An Action News Jax investigation into an alleged child adoption scheme has sparked a criminal investigation with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and a separate investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
At the center of it all is a 3-year-old boy named Dylan, once a part of Florida's foster care system.
"It was like, we're gonna be able to finally have our dream of having our child together," said Tim Anda.
Anda and his husband thought they were going to adopt Dylan from Tina Scee, a Putnam County woman.
Scee also runs a day care, The Children’s Academy of Interlachen.
The couple tells us they met Dylan through a friend while he was in Scee's care.
DCF tells us Scee is a non-relative caregiver for the state of Florida, but Anda says from the very beginning, she presented herself as a state employee.
"From the very first moment, Tina presented herself as somebody who worked with DCF and helped find forever homes for children," Anda explained.
Beginning last year, Scee told the couple they could adopt Dylan, but she would have to adopt the child first.
In the meantime, the couple says Scee provided them with documents that would allow them temporary guardianship of Dylan, even though he was still within Florida's foster care system.
Anda now believes the notary’s signature on those documents was forged.
In September of last year, the couple took Dylan home to Ohio, where they live. The toddler went to school, doctors' appointments and made friends.
"We had Thanksgiving, Christmas, and his third birthday with both of our families," said Anda.
In October of 2017, they visited Florida so Scee could officially adopt Dylan.
The couple thought their own adoption would soon be final too.
They brought Dylan back to Ohio, but Anda says they stopped hearing from Scee.
"I kept sending text messages asking if she had received the [adoption] paperwork or if she filed it,” said Anda.
Rebecca Whitt, a friend of Anda’s, told him something was wrong.
Whitt is adopting three other children who were also in Tina Scee's care.
Whitt says Scee also told her she was a DCF employee and offered to help facilitate her adoption.
"She was pointing out children at her day care, and she was saying ‘that one's available, that one's available’," Whitt explained. "I was floored, I thought she was joking."
Whitt says Scee gave her the same adoption papers she gave to Anda.
Whitt brought those documents to a surprised Children's Services.
"They were like, ‘none of this is OK, she doesn't work for our company. She's a foster mother’," said Whitt.
Anda now believes Scee's offer to facilitate Dylan's adoption was all about money, and that she wanted he and his husband to raise Dylan while she collected money from the state of Florida.
Action News Jax dug through pages of adoption rules and learned adoptive parents can receive a minimum of $417 a month to adopt a special needs child.
Medical records show that Dylan is listed as ‘Special Needs’. Adoptive parents are also eligible for a federal tax credit every year.
"I really think that she saw an opportunity to have someone else raise a child and her collect money for it,” said Anda.
Action News Jax tried numerous times to get Tina Scee to respond to the allegations against her.
We went to her door, and she referred us to her attorney.
Our calls to her attorney have not been returned.
When we pressed DCF for answers about how Scee could allow Dylan to leave the state when he was still a foster child, the agency sent us this statement, from Secretary Mike Carroll:
“I am eternally grateful to the wonderful families who have opened their hearts and homes to children in need.
"The allegations against this individual are deeply disturbing and DCF has opened a child protective investigation into this case. Any time DCF receives allegations of inappropriate behavior by a caregiver, the department will take immediate action to investigate and hold those responsible fully accountable.”
FDLE also confirmed they have opened a criminal investigation into Tina Scee, but would not elaborate on what charges she could face.
Meanwhile, 3-year-old Dylan has been caught up in a legal battle that stretches all the way to Ohio.
A Putnam County judge recently ruled Anda and his husband have no standing in Dylan's life.
They're now faced with the possibility of never seeing him again.
"It's very difficult to explain to our family and friends how we don't have a child they all fell in love with anymore,"Anda told us.
Anda says he refuses to go back to Ohio without Dylan.
His attorneys plan to file two separate lawsuits: one in dependency court so the state might re-take custody of Dylan, and the other in civil court against Tina Scee.
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