Victor Barahona was 10-years-old when he was found near death, covered in pesticides, on Valentine’s Day 2011; he was in the same car where Nubia, his twin sister, was rotting in a garbage bag in the trunk.
Jorge and Carmen Barahona, the twins’ adopted parents, are awaiting trial on murder and child abuse charges; they face the death penalty if convicted. Victor was awarded $5 million and given $1.25 million from a Florida risk-management fund used to cover liability. The money was sent to help Victor and his new adoptive parents to help him cope with the years of trauma. Now, the state senate has stopped those payments, claiming that if a decision is passed it may imply that Jorge was liable in the abuse case.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) settled the lawsuit in March 2013. Although DCF was not made liable in the decision, a report concluded the twins suffered due to “systematic failure.” They did not agree to or deny paying Victor the remaining $3.75 million in settlement funds from the Legislature, in the form of a claim bill.
While Victor and Nubia lived with their adoptive parents in West Miami-Dade, Florida, they were routinely sexually abused, beaten, starved, forced to eat cockroaches and food with feces and ordered to sleep in the bathtub.
Though the children’s living conditions were repeatedly reported to the authorities, the state failed to intervene. A report said DCF’s “failure in common sense, critical thinking, ownership, follow-through, and timely and accurate information-sharing” was a defining factor in the care of Nubia and Victor.
DCF has now changed its stories, just before the final payments were due. Under state laws, Florida is shielded from having to pay more than $200,000 when it injures someone, unless the Legislature agrees to lift the cap.
Trials on the remainder of Victor Barahona’s settlement have repeatedly been cancelled by the Legislature. State senate spokesperson Katie Betta told The Miami Herald “At this point in time, as a matter of law, the father’s rights have not been terminated. That is a valid concern the Senate has to consider.”
Victor has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suffers from chronic anxiety. DCF spokeswoman Alexis Lambert said the agency has already paid $1.25 million, and is ready to work out the rest of the settlement when a future Legislature decides to move forward with the bill.
“DCF has sympathy for everyone affected by this terrible tragedy as we continue to work to ensure that the victims’ needs are met,” she said in a statement.