidable.” In the department’s southeast region, the department has placed greater emphasis on a case supervisor’s role and responsibility in making decisions for children at a high risk of being abused. The department also mandated additional training about the models used to handle cases, the department said Wednesday.
In September 2013, DCF was told Kristen and Alejandro Aleman — who both face first-degree murder and aggravated child-abuse charges — hadn’t enrolled their children in school. Officials never followed up to ensure the children had been enrolled, documents show.
Nor did they follow up with concerns about the children’s speech and developmental delays, records show. The last investigation into the Alemans before Tayla’s death noted the children were dirty and in bad shape, according to records.
But the case was closed because “all the children appeared to be well taken care of, clean and free of marks and bruises,” the report states.
The recent DCF review discovered it had been suggested that Alejandro Aleman had a substance-abuse problem, but it wasn’t noted in the already thin reports.
DCF officials nod toward Alejandro Aleman being the root of the family’s lack of cooperation, with records stating he had “an obvious power and control over the family” and allegedly kept the children and his wife from speaking to DCF.
The other Aleman children — the oldest now 15 and the youngest born four months after Tayla died — are all in DCF custody, with the younger children in foster homes.
“The death of this young child was senseless and avoidable,” Carroll said. “Our top priority is the safety and emotional health of her siblings.”