FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — At Kidz Korner, children in wheelchairs sit parked in a hallway. It’s a nursing home, but looks more like a storage facility for kids. And it’s been Andrew’s home for more than a year.
Andrew was an outgoing high school senior. His goal was to become a firefighter, but a freak incident changed his life. Just after his 18th birthday, he had a heart attack that starved his brain of oxygen. Since he left the hospital three years ago, he’s lived in nursing homes.
Andrew’s dad, Marcello Martinez, said he would love to care for his son, now 20, at home, but he was never told he could have in-home care. According to a U.S. Justice Department investigation, the state of Florida has been pushing parents like Martinez to send children with disabilities to nursing homes like this one.
“When I show up there, there's no interaction,” Martinez said about the facility, which houses geriatric and pediatric patients in separate wings. “There's nobody there to really care for him. It's more of a system of, ‘OK, 12 o'clock, feed him, give him his meds. That's it, done deal.’”
On the first of three trips “America Tonight” made to the home, some of the kids in the hallway were desperate for attention, waving and reaching out. They weren’t doing any activities and didn’t have any toys. The calendar at Kidz Korner calls this "chillin’."
Families told “America Tonight” they had seen the same thing: children neglected for hours, left in the hallway and ignored.
We found Andrew Martinez in his wheelchair, parked in the entryway of his room, unable even to see up or down the corridor. He was moaning loudly — a sound his father told us he makes when he is distressed. None of the staff paid any attention.