Our project's sources and data
From Nubia Barahona to Jeshiah DeJesus to Emma Morrison, the Miami Herald wanted to know why so many children were dying after the state's troubled child protection system already had been involved with the child's parents.
Reporters from the Herald's Investigative Reporting Team began by requesting death reviews — written reports detailing both the circumstances of the child's death and the Department of Children & Families' prior history with the deceased child's family — for all child deaths beginning Jan. 1, 2008.
The newspaper negotiated the details of what information would be provided from the reports, and filed three lawsuits, two of them successful, in an effort to obtain some records quickly or to seek the restoration of details that had been redacted.
All of the children whose histories are included in this series died as a result of abuse or neglect, according to DCF's findings, except for a handful of cases that are either technically still pending or were otherwise unavailable. Among the cases that are pending, all are expected to be eventually verified as resulting from abuse or neglect, as one or more DCF administrators have discussed them openly with the Herald.
DCF counts as a prior investigation any abuse or neglect report involving the parents, step-parents or siblings of the deceased child. It also counts those involving boyfriends or girlfriends of the parents — if the abuse happened in the household. DCF also counts abuse reports involving the parents when they were minors. It includes all prior contact between the agency and the caregivers, regardless of when the reports were received.
The Herald used a more restricted definition of a death "with priors." It included only abuse and neglect reports involving the deceased child or siblings that happened during a five-year window preceding the death. It only considered prior reports involving parents as minors if they had a child at that time or were soon to give birth to one and the agency was aware of that.
To better understand the complex dynamics of abuse and neglect, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, domestic violence and family dysfunction, the Herald also obtained thousands of other records, including: expanded DCF reports, such as case-management records, full investigation reports, risk assessments and emails; police and autopsy reports, court records, crime-scene photos and criminal histories.
Reporters also conducted scores of interviews with police, prosecutors, teachers, doctors, relatives, family friends, child welfare administrators, children's advocates, social workers, judges and others.
Many of the figures cited in this series are derived from a computer database the Herald created from records obtained from DCF and other state agencies.
The project team
Carol Marbin Miller, who has been at the Herald close to 15 years, is a member of the paper's investigative reporting team. She has worked previously for the St. Petersburg Times and the Palm Beach Post. Marbin Miller has twice been awarded the National Newspaper Guild's Heywood Broun Award, and was awarded the Society of Professional Journalists' Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award in 2012.
Audra D.S. Burch, an award-winning enterprise writer for the Miami Herald, has spent the past two years covering issues related to military personnel returning from duty, along with high-profile court cases, including the George Zimmerman and Casey Anthony murder trials. Burch also spent years covering the American South. She has also written about pop culture, race relations and consumer affairs. Burch previously worked for the Sun-Sentinel and the Post-Tribune in Gary, Ind.
Interactive elements were created by Lazaro Gamio, who designs and develops interactive projects for the Miami Herald. Prior to working at the Herald, he interned at the Seattle Times and National Geographic magazine, making both print and interactive graphics.
The project was supervised by Casey Frank, the Herald's senior editor for investigations and enterprise. He is a 33-year Miami Herald veteran and previously worked for the Tampa Tribune and the Coffeyville Journal.
Who did what
This series was reported and written by Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch. It was edited by Casey Frank.
The profiles for the 477 deceased children were written by Marbin Miller, Nick Madigan, Frank and Burch. Frank, Madigan and Julie Brown also edited the profiles.
Emily Michot photographed all the staff-produced still and video images for the series.
The Innocents Lost website, and the database that is contained within it, were designed and produced by Lazaro Gamio.
All the newspaper stories, including the special section, were designed and produced by Kara Dapena, Ana Larrauri and Eddie Alvarez.
Monika Leal, Rianna Hidalgo and Rachael Thompson conducted research for the series.
Other Miami Herald staffers and interns contributed to this series, including: Rianna Hidalgo, Katia Savchuk, Carli Teproff, David Ovalle, Joey Flechas, Elinor J. Brecher, Benjamin Brasch, Diana Moskovitz, Harry Broertjes, Mark C. Worth, Mary Ellen Klas, Jeff Kleinman and Erin Jester.