If ever there was a case of lack of communication causing a tragic death, the case of 2-year old Jordan Belliveau is that case.
In 2018, the little boy's body was found in a wooded area in Largo. The official cause of death was ruled as blunt trauma or asphyxiation. The toddler's mother reportedly made up a ridiculous story about her being assaulted and Jordan being kidnapped. Law enforcement did not buy her story, and she was indicted on murder charges and filing a false police report. She is currently in custody and awaiting trial in August of this year.
This horrible scenario is made even more tragic because of what happened – or did not happen – leading up to Jordan's death.
The Florida Department of Children and Families, (DCF), conducted a special review of the case, and discovered several warning signs were ignored and communication between agencies responsible for the boy's well-being and safety were either poor, or non-existent.
The DCF investigation uncovered the following:
- The case manager said he or she “had concerns right before the toddler died.”
- One week prior to Jordan's death, DCF could not reach the mother, Charisse Stinson.
- Documents confirmed an incidence of domestic violence in which Jordan's father had been arrested.
- Jordan's case plan was never updated or modified, despite several documented incidents of domestic violence between the boy's parents.
- The case manager was not making weekly visits as required in the child's safety plan.
- The documents say there was a “noted lack of communication and collaboration” between the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office CPID unit and Directions for Living case management staff.
- The review says there was a “lack of interaction between the State Attorney, case management team” and Belliveau's foster parents before court hearings.
Jordan was also in the care of foster parents, but they said they were “uncomfortable” saying anything in a courtroom in front of his parents. (The State Attorney's Office reportedly offers a method for concerned parties to submit their input in writing rather than in verbal testimony, but the foster parents never did.)
When Jordan was scheduled to be returned home to his parents, no objection was ever filed by any party involved. Not the foster parents, not DCF case managers, not an independent agency contracted by DCF to develop and administer Jordan's Safety Plan.
In the end, the investigation found that there was a “divided system of care,” and that Jordan's death “highlights the fractured system of care” within Pinellas County.
“Jordan's Law” Takes Effect July 1, 2020
Although it took two times to pass the Florida Legislature, Governor Ron DeSantis has signed Jordan's Law into effect beginning July 1, 2020. The bill is the work of two Florida lawmakers, Representative Chris Latvala and State Senator Darryl Rouson.
The new law will require communication between law enforcement agencies and the Florida Department of Children and families related to certain individuals involved in the child welfare system. It also requires communication between law enforcement officers and the central abuse hotline, and authorizes lead agencies to provide intensive family reunification services combining child welfare and mental health services by providing more programs and more effective case management.
In an effort to better train law enforcement officers on what to look for in suspected cases of child abuse, the law also requires the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to add specific training as a part of basic police recruit training.
“This law was long overdue, and we hope it will prevent another tragic end to an innocent life like Jordan's”, said Goldberg Noone Abraham trial attorney Sheba Abraham. “This is a classic case of multiple people in charge of this little boy's safety dropping the ball, not following through and not doing their job.”
Fort Myers Cop Arrested for Failing to Contact DCF
In early June 2020, Fort Myers police officer Tyler Williams was arrested for not contacting DCF following a traffic stop on January 18th at almost 5 a.m. It was the officer's duty to report information regarding a 3-year old child in the car who was not in a car seat at the time, which he failed to do and which put the child's safety in jeopardy.
About a month later, that same woman who had been pulled over in January crashed her car on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Rockfill Road in Fort Myers. The same child who was not in a car seat in January was also not in a car seat during the crash, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. The child's mother was high on at least six illegal drugs at the time, and driving on a suspended license for almost a year.
Former officer Williams is now facing a third-degree felony charge for failure to report child abuse and neglect.