Sorry doesn’t cut it.
That’s the view of one Mandarin mom after state social workers accidentally divulged the name of her adopted daughter’s birth mother.
According to the mom, whom First Coast News is not naming in order to protect the identity of the child, the state Department of Children and Families went to her daughter’s school on Nov. 28. Without permission or notification, they took her 13-year-old daughter out of class and into a meeting with Nicole Trippett, a DCF child protection investigator. According to the girl, Trippett mentioned a name and asked if she was the girl’s mother.
“She said no. My daughter said, ‘No, I don’t know who that person is.’”
Trippett did not return calls for comment. DCF acknowledged the mistake, saying “we deeply regret this unfortunate error,” but did not answer specific questions about protocol, or say if Trippett or anyone else will be disciplined.
“They apologized, but that doesn’t change anything, doesn’t undo what they’ve done,” says the Mandarin mom. She says the agency compounded its error by failing to let her know what had happened.
“Once the mistake happened, I think I should have been called immediately so I could go and be by my daughter’s side. Not wait until I went and picked her up in carpool line.”
When she asked why she wasn’t called, a DCF worker explained her name wasn’t in the report, therefore “it has nothing to do with me. It was basically none of our business.”
According to the mom, DCF told her they made contact because they couldn’t find adoption records for the girl -- a search prompted by the birth of another child to her biological mother. “They tried to tell me they couldn’t find any adoption papers for [her],” she says. “But they found her through the school board. Why couldn’t they just ask the school who her were parents were?”
“It shouldn’t be a big mystery,” she adds, noting DCF contacted her to see if she was interested in adopting in the first place, since she’d already adopted the girl’s younger sister. “They came to me.”
The disclosure has rocked the family. The girl knew she was adopted, but the specifics were something her parents planned to broach much later. “That’s what adopted children, at the age of 18 -- if they want to find out -- that’s when they start delving and looking for their birth parents,” she says. “Not at the age of 13, and definitely not being told by some DCF worker.”
The incident also dredged up old issues, and stoked new fears. “She’s had an unfair life,” says her mom. “She was in an abusive home foster home. When we got her, she was very frail, very thin. She had a burn mark on her arm where they burned her with a lighter. Now she’s fearful that the birth mother is looking for her. She’s worried she is she going to come get her, that she is she going to try to come take her.”
The issue has been difficult for the mom and her ex-husband as well, who believe the state deprived them of the one part of their daughter’s narrative in their control.
“I’m outraged, I’m furious this could have happened,” says the mom, who has contacted an attorney to see if she there is any legal remedy. “I don’t know if it’s a case or not a case, but I just think the public needs to know that this happened. They need to know DCF is far from perfect. It’s a flawed system.”
DCF issued the following statement: “All of our work is focused on protecting the best interests of the children we serve. We deeply regret this unfortunate error that occurred as we were working to ensure the safety of the child. We will review all applicable procedures with our frontline staff to make sure this type of mistake doesn’t happen again.