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Fla. Girls Said Left Unsupervised

June 22, 2002

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Six girls in state custody were unsupervised at night and partied with adult men at the hotel where they lived while awaiting foster care, according to a police report.

The girls, ages 11 to 15, were removed from the Marriott Residence Inn on June 3, when hotel workers called police. The girls had lived at the hotel since May 13.

The Department of Children & Families is investigating, district administrator David May told The Palm Beach Post.

May said the girls were supervised by Maxim Healthcare Services, a Columbia, Md.-based company hired to find temporary shelter for children in state custody. Maxim officials refused to comment.

During the day, Maxim’s staff closely watched the children, hotel supervisor Melody Major told the Post. But, she said, it was a different story after a 7 p.m. shift change.

``It was crazy. At night, it was like the girls were on their own,″ Major said. ``There didn’t seem to be anyone around, no supervision.″

He would not say where the girls were currently housed, or if Maxim was still providing supervision.

Police said witnesses reported seeing the girls with men at pool parties that appeared to involve alcohol and marijuana.

``The environment does not appear to be the safest place to house children that are waiting to be placed in foster care,″ Officer Nicole Maale wrote in the police report.

May agreed, but said the state has no choice since the number of children awaiting placement doubled to 117 between December and May in Palm Beach County.

``There’s just nowhere to put them,″ he said.

The DCF is under scrutiny for its mishandling of cases around the state. In April, the agency reported the disappearance of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson, a child under state care who was missing for 15 months before state officials noticed.

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