Fault Lines

Failure to Protect: How domestic violence separates families

In Florida, survivors of domestic violence can lose custody of their children. Is the state blaming victims of abuse?

A mother in the US state of Florida was beaten and strangled by her ex-husband, so why did the state take her children from her?

Under Florida law, domestic violence victims can lose their children if the state thinks they did not do enough to prevent the kids from witnessing the abuse. The state calls it “failure to protect”.

“I called for help. I wanted out, and I still got punished,” says Lena Hale, who lost custody of her two children after Florida’s child welfare agency deemed her an unsafe parent because she maintained a relationship with her abusive partner.

Her ex-husband – the abuser – was later awarded full custody of their daughter.

Fault Lines investigates Florida’s child protection agency and asks if the state is doing more harm than good to some families.