Sunday, June 3, 2007

"The Only Way the State could take Custody of Troubled Child was to Charge Her Mother with Abandonment, Abuse or Neglect. The Mother was Crestfallen".

By SHERRI ACKERMAN The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - Betty Keel found herself at the door of a West Tampa strip club, four days after her teenage daughter took out the trash and never came back.

Shyrontay had run away before, later confiding in her mother about dancing at Hollywood Nites and selling her body for money to survive.

"How old is she?" the doorman asked Keel, blocking her entrance. "Fifteen? No, she's not dancing here."

It was shortly after 11 on a Friday night. The 50-year-old mother and grandmother was tired and disgusted. She had just come from Simone's, another strip club on Nebraska Avenue where Shyrontay said she also danced. The manager let Keel inside to see for herself. No Shyrontay.
"I'm beat," Keel said, climbing back into her sport utility vehicle. "She's worn me down. It's like she get this demon in her. She become somebody else."

On the day she disappeared, Shyrontay was one of 570 especially troubled children across Florida - those reported missing from among the thousands whose problems are serious enough to warrant state intervention.

When she called the Department of Children & Families in January 2006, Keel had hit rock bottom. She begged the state to take Shyrontay, but she had no idea what it would cost her.
"In order to get help, you've got to tell DCF Shyrontay can't come home," Keel recalled a caseworker telling her. "You've got to say you're not taking her back."
The only way the state could take custody of Shyrontay was to charge her mother with abandonment, abuse or neglect. Keel was crestfallen.

"I didn't abandon my baby," she told workers.

Title and Bold by Blogmaster for emphasis story abridged read the entire story in the Tampa Tribune Here >>

603 Average number of children missing at any given time from state care in Florida during 2006

169 Average number of children missing at any given time in the SunCoast Region, which includes Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties

50 Percentage of cases in which children are found within three days

95Percentage of cases in which children are found within three months

Source: Department of Children & Families

Researcher Catherine Hammer and reporter Chris Echegaray contributed to this report. Reporter Sherri Ackerman can be reached at (813) 259-7144 or

Shyrontay Keel is listed on the Florida Department of Children & Families' missing children's list online. If you see her, call your local law enforcement agency or Hillsborough Kids Inc. at (813) 225-1105.


If your child is missing, call local law enforcement immediately to make a report.
•Tampa Police Missing Person's Unit: (813) 276-3516
•Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office: (813) 247-8200
•Hillsborough County has a crisis hot line that offers parent resources: Call 211.
•National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: (703) 274-3900
•Missing Children Information Clearing House: 1-888-356-4774 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
•Child Protection Education of America, in Tampa, works with parents and law enforcement agencies to help find missing and exploited children: Call (813) 626-3001 or 1-866-872-2445.

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