Herald-Tribune by Daphne Chen, Josh Salman, Lucille Sherman
April 16, 2019
Florida lawmakers backed off a proposal Tuesday that sought to conceal the names of foster parents through new public record exemptions.
The move came on the same day GateHouse Media reported allegations of child sex abuse against Gilberto Rios, who fostered 48 children with his wife since 2009.
On trial this week over charges that he sexually abused a 3-year-old girl in his care, Rios faced similar allegations from another foster girl two years earlier, GateHouse Media found — yet state officials continued to place children in his home.
Experts say the case illustrates why foster parents, who receive funding from the state of Florida, should not be exempt from public oversight. But that’s exactly what Florida legislators, backed by the Department of Children & Families, intended. A pair of bills making their way through the House and Senate would have protected the identities of foster parents, which are now public record under Florida statutes.
The bills came in response to a records request made by GateHouse and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in July 2018 as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct of foster parents. The organizations asked for a list of all foster parents in the state. But even though DCF officials agreed that the names were not exempt under current public records law, they declined the request and then set about changing the law.