Report on slain Pasco girl raises questions about case
By Leah Masuda
NEW PORT RICHEY --
Eckerd Community Alternatives has released thousands of pages of documents on Jenica Randazzo.
The 9-year-old girl was allegedly killed by her uncle Jason Rios nearly two weeks ago. Rios is also accused of killing his own mother and attempting to kill Jenica’s sister.
Jenica was taken from her parents because of substance abuse, then from her grandparents, and later from foster parents, over and over again.
Jenica and her siblings began living with their grandparents in 2012 after staying in separate foster homes. Shortly afterwards, a judge ordered them to be taken out of their grandparents’ home citing substantial and immediate danger.
“The children had some behaviors in the home and they could not handle those behaviors at that time,” said Eckerd Associate Executive Director Brian Bostick.
A year later the siblings were back but the situation still wasn’t ideal. Their grandmother was on disability, their grandfather lost his job, and now the aging couple had four kids to raise.
In the case report on Jenica, child welfare workers stated that, at times, there was no electricity or no air-conditioning, and there were times the children had to use restrooms at a nearby gas station.
The grandparents’ home was classified throughout the years as both moderate and a high-risk home.
In our interview we asked, “If they were constantly seen as a high risk family, why were they placed there?”
“I don’t have any information that they were seen as a high-risk family," Bostick said. "The family was in need of services to help them through the situation and that’s what we did, was provide the services to them."
Those services included financial, counseling, and parenting classes.
Rios also lived in the home. People who knew about the situation said he had mental health problems, but the state didn’t know.
Bostick was also asked why Rios' mental health wasn't assessed in the home study for placement with the grandparents.
“Mental health is a part of the assessment of the home but also the information has to be disclosed to us," he said. "There was no information disclosed to us indicating that he had mental health issues."
Rios also passed all the background checks with Eckerd.
However there were other issues, including sexual abuse. The state report says all the children had to sleep in separate rooms with alarms on the doors.
Case workers will only say the abuse was not from the grandparents.
So how can that be the “best” home environment? Eckerd says despite the issues, it was.
“The group of professionals made the recommendations and those professionals worked with the grandparents to develop a transition plan, and all the professionals decided it was best to transition the children back into the home,” said Bostick.
Case managers visited the home weekly, even several days before the incident, which is considered frequent as Eckerd only mandates visits once every 30 days.
The surviving children are back in foster care with the exception of one of the boys who is at a shelter for runaways.
If no family members are able to take the children Eckerd will look for permanent placement for the siblings.