JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The former foster parents of Cherish Perrywinkle's sisters say they are disappointed with how the state has failed to place the girls in a permanent home. It's been over a year since the girls, Destiny, 6, and Nevaeh, 5, were removed from their home and placed in foster care, and today Amy and Bill Decker say the children are not any closer to a safe and permanent home.
The Deckers say they met Rayne through community support services when she was pregnant with Cherish. When they heard about Cherish's abduction and murder, they wanted to offer Rayne help.
"There was an entire room filled with black mold, there was no running water in the bathroom, there were holes all the way through the floor," said Amy Decker. "The situation they were living in, the house should have been condemned."
The Deckers say they took Rayne and the girls to stay with them. After a few days Rayne returned home but allowed the girls to stay.
"DCF [Department of Children and Families] was removing the children from Rayne and asked us if we would provide temporary care for them while they found a home that could be more permanent for them," added Decker.
Destiny and Nevaeh were four and five-years-old at the time. The Deckers instantly fell in love with the girls.
"They were in that van," said Decker, referring to Cherish's murder suspect, Donald Smith's van. "It was only grace that they made it through, so of course we only wanted the best for them."
The girls were supposed to stay six weeks, but that turned into three and a half months. The Deckers took them to Disney World and organized birthday parties all while keeping them connected with their family. Their hope was that they would get a permanent home.
"We are not anti-Rayne, we are not anti-DCF, we are pro-Destiny and Nevaeh. So all the steps along the way were to support them and protect them," said Decker.
But then, the girls were going to be moved and not to a permanent home, but to another temporary home. The Deckers say there were several families who were interested in adopting Destiny and Nevaeh, but were ignored by DCF. The Deckers say DCF told them the plans changed and that they are now working towards parent reunification.
"A little over a year ago these two little girls barely escaped with their lives and they are no closer to a safe and permanent loving home today ," said Decker.
We reached out to DCF about the case and were referred to Family Support Services [FSS] of North Florida. We are in contact with someone from FSS who is looking into the case, but could not confirm whether the girls are on track to be adopted or reunited with their parents.
Meanwhile, the Donald Smith is charged with the first-degree murder of Cherish. He is scheduled to be in court Wednesday morning.