Florida Foster Care Failed To Help Teen With Mental Problems
The attorney of a 14-year-old girl who broadcasted her suicide on Facebook said Florida’s foster care system never helped the teen who exhibited dangerous and self-destructive behavior.
Nakia Venant was found Sunday morning unresponsive inside the home she was living at, said the Miami Herald.
Hours before she began live streaming her suicide, Venant wrote on Facebook: “I Don’t Wanna Live No more,” and added three sad-faced emojis. One of Venant’s friends saw the Facebook Live post and immediately called 911, said Miami Gardens Police.
Miami Gardens officers and fire rescue crews responded to the home and attempted to save Venant. She was found hanging from a shower at around 2:30 a.m. while her foster parents were asleep. Officers took Venant to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, reported NBC 6 South Florida.
Howard Talenfeld, Venant’s mother’s attorney, told NBC 6 that Venant had been in and out of foster care for more than seven years. Since April she had been moved between at least 10 homes and shelters. At the age of seven, Venant was sexually abused by another foster child.
“Nakia told the world, in the way she left this world, about the terrible failures in (Florida’s) foster care system,” Talenfeld told a news conference that NBC 6 was at.
“What was the system supposed to do for her? She had serious mental health problems and yet, did they find her an appropriate therapeutic placement for her? The answer is no,” Talenfeld said further at the news conference.
Mother Gina Alexis also commented at a news conference Wednesday that NBC 6 was present at, “I am sick and devastated by this tragedy, I had trusted Florida foster care people to take care of my baby, instead she kills herself on Facebook.”
The Florida Department of Children and Families said it can not legally discuss Venant’s past, but did release a statement to NBC 6.
“We are absolutely horrified and devastated by the news of this young girl’s death,” said Mike Carroll, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, in the statement to NBC 6. “We will do everything we can to support this family and all those who cared for her as they begin to heal from this tragedy. We will conduct a comprehensive, multidisciplinary special review to examine this child’s history and the circumstances related to serving the child.”
This is the third suicide to be live streamed in recent weeks. A 12-year-old Georgia girl killed herself on Dec. 30 after saying she had been sexually abused by a relative.
On Monday the Los Angeles Times reported that 22-year-old Frederick Bowdy, an aspiring actor, live streamed his suicide. He had just been arrested for sexual assault.
On Wednesday Facebook released a statement in response to these suicides. The company said it has tools on its site where people can report suicide threats or suicide thoughts.
“We take our responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously and work with organizations around the world to provide assistance for people in distress,” the company said to NBC 6.
Daniel J. Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, said to NBC 6 that Facebook has saved more suicidal people than have killed themselves because of it, but those incidents haven’t received the attention.
More questions have arose from Venant’s death now: is Florida’s foster care system correctly helping children exhibiting mental problems and does Facebook Live have a responsibility in these suicides being broadcast live?