TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Victoria Davis thought she had her son back after losing custody about two years ago, but her joy turned to shock after she claims the state got involved again.
Davis said she believed the reunification last year by Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) allowed her to leave the state and start a new life on the west coast. Then, she received a call ordering her to come back to Florida and return the child to foster care.
Criminal investigation involving Tampa Bay child welfare agency now inactive after leads run dry
“It’s devastating. I feel like they’re never going to stop,” Davis said, fighting back emotions. “I feel like they’re never going to let me and my child have peace. It doesn’t matter how many hoops I jump through.”
DCF has yet to respond to requests for comment.
DCF staffing issues were one issue, according to Davis, who said she had four case managers within a year.
She said the reunification process seemed to start over every time there was a change.
“The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” Davis said. “So, because they have a paperwork issue, they are now trying to force my hand after my child has been with me collectively for [about] eleven months.”
Removing children from homes more common in Tampa Bay child welfare investigations
DCF’s recent budget request acknowledged staffing shortages and a lack of experience among other personnel.
The agency has asked for $5.5 million for next fiscal year and wants to offer bonuses to new Child Protective Investigators (CPI) and direct care staff at the state’s Mental Health Treatment Facilities.
Davis said the state she currently lives in has so far refused to cooperate with Florida, but she now plans on suing DCF to try to end what she claims is harassment.
“They’ve threatened me. Why now? Why do you want to bring him across the country after he’s been with me collectively [about] eleven months?” Davis said “And they’ve continued checking on him. Why would you need him back? I don’t understand.”
DCF data shows bay area children were removed in recent years more often than in any other region in the state.
Davis lost her child after a fight with the father in a West Tampa neighborhood. Police records do not indicate her child was injured and no one was charged with a crime.
The altercation erupted about a month after Davis secured a protective order against the child’s father, according to court records.