"On July 11, the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Lake County Sheriff's Office launched a joint investigation in response to horrifying allegations of sexual abuse by a former employee at a licensed child care facility. Shortly after, additional reports of alleged sexual abuse surfaced in connection to the same individual at a Lake County group home for disabled adults. During the course of the investigation, the Department learned that the alleged perpetrator, also a youth pastor with Promise Land Ministries in Eustis, was employed at a child care facility as well as a group home for vulnerable adults. While six potential victims have been identified at this time, we anticipate more will come forward.
"A coordinated investigation among our own child and adult protective investigators and child care licensing team, along with multiple law enforcement organizations and the child protection team, is under way to ensure all potential victims are identified and receive any necessary help.
"On July 19 at 5 p.m., the license for Pat’s Kidz World Development Center was surrendered and terminated by the Department indefinitely. This surrender was in place of an immediate revocation by the Department since child care providers are mandated and trained child abuse reporters. Failure to report alleged child abuse is considered an egregious offense. Given the disturbing nature of these allegations, our Department and law enforcement have begun to initiate contact with an additional 40 families whose children attended the child care facility.
"As the Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, as well as a father, I am appalled not only by the allegations against an alleged person of faith, but also the implication that previous similar concerns went unreported to officials. Such heinous failure to these children not only caused further harm to them, but allowed others to be victimized. On behalf of the Department, I offer our full support to those investigating and prosecuting this case, asking that they pursue criminal charges to the fullest extent of the law.
"Governor Rick Scott recently signed a new law that gave Florida the toughest child abuse reporting law in the nation, ensuring that not only those who commit crimes against children face severe repercussions, but also those who fail to protect them from harm. Anyone who suspects abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult should call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873."