Fired Polk Co. therapist arrested for molestation, parents question how she was ever hired

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Jessica Lazzara was supposed to be a therapist treating trauma, not causing it. She was in charge of helping children cope, but instead, is facing allegations of allegedly abusing little girls who had already been hurt.

The 42-year-old is accused of savage and sadistic behavior with two Polk County girls, ages 11 and 13.

Lazzara’s alleged teaching tools?

A bow and arrow, along with spray paint and a lighter used on body parts.

“Can she be trust of the children? Hmmm, what do you think?” asked Polk Sheriff Grady Judd.

Sheriff Judd said the therapist has been Baker Acted three times. Sheriff Judd also told News Channel 8 that the woman admitted to having mental health problems and also told detectives that her own children were taken away during a divorce.

This leaves parents asking the biggest questions of all – how did Lazzara get a job in the counseling profession? Why was she allowed to provide therapy to children, often with no adults were present? Why did Big Bear Behavioral Health hire her?

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like this,” Sheriff Judd told us.

April Lott, LCSW, is the President & CEO of Directions for Living in Clearwater, a facility that is specifically designed to treat family and child trauma cases. Lott advises parents to get these important questions answered when seeking a child therapist:

  • Are they licensed?
  • Are they credentialed?
  • Are there complaints with the licensing board?
  • Do they have a criminal history?
  • Most of all – do your children feel comfortable around the therapist?

“Most therapists can talk to a child and make them feel comfortable immediately. A lot of times, parents are afraid that their child is being difficult, but a good therapist will know how to make a child feel at ease,” Lott said.

She said children as young as two-years-old are going through therapy sessions these days and that parents should not be hesitant in being present while the counseling appointments are taking place.

“This is not okay, this is unacceptable. Our children deserve the very best of us,” Lott said.

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