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Judge Slams DCF After Kids Walk Away From Facility

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A Miami-Dade Juvenile Court judge was severely critical of the state's Department of Children and Families, and two of its contractors, during a Monday morning hearing over what needs to be done with five siblings who walked away from a child services facility last week and were missing for 20 hours before being found at a relative's house.

"How could this possibly happen," Judge Cindy Lederman asked representatives from DCF and the Children's Home Society, "I am assuming somebody's getting fired here."

"We're lucky the children didn't get hurt," she added.

The children told the judge behind closed doors that they ran away because staff at the Children's Home Society told them they would be placed in five separate homes. The judge quoted the children as saying they wanted to remain together.

The judge agreed.

"I need these children to be together," the judge said.

Lederman ordered that they be placed together immediately in a group home, while DCF finds a private foster home for all five.

A half a dozen friends and relatives of the children were in court with offers of help, but none had homes adequate to accommodate all five of them.

Court records show the children, ages 16 to four, were originally taken away from their mother because she had a substance-abuse problem. She appeared at court Monday but was ordered to leave after she allegedly tested positive for cocaine just before the hearing.

In August, 16-year old Takira Brown, along with two sisters, 14-year Takiya and 5-year old Tamiyiah, and her two brothers, 13-year old Jeremiah and 6-year old Nehemiah, were taken from their grandmother who had custody of them following a domestic violence issue. The kids were turned over to the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Last Thursday, the kids were dropped off at Children's Home Society on Caribbean Boulevard where they were to be processed for shelter placement.

At some point the children asked to go to the restroom, and simply never came back.

Judge Lederman ordered DCF and its contractors, Our Kids and the Children's Home Society, to conduct investigations into how the children were permitted to wander away from the facility.

The Children's Home Society staff apparently allowed the kids to go to the bathroom unattended because they had been in the child protection system before and never ran away. During Monday's hearing a rep from the organization said that changes have been made to their procedures and children will no longer be allowed to use the restroom unattended.

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