After Danielle's story broke, documents surfaced that showed Florida's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had received previous complaints about Danielle's mother. Child advocates made two visits to the home in 2002—three years prior to her rescue—but they rated Danielle's risk as "low" and left her in her mother's care.
At the time, Judge Sheehan says the allegation was that 4-year-old Danielle was being left with inappropriate caretakers while her mother was out of the house. "Our social service agency responded to the home, and the reports indicated that the child was sleeping on one occasion," she says. "They didn't get her up and speak to her and put themselves in a position to assess her developmental skills."
Though DCFS agents offered Danielle's mother a daycare referral, reports indicate that she was not receptive. "[They] encouraged her to put the child in daycare. She refused," Judge Sheehan says. "She later testified at trial she didn't think she needed any services. She was doing the best she could, and of course, hindsight is 20/20. Had we known what we know now, we would have removed her. Certainly, it would have been better to have done that."
By the time she got the case, Judge Sheehan says it was time to look forward and try to help Danielle, as opposed to dwelling on the past.