A LITTLE BACKGROUND
This page is dedicated to the life and memory of young Jenica Randazzo, or “Millie” as named in THREE MORE WORDS .
In February 2015, my worst fear as a foster parent came true when I learned that Jenica Randazzo, (called Millie in Three More Words), our former foster daughter, was returned to relatives. Jenica, 9, was brutally murdered by Jason Rios, her mentally-ill uncle, who was also living in the home. He also killed his mother, a double amputee with numerous medical issues, and critically injured Jenica’s sister before the attacks were stopped.
Jenica and her 3 siblings were removed from these maternal grandparents and placed into foster care. We knew Jenica well before she came into our home as our foster child. My husband and I had been told the children would soon be available for adoption because there were no suitable relatives. She was with us for only a short time because an amazing adoptive family had already been identified.
After they left our home to their prospective adoptive family, something in the plan changed. The case went to a different agency and suddenly, there was a push to get the children back to the maternal grandparents—despite the year of objections by previous professionals. Conditions in the grandparent’s home had not improved since the children were removed. Their aging grandfather was the sole caretaker for his disabled wife and also in charge of his unstable son, who has been hospitalized several times and received various levels of psychiatric care. His daughter, the children’s mother, was arrested again just before this hideous incident occurred.
After a foster child dies, their records are opened to the public records. Jenica’s records—though highly redacted and released completely out of order—show numerous safety hazards and violations in the home; including the children having to use the bathroom and facilities at a local gas station. It is documented that Jenica reached out for help, but was told by the caseworker that, “it wasn’t nice to say such things.”
After Jenica’s murder, the State of Florida and the lead agencies on the case accepted no responsibility. They claim not to have known about the uncle’s past and their official statement was that the incident was an “unforeseeable tragedy”.
Refusing to have her story buried with her body, my husband and I spoke out. We wanted to tell everyone what a wonderful, engaging, child Jenica had been, and that she should have had a bright future. The new foster care agency threatened and bullied us, ultimately demanding that we to sign documents admitting that we broke confidentiality laws when we had not, and these forms would have acted as a broad “gag order” meant to protect the agency further—not the child. Our only recourse was to surrender our foster care license before the agency could petition to have our licensed formally revoked.
The agencies and Department of Children and Families have used various loopholes to avoid requiring a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to investigate Jenica’s murder. A CIRRT investigation into a child fatality is supposed to explore all aspects of a case to see what went wrong, and determine if policy changes need to be made to better protect children in the future. These teams are also supposed to bring greater transparency to the cases, yet, in the first six months of 2015, there have been fewer than 20 CIRRT reports completed on the more than 240 child deaths that have been reported to the abuse hotline .
The State claims that in over 90% of the cases, they had no “verified prior” with the family in the last 12 months, and report no prior involvement with the deceased child in over 70% of the cases. Even though Jenica had caseworkers visiting the home—sometimes weekly—until the day she died, her case is not noted as having NO verified prior involvement in the last 12 months. I am so sad for the many, many more children that will never see justice because officials are being allowed to hide behind complicated semantics and “deadly blindspots” and we have been so frustrated by the misinformation in many of the news reports.
However, we refuse to stay silent. Jenica and all children who have lost their lives under preventable circumstances deserve to have a voice.
- State child welfare officials review adoption screening process after … Tampabay.com-Apr 24, 2015
- In Rios family tragedy, a deadly blind spot for child protection Tampabay.com-Mar 20, 2015
- Records refer to ‘chaotic’ family life before Florida girl’s fatal beating
Miami Herald-Feb 24, 2015
- Report on slain Pasco girl raises questions about case
Bay News 9-Feb 17, 2015
- An agency contracted by DCF says case workers had no indication …
ABC Action News-Feb 17, 2015
- Agency: No signs Pasco girl faced danger before fatal attack
TBO.com-Feb 17, 2015
- Beating death of girl called unforeseeable
In-Depth-Tampabay.com-Feb 16, 2015
- DCF criticized after Pasco girls’ attack
WTSP 10 News-Feb 6, 2015
- Pasco sheriff: Girl, 9, dies a day after attack by mentally ill uncle In-Depth-Tampabay.com-Feb 6, 2015