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Fixing foster care: ‘Social workers ... are not robots’

NEED TO KNOW
  • Rilya Wilson, 4, vanished in 2000; body was never found
  • Geralyn Graham is charged with first-degree murder
  • Actress and child advocate Victoria Rowell talks to In Session

It's been more than a decade since 4-year-old Rilya Wilson disappeared from South Florida.  Geralyn Graham, her former foster mother, is now standing trial, accused of killing the child who was under her care.

Watch the video to see actress Victoria Rowell, who spent her childhood in foster care, talk with In Session’s Vinnie Politan about how the foster care system needs reform.

Read more: 10 years later, justice due for missing foster child

The Florida Department of Children & Families didn’t know Wilson was missing until 2002, more than a year after the last time anyone saw her. The little girl’s disappearance sparked public outcry for reforming child welfare procedures and in response, the Florida Legislature passed the Rilya Wilson Act that requires closer monitoring of children in DCF’s care.

In 2002, Graham told case workers that an unidentified DCF employee took the girl. Wilson’s disappearance remained a mystery for a couple more years. But a break in the case came in 2004 when a jailhouse informant told authorities that Graham confessed to suffocating the girl and disposing of her body in a canal. Wilson’s body was never found, and in the defense’s opening statement on Monday, Graham’s attorney questioned whether the child is actually dead.

Read more: Prosecutors say Graham punished Wilson by putting her in a dog cage

The trial is expected to last several weeks. The 66-year-old is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated child abuse. She maintains that she is innocent. She faces the death penalty if she's convicted.

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