NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) –
When Ashley Rhodes-Courter read down to the names in the article about children who investigators say were beaten by their schizophrenic uncle, she knew one name well.
“When we learned that Jenna had died, we couldn’t believe it. It is our worst fear as foster parent, completely confirmed,” said Ashley Rhodes-Courter.
Jenna Randazzo, 9-years-old, was a former foster child to Ashley and her husband Erick Smith.
“We felt an immediate connection,” said Rhodes-Courter.
“She was just so happy and intelligent,” said Erick Smith.
Rhodes-Courter can’t say much because of confidentiality, but she will say that they cared for Randazzo for less than a month.
They say that based on Randazzo’s case file, which they get access to anytime a child is placed with them, they were concerned about the ability of Randazzo’s grandparents to provide a safe environment.
They were disappointed when the sheriff confirmed after the attack that DCF placed the children back with the grandparents.
“If someone doesn’t speak up and say that bad calls are being made, despite every professional trying to warn against what’s happening in these homes,” said Rhodes-Courter.
DCF won’t immediately confirm anything about the case other than that they had previous contact with Randazzo’s grandparents.
DCF’s secretary testified this week in front of a House subcommittee concerning the death of another child, and admitted they need to be more proactive and transparent.
“The pendulum and the policies are so heavily entrenched with the idea that biology is best, that kids are constantly going home to unsafe situations because the kids are treated like property rights,” Rhodes-Courter said.
Since yesterday’s attack, three have come forward claiming to have been a foster parent to Jenna Randazzo.
Rhodes-Courter said Jenna craved stability, which this couple said she had very little of.
“Despite everything that she had been through, she was so free to love, and was so willing to bond and willing to attach,” said Rhodes-Courter. “For an older child, you don’t see that very often. She was just amazing.”
Law dictates that DCF send a critical response team to get to the bottom of any child’s death.
DCF is slated to release a report on Monday concerning on their response to the death of little Phoebe Jonchuck, who died at the hands of her father.