Journalists Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch of the Miami Herald won the April Sidney Award for “Innocents Lost“, an investigative multi-media package that spotlighted more than 400 Florida children who died due to abuse or neglect even after the state’s child protection authorities confirmed mistreatment at home yet failed to act.
Started in 2009, the Sidney Award is given monthly to honor outstanding socially-conscious, investigative journalism that encourages social and economic justice.
“Innocents Lost” documented how nearly 10 years ago, Florida’s Department of Children and Families made a deliberate shift in child welfare policy and deciding to reduce the number of children taken into care by nearly half in an effort to preserve families.
The Herald story pointed out how the department’s funding had been slashed, leaving many children with violent, neglectful, mentally ill or often drug-addicted parents.
Miller and Burch graphically uncovered how some children had been murdered, starved, beaten and even drowned. It was shown that the state underreported deaths by as many as 39 cases per year, the investigation revealed.
“‘Innocents Lost’ highlights the human cost of slashing social services,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “The series also reveals systematic underreporting of deaths by DCF.”
The package included in-depth print coverage, web videos, and a searchable database with a profile of every child in Florida who had died of abuse or neglect after DCF documented his or her maltreatment from 2008 onwards.
Miller is a member of the Herald’s investigative team as well as a two-time recipient of the National Newspaper Guild’s Heywood Broun Award. She was also awarded the Society of Professional Journalists’ Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award in 2012.
Burch is an award-winning enterprise reporter for the Herald who has covered the George Zimmerman and Casey Anthony trials for the paper. She has also written about pop culture, race relations, and consumer affairs.