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Panel To Investigate Boy's Death In Foster Care


John MacLauchlan

TAMPA (CBS4) ― An investigative panel formed by Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon to look into what led up to the death of a Margate boy living in foster home will convene Monday in Tampa.

Gabriel Myers, 7, died April 16th after he apparently hanged himself from a shower rod.

Sheldon has asked the group to conduct a full inquiry into the events that led up to the boy's death including case management, judicial decisions and the contributing effects that psychotropic drugs and sexual abuse had.

"It is incomprehensible to me—even now—to understand how a child so young may have deliberately and consciously made a decision to end his life," said Sheldon last month during a press conference on psychotropic drug among foster children. "Anyone who heard of Gabriel's story was in disbelief; and parents everywhere are wondering to themselves: how could this happen?"

The panel is being chaired by Dr. Jim Sewell, a former assistant commissioner of FDLE.

Sheldon said he's been disturbed by some of the initial findings of the work group in the case.

"Gabriel's physician had prescribed several psychotherapeutic drugs, but this information was not reflected in our database," said Sheldon. "There also was no evidence in Gabriel's files that the statutorily required parental consent or a court order where obtained."

According to documents released by the DCF, Myers was taken from his drug-abusing mother less than a year ago. He had apparently been sexually abused and exposed to adult videos since the age of three. Teachers had reported that he had exposed himself, and touched other children inappropriately.

The Margate foster home where Gabriel Myers allegedly took his life was the third for the boy in less than a year. The DCF documents obtained by the CBS4 I-Team show he first entered the foster care system on June 29, 2008. He was placed in a licensed home through Kids in Distress. Some days later, he was moved to the home of his aunt and uncle. He lived there for some three months until Broward Sheriff's Office investigators received a report alleging sexual and physical abuse.

While investigators found no signs of sexual abuse, the uncle revealed he "did try corporal punishment" and hit the child with a belt. A Broward County judge issued an emergency order and moved Gabriel Myers back to the licensed home.

According to the documents, when Gabriel first entered the system, he had with him a prescription bottle of Adderall XR, a drug typically taken for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The medication appeared melted. A new prescription was filled, but ultimately stopped. The DCF documents show Gabriel began seeing a psychiatrist soon after entering the system.

The psychiatrist later prescribed Lexapro, a drug for depression and anxiety, and Vyvanse for the child's ADHD. In March, doctors took Gabriel off Lexapro, and put him on Symbyax, also for depression and possible schizophrenia.

All three of the drugs have an FDA-mandated "black box" warning -- a statement on the prescription's box which describes its possible adverse reactions, including suicidal thoughts.

2009 Jun 7