LARGO, Fla. — Five months before a Florida toddler was found dead, his court-appointed child advocate told a magistrate that the boy should not be returned to his mother.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that her objection was overruled.
On Tuesday, 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau’s body was found in the woods behind a baseball field. Police arrested his 21-year-old mother Charisse Stinson and charged her with first-degree murder. Investigators say she confessed to hitting Jordan in the head during a moment of frustration.
The more details emerge about the boy’s short life, the clearer it’s become that he was extensively involved with Florida’s complex child welfare system. It’s raising multiple questions about why he was returned to his parents, and how he fell through the cracks. Even as Jordan’s guardian ad litem fought against his return to his mother out of foster care, records show, a case manager for a state contractor pushed for the boy to be given back to Stinson.
While the system prioritizes family reunification, one expert called it “a balancing act between difficult circumstances.
“It’s a difficult decision sometimes,” said Irene Sullivan, a former judge and an adjunct professor of juvenile law at Stetson University College of Law. “I’m sure all the people in this case involved feel very sad about what happened, but it’s part of the process to make these calls.”
Jordan’s first contact with child protective investigators came in October 2016, just three months after he was born, the Tampa Bay Times reported , citing Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and child protective services reports. Jordan was living in a home with his father, a known gang member also named Jordan, a grandmother and uncle, the reports said.
The elder Jordan was shot in his driveway and then again at the end of his street, according to the reports, which also say that he threatened a woman with a gun that same night.
A Clearwater police officer told child welfare investigators he had been to the home several times to respond to weapons complaints, track down wanted people, and recover stolen cars.
“The parents knowingly allow their infant son to reside in a dangerous environment” and “fail to understand the danger the baby is in when around gang members,” a child investigator’s report said, according to the Times.
Even while in foster care, Jordan was allowed at least one unsupervised visit with his parents, on June 18, 2017, during which he got caught in the middle of a fight between his father and a rival that ended with Jordan getting hit in the lip and being treated by emergency medical technicians, the newspaper reported.
At the time, a child protection investigator said in a written report that Jordan was calm and “did not appear to be in any distress,” and Stinson declined to have her son taken to the hospital.
Mariela Ollsen, the circuit director for the guardian ad litem program, said she couldn’t comment on details of the case but said her agency plans to cooperate with a review being conducted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Records from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, which conducts child protective investigations in the county, provide more details about the guardian’s trepidation.
The guardian was “always against the reunification,” an investigator wrote, but a social services case manager “was for the mother and wanted her to go forward with reunification.”