Child abuse hotline workers made first mistakes in Janiya Thomas case in Bradenton

Janiya Thomas 

MANATEE -- Child abuse hotline workers with the Florida Department of Children and Families made the first mistakes in the case surrounding the disappearance of Janiya Thomas who was found dead in a freezer last month.

Janiya's name failed to appear in two of the seven reports since 2012 made after calls were received by the hotline about allegations of abuse by her mother Keishanna Thomas, despite officials knowing she was a member of the family. The Bradenton Herald obtained the reports in response to a public records request.

Janiya was last seen on June 9, 2014, during a case management visit by child protection officials. During the visit, Thomas became uncooperative, leading to a child abuse case being closed rather than further intervention being sought.

The girl was first discovered missing from her mother's home this past Sept. 23 when a Manatee County Sheriff's Office child protection investigator was called out to investigate allegations Thomas had beaten her 12-year-old son.

On Oct. 16, after Thomas was arrested for failing to disclose details about Janiya'a whereabouts, Janiya was officially reported missing to the Bradenton Police Department. Two days later the girl's body was found inside a box in a padlocked freezer at a relative's home that her mother had delivered four days earlier under the guise that she was being evicted from her apartment.

Thomas remains in custody at the Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $200,000 on charges of abuse, aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body. Thw investigation into Janiya'a death remains ongoing.

That Janiya's name was not listed on the reports means the girl officially was never part of the investigations of her mother and not listed as missing until Oct. 16, more than a year after the last time child protection officials reported seeing her alive.

At 10:09 p.m. Sept. 23, Florida DCF abuse hotline worker Neosha Brown took the call that would be sent to the sheriff's office to investigate.

Janiya's name was not included in the initial report on the case, even though a search of a state datebase would have revealed she was a member of Thomas' family.

"The Florida Abuse Hotline failed to list all children reported to be living in the household in the September 23, 2015, intake and instead only provided this information in the reporter narrative," stated the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team report released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Children and Families. "The MCSO's child protective investigator failed to add Janiya to the investigation."

On the intake form, Brown only listed Janiya's 12-year-old brother -- failing to list Janiya or her other siblings.

"When the hotline counselor asked the reporter if other children resided in the home, the reporter confirmed there were four other children residing in the home but their demographic information was unknown," the CIRRT report states. "This information was documented in the reporter narrative section of the Intake, but further research should have been conducted by the hotline counselor to identify the other four children."

If the hotline worker does not receive identifying details about the other children, hotline practice requires them to conduct a search in the Florida Safe Families Network using the primary child's name. In this case, with Thomas's extensive history of abuse allegations, the search would have been enough to identify all the children in the home.

"The Florida Abuse Hotline counselor should have added all five children to the intake," the CIRRT report states. "Based on the Hotline's reporter narrative section stating four additional children resided in the home, review of prior reports indicating all five children resided with their mother and the judge's order for the mother to produce the child, the child protective investigator should have added Janiya to the investigation, completed further investigation into her whereabouts and included her in the safety assessment."

This was not the first time a child abuse hotline worker omitted Janiya's name from an intake report.

At 2:03 p.m. May 22, 2014, a hotline worker took a call in reference to Janiya's now 15-year-old sister and concerns that she had a "profusely smelling" body odor at school, concerns of a prior urinary tract infection and Thomas' lack of concern when the girl had previously fallen and hit her head.

The intake report only lists Janiya's now 15-year-old sister and 12-year-old brother as children in the home. Janiya and her now 10-year-old sister and 2-year-old brother were not listed.

This worker also failed to list their own name in the required field in the first section of the intake report. Later on the form the counselor is listed as Latina Brewer.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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