DCF RECORDS: Nikolas Cruz was Receiving Mental Health Services, Taking Medication, and Attending School when State Case Closed

For Immediate Release: February 19, 2018

DCF RECORDS: Nikolas Cruz was Receiving Mental Health Services,
Taking Medication, and Attending School when State Case Closed

Tallahassee, FL – After petitioning a court to allow the state to release all records regarding the Florida Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) involvement with Nikolas Cruz, a judge ruled today in DCF’s favor that the records can now be made publically available. Throughout the weekend, various news outlets obtained the records from a source unknown to DCF. As the documents were confidential by law until the court ruling today, DCF was previously unable to provide critical details that are important for the public’s understanding.

The records show the following:

  • DCF Adult Protective Services was called on September 28, 2016, to investigate allegations that Nikolas Cruz was being victimized by his caregiver - his mother;
  • Following an investigation involving mental health counselors, school personnel, and law enforcement who had contact with Cruz, DCF found no indicators of abuse or neglect as alleged;
  • According to Henderson Behavioral Health, before, during, and after DCF’s investigation, Cruz was receiving mental health treatment services from Henderson Behavioral Health, a provider independent from DCF. Henderson also informed DCF Cruz was taking medication;
  • It was reported to DCF that Cruz did not own a firearm;
  • And, Cruz was living with his mother and regularly attending school.

Statement from DCF Secretary Mike Carroll:

“DCF is absolutely heartbroken and disgusted by last week’s tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Once we learned that the shooter had involvement with the agency in 2016, we immediately began the process of asking a court to release these records detailing DCF’s only involvement with this person. We also conducted a thorough review to confirm that all processes and procedures were followed. In these investigations, DCF relies on the expertise of mental health professionals and law enforcement and these records show that DCF took the steps to involve these partners in investigating this alleged abuse. Cruz was receiving mental health services before, during, and after our investigation was closed, he was living with his mother, and attending school. Our focus will continue to be on working with our partners to best serve Florida’s communities.”

Link to records: www.dcf.state.fl.us/newsroom/publicdocuments.asp?path=Headquarters/Recor...

Information on Florida Adult Protective Services

In Florida, Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates if caregivers are committing abuse or neglect of adults per Chapter 415, Florida Statutes. In this capacity, APS investigators determine whether the adult, which Cruz was at the time of this investigation, has been abused or neglected, assesses if he/she would be at risk for further abuse or neglect by others, and ensures access to necessary services. In Florida, community mental health services are administered by providers independent of DCF and the state of Florida.

Under Florida law, any adult involved in an APS investigation who is performing activities of daily living and has the understanding to make their own decisions has the right to opt out of any recommended services or reject APS involvement. APS can only take action if the adult agrees to services, or, if the adult does not have the mental ability to make decisions, by seeking a court order to take action to protect the vulnerable adult from further abuse or neglect. DCF does not have the authority to compel any adults with capacity to comply with an APS investigation. Again, this is defined in Florida law.

APS does not take adults into custody. When working with the elderly, APS can assist with placement into assisted living facilities or nursing homes. The court can also appoint a guardian for an adult.

In Florida, only the court, a law enforcement officer, or a licensed clinician can initiate a Baker Act exam.

Regarding NC:

DCF’s only direct involvement with NC was one APS investigation in 2016. There is no child welfare history.

  • The Florida Abuse Hotline received a report on September 28, 2016, of allegations of inadequate supervision and medical neglect of NC by his caregiver, LC. The report was screened in for an adult protective services investigation to be initiated as the alleged victim was an adult, 18 years old.
  • The Adult Protective Investigator commenced the investigation the same day by contacting the school guidance counselor. The school guidance counselor expressed no concerns of abuse or neglect of NC by his caregiver. The school guidance counselor reported that Henderson Behavioral Health’s mobile crisis unit evaluated NC that day and mental health clinicians for Henderson determined he was not a risk to self or others. Again, this evaluation was not done by DCF but by a licensed mental health clinician.
  • According to DCF records, NC was not committed via the Baker Act at any time.
  • The investigator made face to face contact with NC and LC on September 28 at home. Based on information provided by the school guidance counselor and law enforcement and the investigator’s observation, it was determined NC had the capacity to perform activities of daily life and make decisions.
  • During the September 28 home visit, LC reported that NC did not own a firearm.
  • During the September 28 home visit, LC reported that NC was receiving mental health services from Henderson Behavioral Health.
  • On September 28, the investigator made contact with the crisis counselor at Henderson working with NC and LC and reported that services were in place, would be followed up on, medication was properly managed, and there were no concerns for caregiver abuse or neglect.
  • On September 29, the investigator attempted to make additional contacts to verify information related to the report on NC. The school resource officer was contacted and refused to provide specific information to the investigator. Florida law does not give APS the authority to compel law enforcement to provide additional information during an investigation. It also included a discussion with school personnel and no concerns were relayed. • On September 29, upon questioning by the investigator, NC refused to cooperate further with the investigation. An APS investigator cannot compel an adult with capacity to comply with an investigation.
  • NC was receiving services through Henderson. Additional APS services were not needed based on this engagement.
  • At the 30-day mark of the investigation, an Adult Protective Services Supervisor reviewed the investigator’s work and provided guidance.
  • On November 7 and 8, the investigator made multiple attempts to contact school personnel regarding NC’s status.
  • On November 8, the investigator followed up with LC, who reported that there were no further issues with NC and he was actively receiving case management. No further APS services were identified.
  • DCF’s APS investigation was closed on November 12 based on his caregiver’s protective capacity, in-home services through Henderson, and engagement in school.

This investigation is the only direct interaction DCF had with this individual. In Florida, only the court, a law enforcement officer, or a licensed clinician can initiate a Baker Act exam.

Contact: Jessica K. Sims, Communications Director
Florida Department of Children and Families