VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The president of a foster home where two juveniles ran away from before reportedly opening fire on Volusia County deputies multiple times says the facility will no longer accept emergency shelter children.
Florida United Methodist Children’s Home president and CEO Kitwana McTyer released a statement to the media Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the rampage.
She said the facility doesn’t have the resources to care for children that have been sent there through the emergency shelter care program.
“At this juncture, the level of children who are being sent to us through Emergency Shelter care at times is beyond the scope of our capabilities to provide the care required and limits who we can serve as part of our mission. This situation is tragic and is the result of the system failing our children. These children are in desperate need of care in the appropriate setting, which is a higher level of care than we provide,” she wrote.
As a child welfare facility, staff cannot restrain children unless they’re a risk to themselves or someone else. The facility also isn’t secure, so residents can leave campus to go to school, according to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
“As we have partnered with our lead agency in this program since 2007, we have found in recent times that we are seeing a higher level of children who repeatedly come through the system with escalated behaviors. We simply cannot continue to be ‘everything to everyone.’ From a personal perspective, this incident is shocking to me. In my 25 years working in child welfare service, I have never seen anything like this,” McTyer wrote.
She said the facility currently has three emergency shelter program children in its care but it’s unclear if that includes the14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, the two suspects in the deputy-involved shooting.
“The Emergency Shelter Care program is only one portion of the large breadth of services we provide to over 500 children and families each week. In fact, thousands of children have been served over the years while in the care of the Children’s Home and have gone on to be successful members of society,” the statement read.
Records show the 14-year-old girl and the boy ran away from FUMCHS Tuesday around 4:15 p.m., broke into a home on Enterprise Osteen Road and used guns they found there to repeatedly fire at deputies for at least 30 minutes.
Deputies eventually returned fire and shot the teen in the chest and arm. As of Wednesday the 14-year-old is in critical but stable condition. The 12-year-old wasn’t injured and neither were the deputies.
Chitwood said FUMCHS turning away emergency care children who likely need a more secure facility is just a start. He once again, on Wednesday, bashed the Department of Juvenile Justice for how it handles violent children.
“You know, when you meet with these providers, they tell you, ‘We can’t handle what DJJ’s giving us,’” Chitwood said. “And DJJ, when you go through the list, you ask yourself, ‘Why aren’t these people, these kids, being committed?’”
He said real change needs to be enacted in Tallahassee in order to see improvements.
“I think that the legislature needs to get off its (expletive). OK? Stop going to cocktail hours when you’re in session and come out and ride with the boots on the ground, work with the juvenile justice coordinators, get out on the street and more importantly, talk to the victims of juvenile crime,” Chitwood said.
The boy and the 14-year-old face felony charges of attempted first-degree murder of law enforcement officers and armed burglary.