Articles on DEATHS of children in the System

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Postby Marina » Sun Feb 10, 2008 8:18 pm

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Foster mom found guilty of killing infant

Posted 2/8/08


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Postby Marina » Sun Feb 10, 2008 8:56 pm


State faults Dane County department in infant's death
Steven Elbow — 2/07/2008 4:08 pm


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Postby Marina » Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:43 pm

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Foster care provider sentenced for murdering child

Last Update: 4/07 2:38 pm

In February, a jury found Kathy Jean Scott guilty of second degree murder and cruelty to a child.

A Kern County Judge sentenced Scott to 25 years to life in prison.

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Postby Marina » Tue May 06, 2008 7:37 pm

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Murdered girl’s grandfather says foster care system to blame

If all was right with his world, Ken Newman’s youngest grandchild would have turned 4 years old on Wednesday.

But instead, all he has left of Allison, a child who shares his last name, are memories and frustration over her September 2006 death and the Canton woman found guilty of killing her, Carol Poole.

“I have my good days and I have my bad days but I think about that baby every day,” said Newman of Westland. “If she was here, she would be more spoiled than her sister and her sister is pretty spoiled.”

As a trucker putting in 50- to 60-hour work weeks, Newman said he’s too busy to be anything other than a cool grandfather and leaves the heavy stuff to his wife, Debbie.
“They call me papa,” he said, grinning. “I’m the ‘Yes’ guy. My job is to spoil.”

Newman, who speaks with pride about his family, said he had a feeling Poole wasn’t a good foster mother for Allison and says he struggles with not moving fast enough to get the child out of her care.

“I told my wife two nights before Allison was killed that if anything happened to that baby we were going to have to live with it, and we are,” he said. “I can’t get how (she died) out of my head and I would love to be able to change things.”

Despite the drug problems of her biological parents, Kenneth Newman and Anne Hirsch, Allison’s birth was exciting, Ken Newman said.

“Our pastor was at the hospital and he prayed; everything was going to be good,” he said, noting that Allison initially went to go live with his daughter, Rebecca Worden, and her husband.

Ken and Debbie already had custody of the oldest daughter of their son and Hirsch.
When Allison was about six months old, she was taken away from the Wordens because they had allowed the infant to visit her parents at their trailer home.

“Protective Services never told her she couldn’t take Allison over there,” Newman says while slapping his kitchen table for emphasis. “(Hirsch) had kicked dope and (Kenneth) was in rehab, but (Protective Services) made a rush to judgement. People like to say that the system failed Allison. The system didn’t fail Allison, the system killed Allison.”

Allison, a bouncy, bright-eyed girl, eventually landed with Carol Poole, one half of the Canton couple that had been granted custody of the toddler. Nine months later, she was buried at Cadillac Memorial Gardens in Westland.

During her trial, the state described Poole, 42, as a manipulator and said she had been abusing Allison since July 2006.

Poole, a management recruiter, admitted she used bad judgment after Allison suffered her fatal head injuries, but maintained that the child died accidentally when she fell 12 feet over a balcony during a twirling game.

“I loved my daughter,” Poole said at her sentencing in February. “I will never forgive myself for failing Allison.”

With Poole sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison on a second-degree murder conviction, Newman said even though he’s relieved Poole isn’t walking the streets, her prison term hasn’t provided him with closure.

“I try real hard to pray about this,” he said. “I know I’m supposed to forgive her, but I can’t.”

The Newmans will commemorate Allison’s birthday by going to the cemetery.

“We think she was going to look just like her sister,” he says while placing two ceramic coffee mugs decorated with the faces of his two granddaughters side by side. “I always think about these two getting older together and I know they would have been close.”


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Postby Marina » Sat May 10, 2008 7:00 pm

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Foster child death is 4th in 5 months

Investigators are awaiting results of tests to find out what killed infant girl

By Tim Evans
Posted: May 10, 2008

The Indiana Department of Child Services is investigating the death of a Marion County infant who died in foster care.

Seven-week-old Destiny Linden, who died April 28 at Riley Hospital for Children, is at least the fourth child under DCS supervision to die within the past five months in Marion County.

Susan Tielking, spokeswoman for the department, said the agency has opened an investigation into the death.

She also confirmed DCS had an open case involving Destiny at the time of her death but said she could not provide any details of that case because of state confidentiality requirements.

Tielking said DCS records from the initial case, which apparently resulted in Destiny being placed in foster care, could not be released unless the new investigation determines she died as a result of abuse or neglect.

The fact that a child dies while in state custody is not enough under state law to trigger the release of DCS records, she said.

The cause of Destiny's death has not been determined, said Marion County Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew. She said initial indications point to a potentially unsafe sleeping situation, but the final determination is pending results of toxicology and other tests, which will not be available for several weeks.

Ballew said the child was found unresponsive on an adult bed and, after attempts to revive her, was placed on life support at Riley for about two days before being pronounced dead.

According to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department report, police and medics were called to a home in the 8400 block of East 34th Street at 2:56 p.m. April 24 on a report of a possibly dead child. When authorities arrived, Everette Coleman, 43, identified himself as Destiny's foster parent and said he called 911 when he discovered she had stopped breathing.

The report says officers collected a quilt, blanket and bottle from the bed where Destiny was lying, a sheet from the baby's crib and a bottle from the living room floor.

Destiny first was taken to Community Hospital East, according to the report.

Tielking said Coleman and his wife, Kim, are licensed foster parents in good standing with the department.

Other children under DCS supervision who have died recently in Marion County include:

� TaJanay Bailey, 3, who died Nov. 27, just weeks after she was returned to her mother and the woman's boyfriend by DCS.

� Miyanna Chowning, 3, who died Dec. 31 while in foster care.

� Christine Miller, 8 weeks old, who died Jan. 21 while her family was involved in an active child protection case.

Tielking said she could not say how the four deaths in five months compare with past trends because the agency does not track the deaths of all children who are in state care, such as those who die from natural causes or accidents.

Dawn Robertson, spokeswoman for the family rights group Honk for Kids, which works with parents dealing with the child welfare system, said the state should be able to say how many children in its care have died, regardless of the cause.

"They should be held to a higher standard," she said. "They have taken these children from their parents because they believe they will be safer with the state. The public certainly ought to know when one of these children dies, even if there was nothing done wrong."


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Postby Marina » Wed Jul 02, 2008 7:04 pm

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DHS Faces Questions In Aftermath Of Foster Care Deaths
Johnson: Children Will Die; Accidents Will Happen

POSTED: 7:24 pm CDT July 1, 2008
UPDATED: 7:40 pm CDT July 1, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Days after two Oklahoma foster children died in separate incidents and in the face of a lawsuit filed against the state agency, a Department of Human Services spokesman said Tuesday that accidents and deaths involving children are inevitable.

"Children will die. Whether they're in foster care or whether they're in their own relatives' care, children will die. Accidents will happen, period," said DHS spokesman George Johnson.

SkyDawn Word, 2, drowned at a foster home in Chickasha on Sunday, one of two foster care deaths this weekend. In Ardmore, 19-month-old Ray Palmer died when a car backed over him.

Meanwhile, DHS faces a lawsuit from a Tulsa family that claims foster parent William Hunter Jr. inappropriately touched his foster son.

When asked whether DHS would update agency procedures to ensure these types of accidents and deaths don't happen again, Johnson said he did not think so, noting that he believes these types of accidents and deaths are inevitable.

But to Melissa Word, her daughter's drowning was no accident.

"To me, I think it was (neglect), a lack of supervision," Word said. "If the child would have been watched, it wouldn't have happened."

Johnson said the primary societal problem involving foster children has less to do with care once in a foster home and more with how to keep kids out of foster care altogether.

"Our bigger question right now in our society is, 'Why can't parents be better with their kids so they don't have to come into foster care in the first place?'" he said.

Johnson said DHS is doing the best it can with what the law will allow them to do.

"We have the staff that the law and the Legislature has allowed us to have and has funded us to have," he said.

Johnson said a small staff is to blame for some of the agency's problems such as its inability to check up on foster families every 30 days as state law requires.

"When I say they're supposed to be out every 30 days or so, there's a little lenience in that because sometimes you just can't get to everybody just right now," he said.

When asked why the agency wasn't able to meet that requirement, Johnson said it came down to simple math.

"(We have) 11,500 children, 1,000 people doing the work of the entire child welfare system in the state. You do the math," Johnson said.

The state Legislature recently ordered a 6-month-long investigation into DHS, an inquiry Johnson said his agency would comply with because it was ordered to do so. That investigation gets under way in the next couple of weeks.

Investigators will talk to DHS employees, foster parents and foster children. After the inquiries, information will be delievered to the state.

"The only thing we can do everyday is come to work and follow the laws and policies of this state. That's the only thing we can do," Johnson said.


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Postby Marina » Sat Aug 02, 2008 5:37 pm ... geId=3.2.1

Biological Mother of 5-Year-Old Drowning Victim Speaks Out

Last Edited: Tuesday, 29 Jul 2008, 8:06 AM EDT
Created: Tuesday, 29 Jul 2008, 8:06 AM EDT

Provided by News 13
Virginia Blackmore, the biological mother of a 5-year-old boy who drowned in Sebago Lake over the weekend, was fighting to regain custody of the boy and is distraught that she will never see her child grow up.


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Postby Marina » Fri Sep 19, 2008 5:48 pm

9-month-old foster child dies in hot minivan in Jackson Co.

By The Associated Press

Foster child dies in hot minivan in Jackson Co. NICHOLSON - Authorities are investigating the death of a baby who died in a hot minivan in northeast Georgia after being left in the vehicle by her foster mother.

Chief Deputy David Cochran of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said the 9-month-old died Tuesday. Cochran said the foster mother, 29-year-old Wendy Osborne of Nicholson, returned home about 2 p.m., went inside with two 3-year-old adopted girls and fell asleep. He said about two and a half hours later, she realized she had left the baby inside the minivan and found the infant unresponsive.

Cochran said detectives have met with the district attorney's office to determine if any charges will be filed.

Two teenage foster children also lived with Osborne and her husband.


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Postby Marina » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:12 pm ... geId=3.2.1

Parents Saddened by Infant's Death While in Foster Care

Last Edited: Thursday, 04 Sep 2008, 6:43 PM EDT
Created: Thursday, 04 Sep 2008, 5:35 PM EDT

JACKSON COUNTY, Ga. (MyFOX Atlanta) – A Jackson County family talked Thursday about the death of their 9-month-old baby while in the custody of the child's foster parents. Jackson County Sheriff's deputies said the little girl was found dead Tuesday after the foster mother left the baby in her hot car. he little girl's biological parents, Robert Scovil and Evelyn Carter, found out Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2008 that their daughter was gone. SideBar

Reported By: Stacey Elgin
Edited By: Leigha Baugham

JACKSON COUNTY, Ga. (MyFOX Atlanta) – A Jackson County family talked Thursday about the death of their 9-month-old baby while in the custody of the child's foster parents. Jackson County Sheriff's deputies said the little girl was found dead Tuesday after the foster mother left the baby in her hot car.

Sheriff's deputies said 9-month-old Jessica Scovil died when her foster mother left her in a hot minivan. The little girl's biological parents, Robert Scovil and Evelyn Carter, found out Wednesday that their daughter was gone.

The 19-year-old mother said the state took her daughter in April and placed her in foster care. Carter said she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but that her medications allowed her to live a normal life.

Carver said she wanted to be a good mother, attended parenting classes every week during her pregnancy and then continued them even after her child was born.

Jackson County officials said the child's foster mother, 29-year-old Wendy Osborne, returned home from a doctor's appointment Tuesday and removed her two adopted daughters from the car. After waking from a two hour nap, Osborne remembered the baby was still in the car.

Carter and Scovil said the wanted charges filed against Osborne.

The couple said they missed their weekly visit with their baby because of the Labor Day holiday and were looking forward to seeing her this week. Now, Carter and Scovil are planning a funeral.

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Postby Marina » Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:44 pm ... 5775c.html

Agency tight-lipped on Shamattawa deaths
By: Meghan Hurley and Mary Agnes Welch

Updated: October 3 at 02:50 AM CDT

The deaths of two more kids in care has again cast a spotlight on a child-welfare system in crisis -- an agency that won't talk, a northern authority whose embattled CEO quietly quit, and a yet-to-be-delivered provincial plan to combat suicides in First Nations communities.

Two kids originally from Shamattawa First Nation, among the poorest reserves in the province, died within the last eight days. That raises the total number of kids who have died or committed suicide while in the care of child welfare to at least 66 since 2003.

Rephanniah Redhead, 14, took her own life on Sept. 25 after being taken from Shamattawa to Winnipeg about a year ago for medical care. Five-year-old Farron Miles drowned about two kilometres from his foster home on the Cross Lake First Nation earlier this week. Both were in the care of Awasis, a northern aboriginal Child and Family Services agency.

On Thursday, no one with Awasis would return calls to comment on the deaths. And Marie Lands, the new acting CEO of the Northern Authority that oversees child-welfare agencies like Awasis, also refused to comment.

"There's a complete lack of openness and accountability and transparency in fulfilling their profound responsibility," said Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen of many of the agencies that form Manitoba's troubled child-welfare system.

Both the Tory and Liberal oppositions also slammed the province Thursday for failing to implement a major suicide prevention plan for northern reserves like Shamattawa. The Doer government promised a plan in May.

Manitoba's Children's Advocate, Billie Schibler, said an investigation will determine if all steps were taken to keep Redhead and Miles safe.

Meanwhile, it was revealed Thursday that the embattled head of the Northern Authority, Rose McKay, quietly resigned at the end of August. She was immediately replaced by Lands.

McKay's departure followed a summer-long controversy over her handling of Cree Nation -- another northern child-welfare agency that was mired in allegations of nepotism and misuse of funds meant for kids.

A frustrated Shamattawa Chief Jeff Napaokesik has called on Awasis to stop removing kids in care from the reserve, a common practice when foster homes are in short supply in a child's home community.

Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh said Thursday Awasis will send more provincially funded social workers to Shamattawa.

[email protected] [email protected]

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Postby Marina » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:21 pm ... geId=3.2.1

DC Welfare Agency Questioned in Case of Kids Found in Freezer

Last Edited: Wednesday, 01 Oct 2008, 11:17 PM EDT
Created: Wednesday, 01 Oct 2008, 7:38 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Maryland woman suspected of killing and freezing her two daughters was convicted of a misdemeanor and had past financial problems, but was still able to adopt the girls and collect a monthly stipend for their care even after their deaths, officials said.

The disturbing case has advocates questioning how the District of Columbia's troubled social services agency evaluates potential adoptive and foster parents.

Renee Bowman told investigators the frozen child-sized remains police found in her basement freezer over the weekend were those of her two daughters -- age 9 and 11 -- both adopted from D.C. Bowman, 43, is suspected of killing them and has been charged with first-degree child abuse in the beating and neglect of a third adopted daughter, who is 7.

She was a foster mother to all three before adopting them in 2001 and 2004.

"There is pressure across the board to get those adoption numbers up," Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said Tuesday. "My question is: Did the D.C. workers have the time to look at it case by case?"

It is the latest tragedy linked to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which has been reeling since the January discovery of the decomposing bodies of four young sisters in a home that had a past report of abuse.

In the Bowman case, officials in D.C. and Maryland say they had no information about any abuse, either before or after the adoptions. But Bowman had a 1999 misdemeanor conviction for threatening to hurt someone, according to court records. Bowman also appeared to be financially unstable, filing for bankruptcy in 2000 and in 2001.

It is unclear when Bowman became a foster mother. Bankruptcy could disqualify a person from becoming one, said D.C. council member Tommy Wells, a former social worker. Bankruptcy might not automatically keep a person from adopting, but it should be considered, he said.

Calvert County deputies made the gruesome discovery of the frozen remains Saturday in Lusby, about 50 miles southeast of Washington. Bowman has been jailed on child abuse charges related to the surviving daughter.

After adopting the three "special needs" children -- a broad category that includes any child over age 5 -- Bowman received a monthly stipend of about $2,400 from a federal program for adoptive parents, D.C. Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles said. He said Bowman apparently was being paid even after the children had died.

Before Bowman was allowed to adopt, she was cleared by the FBI and police and passed a background check, which includes a home study, officials said. Bowman worked as an appointment scheduler at a surgery center in northeast D.C. a couple times, the last ending in 2000, a spokeswoman said.

"She had a stable home, her health evaluation, all of those things checked out," city government spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said.

Bowman's background was checked by a contractor, the Baltimore-based Board of Child Care of the United Methodist Church. The organization's president did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Nationally, many social services agencies have probationary periods, during which workers visit homes before adoptions are final, said Wexler. However, that might be waived if an applicant had already been observed as a foster parent, as was the case with Bowman, he said.

D.C.'s child welfare system has been under increased scrutiny since January, when the four sisters' bodies were found in a southeast Washington row house. Their mother, Banita Jacks, has been charged with murder. The children were not adopted. Six CFSA social workers were fired for not adequately responding to a report of abuse at the home months before the children were found.

The agency is evaluating its adoption process and the Bowman case, CFSA Interim Director Roque Gerald said in an e-mail.

Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children's Rights, said the New York-based advocacy group has long had concerns about whether D.C.'s child welfare agency adequately supervises private contractors. The group brought a class-action lawsuit against the city nearly 20 years ago that eventually forced the child welfare system into receivership.

In July, Children's Rights sought to hold the city in contempt for failing to make adequate progress. Lowry said work done by contractors was one of the concerns.

Wexler, of the reform group, said he worries that D.C. social workers might have been under pressure to hastily finalize adoptions because of payments -- up to $8,000 per child -- that state and local governments get from the federal government for adoptions.

Gerald said D.C. received an incentive award only in 2004, the year Bowman adopted the two younger girls.

Charges against Bowman in the deaths could come out of Montgomery County, which includes Rockville. Bowman has told Calvert County detectives that she brought the remains with her when she moved to Lusby from Rockville in February. Investigators Tuesday searched the Rockville home for evidence, said spokesman Lt. Paul Starks.

New charges will not be filed until it is clear exactly where the girls died. Authorities are also awaiting autopsy results to formally identify the victims.

Calvert County deputies found the remains when they went to Bowman's home with a search warrant to investigate what happened to the youngest daughter, who was found wandering the neighborhood, injured and hungry in a blood- and feces-soaked nightshirt. Bowman admitted beating her with a "hard-heeled shoe," officials said.

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Postby Marina » Sat Oct 04, 2008 5:57 pm ... ren-found/

Remains of frozen children found
Police charge mom in abuse
Timothy Warren (Contact)
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Calvert County, Md., police discovered two dead girls in a basement freezer, bringing renewed scrutiny to the District's child welfare system that put the children up for adoption in 2001 and 2004.


Mr. Nickles said Miss Bowman adopted one girl in 2001, then adopted two sisters unrelated to the first child in 2004. He said that the requisite FBI background checks and home visits were done, and that Miss Bowman received a stipend of roughly $2,400 a month for the three children as part of federal law.

Roque R. Gerald, the interim director of D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, said the stipend does not entitle the agency to check in on the children after the adoption.

Mr. Fenty fired six agency workers and vowed to reform the department after U.S. marshals found the decomposed bodies of the four girls inside the Southeast row house of their mother Banita Jacks.

He cited an audio tape of a charter school social worker calling the agency to say she was concerned about the children, after one failed to attend school for at least 30 days and after glimpsing them inside their home. Miss Jacks has pleaded not guilty in the case.

A federal judge recently gave the agency until roughly the end of the month to submit a plan to fix its problems or else be held in contempt of court.

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Postby Marina » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:51 pm ... 39783.html

Couple learns their tot died in foster home crib

Associated Press Writer
Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 08, 2008

MILWAUKEE A Milwaukee couple is still waiting for answers after their baby boy died in foster care last week - two days after being removed with three other children from their home.

"A week before he was taken from the home we had taken him to the doctor and he was as healthy as can be," the boy's father, Robert Whitman, said Tuesday night. "Today was supposed to be his 2-month checkup."

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office reported Oct. 2 that 2-month-old Robert R. Whitman was found dead earlier that day in the crib where he was sleeping at a foster home.

The report listed the cause of death as undetermined, pending an autopsy.

Whitman said Tuesday that he and the boy's mother, Valissa Reynolds, have been told an autopsy was inconclusive on what caused the death. Officials were waiting for results of throat cultures because the youngest girl in the family had strep throat, "and they thought that might have something to do with it," he said.

A worker from the Bureau of Child Welfare removed the four children Sept. 30 because of filthy conditions in the residence and bruises on one child, according to the medical examiner's report.

Whitman said the bruises on the child's legs probably happened while two of the children were jumping on the bed, something they love to do.

As for the disarray, Reynolds has said that she had been ill with a virus for two weeks, and her house otherwise would have been clean.

Whitman said he and Reynolds learned of the death at a disposition hearing Thursday, when they had expected to find out when the children would be returned to them.

The death has left friends and family members "completely shocked and stunned," Whitman said. "Both grandmas on both sides of the family are completely mortified."

Whitman said he and Reynolds, who aren't married but live together, don't know when the three children, ages 1 1/2, 3 and 7, will be returned.

"Essentially if we can prove to them that we can keep our house clean, we can have them back," he said.

The medical examiner's report said details of the case were given to Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Kathy Kucharski, who did not return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday night.

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Postby Marina » Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:55 pm ... 21620.html

Published: September 19, 2008 12:16 pm

Latimer found guilty

After more than nine total hours of deliberation, a jury found Beverly Latimer, 57, guilty of murder in the death of Christian Nieto, 16 months, a foster child who spent less than a week in her home in 2006 before dying of blunt force trauma.

Only one sentence was possible in the case — life in prison without possibility of parole.

When District Judge John Jackson read the guilty verdict Latimer dropped her head to her chest, and although her supporters began to cry, there were no outbursts or dramatic emotional displays in the courtroom. Two friends of hers hurried from the courtroom immediately.

District Attorney Lowell Thompson praised the jury for their work, which he admitted couldn’t have been easy.

“This was a good jury. They took their time and deliberated on the evidence,” Thompson said. “Anytime a child is killed it’s a difficult case for the people involved. Obviously, the jury took into account the medical evidence from the medical examiner.”

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Postby Marina » Sat Nov 01, 2008 5:23 pm ... /810250463

Foster dad cleared in tot's death

No evidence of neglect, state decides; baby's relative thinks there's a cover-up

By Tim Evans
Posted: October 25, 2008

A The Department of Child Services has ruled there was no evidence of neglect in the April death of a foster child, even though her foster father may have waited up to 90 minutes to seek medical help after finding the baby unconscious.

Unhappy with the conclusion of the agency's investigation, a relative of Destiny Linden's called the probe a sham. Also, a family rights group renewed its call for the appointment of an independent ombudsman to oversee DCS and review cases involving children who die while in the state's care.

"We are not satisfied with this investigation," said Carole Hill, Destiny's great-grandmother. "There are just too many holes in the stories, and we feel like it's a cover-up."

Despite the finding, DCS spokeswoman Susan Tielking said Friday the agency is considering revoking the foster parent license of Everett and Kimberly Coleman. No children have been placed with the Colemans since Destiny's death.

The agency's report into Destiny's death makes no mention of complaints by an independent child advocate about the care of other children placed with the Colemans, including a charge that children were left to prepare their own meals. An Indianapolis Star investigation also uncovered that Everett Coleman drove the children while his driver's license was suspended.

There also is no mention in the report that the CPR certifications of Everett and Kimberly Coleman -- obtained as a part of the foster parent training -- had expired more than a month before DCS placed Destiny with the couple.

The Colemans could not be reached for comment. The phone number listed for the family in the report now belongs to someone else, and there is no listing for Everett or Kimberly Coleman in the Indianapolis area. Their attorney, Dana Childress-Jones, did not return a call Friday.

Tielking declined to release the agency's report or comment on the investigation, citing the state's confidentiality rules in child welfare cases.

The Sept. 16 report, a copy of which was obtained by The Indianapolis Star this week, appears to rely primarily on two sets of interviews with the Colemans, the Marion County coroner's report, medical records and the input of a doctor from the child abuse team at Riley Hospital for Children.

Its conclusion: Destiny's death was not a result of neglect, a lack of supervision or medical neglect on the part of Everett Coleman, who was caring for the 12-week-old when she was found unconscious April 24 at his home in the 8400 block of East 34th Street.

The report, however, does cite as possible factors a "lack (of) parenting skills" on the part of both Colemans.

Destiny never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead April 29 at Riley. The coroner ruled Destiny died from a lack of blood and oxygen to her brain but could not determine what caused the situation or whether the death was natural, an accident or a homicide. However, Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew said an unsafe sleeping position was a contributing factor.

The DCS report states Everett Coleman admitted placing Destiny down for a nap in an adult bed on her stomach -- a practice discouraged by many groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DCS.

Coleman told DCS family case manager Delaine C. Eyers that he recalled from his foster parent training that children should be placed on their backs to sleep but does not explain why he didn't follow that recommendation.

Coleman's statement contradicts what Eyers was told by an official from the organization that trained Coleman: "Training regarding safe sleep for babies was not part of The Villages foster training curriculum when the Colemans were trained," Eyers wrote in the report.

A reporting delay?
Despite no finding of neglect, Eyers noted there appears to have been a delay of 30 to 90 minutes from the time Everett Coleman found Destiny unconscious and not breathing to when a call for help was placed.

In one interview, Coleman said he found Destiny about 2:30 p.m. In another videotaped interview, he said it was 1:30 p.m. The 911 call was received at 2:55 p.m.

Eyers quotes a separate report by Dr. Tara Harris, a physician at Riley, who said it is impossible to say what role a delay might have played in the death.

"While it would be our recommendation that EMS be summoned immediately in any situation in which an individual is not breathing," Harris is quoted as saying, "it is not clear that in Destiny's case it would have made any difference in the outcome."

The report also calls into question Everett Coleman's statement, made in both interviews, that he tried to call 911 from his home telephone but that the phone did not work. Coleman said he then went to the home of a relative, who lived next door, and she accompanied him back to the home and called for help on her cell phone.

Eyers wrote "the 911 typed report states" the call came from Everett Coleman's home phone number.

A narrow view
Beyond contradictions about malfunctioning phones and training on safe sleeping practices for infants, the report on Destiny's death does not mention prior complaints by the child advocate about the care of other foster children placed with the Colemans.

Among those complaints: that children had to fix their own meals and that the couple failed to seek treatment for a child who was burned while ironing clothes.

That situation prompted the advocate to ask a judge to remove those children from the home. A hearing on that request was set for the day Destiny was found unconscious.

Also missing: that Everett Coleman had been transporting Destiny and other foster children while his driver's license was suspended for failure to pay a fine.

Both of those issues were uncovered by The Star in its review of public records on the Colemans.

Also unclear from the report is whether Eyers spoke to the independent advocate or DCS case workers for other foster children in the couple's care; police officers or emergency personnel who responded to the 911 call; any of Destiny's family members; her family physician; or the family's attorney.

Destiny not alone
Destiny was among at least six Marion County children who have died while under the state's supervision since September 2007.

Dawn Robertson, spokeswoman for the family rights advocacy group HonkForKids, said the case underscored the need for greater oversight -- including an independent ombudsman to investigate cases involving children who die in the state's care.

"We need to know what is happening to children in the state's care," she said.

"We have advocated for an ombudsman and a citizens' review board for years, but legislators have turned a deaf ear -- and innocent children continue to die. Until we make ourselves transparent in this state, we'll never ever meet the goals that have been set forth for this agency."

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Postby Marina » Sat Nov 01, 2008 5:53 pm ... sleep.html

Two babies who went to sleep and never woke up


October 26, 2008

Carson Wolfe and JaVaughn Palmer were born 18 months apart, but they shared a dangerous medical condition. Both had methamphetamine coursing through their systems. Their mothers admitted using the drug; the boys were taken from them and placed in foster care.
The children were less than a year old when they died in the homes of their foster parents, doing the simplest thing children can do – sleeping.

Carson was 7 weeks old when he was found dead in the bed of the teenage granddaughter of his foster parents.

Investigators could find no signs of foul play. They discussed sudden infant death syndrome, but the medical examiner could not say whether it was SIDS or the boy was accidentally smothered by the sleeping girl. Carson's death was classified “undetermined.”
Carson went into the home of Barbara Davidson two days after he was born March 15, 2002. Social worker logs show that all went well. He gained weight and withdrew from the methamphetamine.

But his circumstances were questionable.

Eighteen people lived in the Davidsons' nine-bedroom home. State licensing investigators said seven residents had moved in without proper notice to county officials, a violation of state regulations.

Mary Harris, the head of Child Welfare Services for San Diego County, said so many people in a home would not disqualify a foster parent.

“Whoever was looking at the situation at the time thought it was OK,” said Harris, who was not in charge of child services at the time of Carson's death.

For Carson's mother, Christy Gonzales, it was not OK.

“These people were trusted to take care of him, and he died at their hands,” Gonzales said recently.

Gonzales sued. “I wanted someone to acknowledge and take ownership of my son's death,” she said.

The lawsuit raised the critical issue of whether Carson had a safe place to sleep in the crowded house.

The state requires every licensed home to have a sturdy and safe bed, bassinet or crib for the foster child.

Court records and state reports are at odds about whether Davidson provided a proper bed and whether the county checked on it. The county said Carson had such a bed. But a report by a state licensing investigator after the death said there was “no crib or proper bassinet in the entire facility.”

Moreover, Carson's godmother said that after a court hearing April 17, she complained to social worker Pat Pepper about the sleeping arrangements.

Vicki Guthrie said she had heard the teenage granddaughter say that Carson slept with her, and that she took him on the bus and on trips to the mall without supervision.

Guthrie said Pepper brushed off her concerns.

“Carson should be alive today,” Guthrie said in a phone interview. “I tried to tell everyone, and no one would listen to me.”

In a sharply worded ruling in the case, federal Judge Irma Gonzalez said there was enough conflict over what the county knew to keep the case headed to trial.

The county had argued that social workers did not have a legal duty to inspect a foster care home before placing a child. They simply needed to make sure it was properly licensed by the state.

The judge rejected that stance and concluded that state law requires the county to ensure that each child has a safe place to sleep.

In late 2005, the county paid $10,000 to Christy Gonzales to settle the lawsuit. It admitted no liability.

Gonzales has been sober for five years. She is married with two children, a boy and girl, and works as a property manager. Carson's death is never far from her thoughts.

Gonzales said the lawsuit was not about the money.

“I wanted people to know these situations happen in foster care, and if we shut our eyes to them more children will die as a result,” she said.

The Davidsons surrendered their foster care license a week after Carson died. They could not be located for comment, nor could Pepper, who retired from the county in 2005.

JaVaughn Palmer, another infant born addicted to drugs, was not quite 3 weeks old when he died in bed with a teenage relative Sept. 26, 2000.

When his mother returned to jail on outstanding warrants, social workers placed JaVaughn with his maternal grandmother, who lived in a three-bedroom apartment in San Marcos.

At first, there was no crib, and the grandmother said she planned to have the baby sleep with her teenage daughters, according to the social worker's notes. The worker ordered her to get a bed, and five days later verified that a “portable crib” was in place for JaVaughn.

Less than two weeks later, the infant was put to sleep with his 14-year-old aunt, “sleeping on his stomach on her chest,” according to a report by the county Medical Examiner's Office.

By early the next morning, JaVaughn was dead.

The medical examiner's report noted that the teenage aunt was deaf. It also stated that “there was a drawer that had been made into a crib near the aunt's bed.”

With no evidence of trauma or injury, and an autopsy that did not show any underlying health problems, the medical examiner concluded that the death was the result of SIDS.

Harris contends that in both boys' cases, the county did all it could to ensure that the children had a proper place to sleep. She also said social workers warn foster parents about the dangers of putting an infant to bed with an adult.

“We discourage it strongly; we provide information (against it),” Harris said, but added that state regulations do not have a ban on the practice.

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Postby Marina » Sat Nov 01, 2008 5:57 pm ... oster.html

Decisions, deficiencies – and death

By Greg Moran

October 26, 2008

Thirty-three children died in foster care in San Diego County from 2000 through 2007. Strict confidentiality laws kept the circumstances of the deaths secret.

A law that went into effect this year makes it easier to find out about children who die in foster care.

It requires counties to divulge more information in a set period of time about deaths or near deaths from physical abuse or neglect.

A court order is no longer needed to get the information, which is a major change.

The law does not cover deaths that result from accidents or natural causes, or whose cause cannot be determined.

The law is not retroactive, covering only deaths from 2008 forward.

But a San Diego Union-Tribune review – preceded by years of petitions in court and Public Records Act requests – found cases that illuminate weaknesses in the system, including gaps in communication and in enforcement of regulations.

The system has addressed some, but not all, of the problems.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 children are in foster care locally each year and, on average, four to five die of natural causes, by accident or for no known reason.

Some child welfare advocates believe the system, and therefore the children, would benefit from greater public scrutiny.

“We're not saying these deaths are typical of the whole system,” said Bob Fellmeth, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego. “We're saying, if these kinds of deaths happen, what does that tell you about the status of the system, about the level of care?”

For the past three years, the institute has compiled statewide data on the deaths by filing Public Records Act requests with each of California's 58 counties. It also has sponsored legislation to make the system that tends to the needs of 75,000 children statewide more open.
At the urging of the institute and other child welfare advocates, California legislators passed the most expansive law in the nation last year on releasing information about foster care deaths. Although it is limited and not retroactive, Fellmeth believes it is a positive step toward transparency.

“Why do you put canaries down a mine shaft?” Fellmeth asked. “To see what is going on down there. If they come back ill or damaged, you say, 'Uh-oh.'

“If they come back dead, you say, 'We better figure out what's wrong down there.' ”

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Postby Marina » Sat Nov 22, 2008 9:25 pm ... =rss.crime

Teen in foster care died of malnutrition
John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, November 22, 2008

(11-21) 17:12 PST ANTIOCH -- Fifteen-year-old Jazzmin Davis' badly scarred, emaciated body was found nude, lying on the floor in a bedroom where she had been confined in her aunt's Antioch home, a coroner's report on her death said.

The foster child died Sept. 2 of severe malnutrition, exacerbated by multiple blunt-force injuries and burns, according to a Contra Costa County coroner's report released this week.

Jazzmin's aunt is facing murder charges in a case that has raised questions about why school officials and caseworkers with San Francisco's Human Services Agency - which placed the girl and her twin brother in the aunt's home - didn't spot any problems.

The girl's body, weighing only 78 pounds, was laced with scars and wounds that stretched from her feet to her fingertips, the report said. She had multiple burns that appeared to be from a clothes iron on her chest and stomach, a tangle of scars on her neck that extended to her cheek and five broken teeth that "were probably struck by some type of hard object," the report said.

Her aunt and foster caregiver, Shemeeka Davis, 38, is in jail awaiting trial on murder, torture and child abuse charges in Jazzmin's death, as well as torture and child abuse charges for allegedly abusing Jazzmin's twin brother. If convicted, Davis could be sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors contend the abuse lasted for more than a year, prompting questions about how it could go unnoticed by her caseworker or others, including teachers and school administrators, who are required by law to report suspected problems.

Authorities say Jazzmin and her twin brother, both placed in foster care with their aunt as infants after being born in San Francisco, had for more than a year been restricted to an upstairs room in their home on Killdeer Drive in Antioch.

A San Francisco caseworker who checked on the girl every six months in recent years found no signs of abuse, said Trent Rhorer, executive director of San Francisco's Human Services Agency.

Jazzmin appeared fine during the caseworker's visits, the most recent of which was in March, Rhorer said. He said the girl may have taken steps to conceal the abuse, pointing to a school photograph shot in late summer in which she was wearing a long-sleeved turtleneck.

"When our caseworkers are visiting a family, and kids have been in what appears to be a stable placement for 15 years, they don't ask the kids to lift up their shirts to show their bare bodies," Rhorer said. "There has to be some sort of reasonable suspicions for us to typically do that."

In the wake of Jazzmin's death, Rhorer said his department is looking at its procedures for six-month visits. But he also questioned why others with more regular contact hadn't sounded the alarm.

"Certainly, it raises some concerns around our handling of the case, but what else has to be asked is, where was the school? Where were the teachers? Where was the principal?" Rhorer said. "Where were the people who saw Jazzmin every day? And they're all mandated reporters. Why didn't they make a single phone call to police or the child abuse hot line?"

It's unclear how much of the abuse overlapped Jazzmin's time at school. Two former classmates have said she appeared with bruises, scars and a broken arm since the sixth grade but never told of abuse.

Stephanie Anello, the principal at Antioch Middle School, where Jazzmin attended eighth grade, referred questions to an Antioch Unified School District spokeswoman.

"Basically, they didn't see any evidence," district spokeswoman Deidra Powell-Williams said. "If there had been any evidence of abuse, they would have made a report."

Jazzmin's aunt seemed genuinely interested in her niece's education and would routinely come to campus and confer with faculty about academic or behavioral issues, Powell-Williams said.

At a memorial service after Jazzmin's death, Powell-Williams said, the girl's closest friends told her Jazzmin had begged them not to reveal anything about her treatment.

Jazzmin was enrolled as a freshman at Antioch High School until October 2007. Police said, though, that she never set foot on campus.

"In something like this, people want to point fingers," Powell-Williams said. "I think every agency involved should take some of that blame. Is there anything we could have done? That's the question that continues."

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Postby Marina » Sat Nov 22, 2008 9:39 pm ... 3.html?npc

Portland foster dad convicted in two-year-old girl's death

08:41 AM PDT on Thursday, October 30, 2008

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A Multnomah County jury found a foster father guilty of first-degree manslaughter for recklessly failing to seek medical care for 2-year-old Keyana Bravo-Hamilton.

Keyana had been living with Armando Moreno-Garcia and his wife for less than three months when her lifeless body was brought to a Gresham hospital in September 2006. The girl was pronounced dead and police were alerted after staff noticed she had bruises, abrasions and burns. The couple's oldest biological daughter, then 6, told authorities that on the day before Keyana died she saw the foster mom stick the toddler's head into a toilet containing feces and urine.

The medical examiner testified during the trial that blows to Keyana's stomach had perforated her bowel, spilling deadly bacteria that eventually killed her.

Moreno, 40, who was convicted Wednesday, will be sentenced next week. His wife, Dunia Soledad Moreno, was sentenced to a dozen years in prison after pleading no contest to manslaughter in February.

State Medical Examiner Karen Gunson testified that Keyana might have lived had she received medical care in time. She said Keyana had been abused over time because some of her injuries were on the mend.

Keyana and her half-sister, Jasmine, 4, had been part of the foster-care system most of Keyana's life.

The girls had lived with a Tigard foster family, but the Morenos were asked whether they would adopt the girls because the state favors foster parents with a familial connection. Moreno was Jasmine's uncle. Keyana and Jasmine both suffered physical abuse in the four months they lived with the Morenos, according to the prosecution.

A review of its handling of the case by the Oregon Department of Human Services found that a caseworker didn't visit Keyana every 30 days, as required. The review also found that the caseworker wasn't trained to spot signs of abuse.

Crystal Hamilton, Keyana's biological mother, was in the courtroom for the verdict.

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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:55 pm ... =rss.crime

Teen in foster care died of malnutrition
John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, November 22, 2008

(11-21) 17:12 PST ANTIOCH -- Fifteen-year-old Jazzmin Davis' badly scarred, emaciated body was found nude, lying on the floor in a bedroom where she had been confined in her aunt's Antioch home, a coroner's report on her death said.


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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:11 pm ... 1e&rss=800

Man Enters Plea in DUI Death of Two Brothers

Last Update: 11/26 6:19 pm

CHULA VISTA - A motorist accused of driving drunk and leaving the scene of a crash in which two brothers were killed pleaded not guilty Wednesday to multiple felony charges, including gross vehicular manslaughter.


Daniel Spickerman, 18, was pronounced dead at Rady Children's Hospital about three hours after the crash.

His brother, Otay Ranch High School senior Jason Spickerman, 16, was declared brain dead Saturday afternoon at Scripps Mercy Hospital and his organs were donated.


Jason's organs were donated by his foster parents against the wishes of his biological family.

The foster parents said the boy would have wanted to help others by donating his organs, but his biological family objected because they thought he might recover one day.

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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:15 pm ... l&psp=news

Foster Child's Death Under InvestigationWilson Boy, 5, Was Overrun By Car

POSTED: 6:46 pm CST November 26, 2008
UPDATED: 7:37 pm CST November 26, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Department of Human Services is investigating the death of a 5-year-old boy in foster care, the third foster care death in the past five months.

John Gifford, 5, died after a teenager ran over him with a car in Wilson. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is investigating the incident and the Carter County district attorney is expected to decide next week whether to file charges against the foster family.

The boy's father said he wants answers.

"Their mistake cost me my baby's life," Gifford's father said.

The death follows the drowning of Skydawn Word in her foster home pool near Chickasha in June and an incident in Ardmore where a 19-month-old boy was backed over by a car.

DHS said it can't discuss the Gifford case because no charges have been filed. Workers described what happens when a tragedy like that one happens.

"Anytime anything happens to a child in foster care, there is an immediate investigation," said George Johnson, of DHS.

He said the DHS will immediately remove all foster children from the home where the incident took place. Investigators will examine the conditions, policies and procedures that were being followed at the time.

In the past 17 months, the number of children in out-of-home foster care has dropped by 1,600. There is still an average of 6,900 children staying with foster families in Oklahoma.

"There are going to be accidents, there are going to be deaths, there are going to be all sorts of things happening to them," Johnson said.

He said it is impossible for DHS to stop accidents from happening 100 percent of the time.

"It doesn't lessen the pain of it. It doesn't lessen the pain that we feel because it happens on our watch," Johnson said.

Budgets and staffing remain issues at DHS, but there is a greater number of workers who have been there for two years or more. In 2005, there were less than 500. Now, the number is more than 700.

"We work hard to make sure children are taken care of properly but that's the best that we can do, to work hard, every single day," Johnson said.

The state launched an investigation into DHS earlier this year and a preliminary report is due next month. State Rep. Ron Peters said he expects the report to recommend more funding for the department so it can hire more people.

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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:22 pm ... 0429.shtml

Foster mother indicted in death of child

By Merritt Melancon | [email protected] | Story updated at 10:47 pm on 11/26/2008

A Jackson County grand jury has indicted a foster mother on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct in the heatstroke death of a 9-month-old girl who she left in a minivan in the summer sun.


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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:25 pm ... le/3325315

Foster-care death in Wilson to get scrutiny

Child welfareFive-year-old dies IN DHS CUSTODY after being hit by vehicle in driveway

Published: November 26, 2008

WILSON — A 5-year-old boy in foster care died Tuesday when a 13-year-old girl put into gear a sport utility vehicle she was warming up, running into the boy on a private driveway in Carter County, officials said.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol identified the victim as John Gifford of Wilson, and said the accident occurred shortly before 11 a.m. The boy died at the scene of head injuries, the patrol said.

Juanita Havlik, the boy’s grandmother, called The Oklahoman after she was notified of the death. She complained about the care her son’s four youngest children have received since being taken into custody by the Department of Human Services.

The state agency took custody of John three years ago, said his father, Melvern Gifford, 40, of Midwest City. Gifford has five other children, two adults with a different mother than John. The other three, ages 11, 9 and 7, all boys, have the same mother as John and also are in state custody, Gifford said.

DHS took custody because of abuse and neglect allegations against Gifford and other allegations against the boys’ mother, from whom Gifford was divorced, he said. Gifford said allegations of abuse and neglect on his part were not true. Gifford said he has fought a constant battle to regain custody of his children. He sought to have custody of the boys awarded to him or other adults in his family but was not successful.

Gifford acknowledged he’d made mistakes during the process to get the children back, including failing two drug tests and threatening a social worker. But he said he recently got his life in order and got a commercial driver’s license this month, hoping to be a truck driver.

A DHS case worker called Gifford on Tuesday to inform him of the accident but would not tell him where it occurred. Gifford said he was not allowed to know where the boys were living.

George Johnson, DHS spokesman, confirmed John was in DHS custody but refused to say whether the 13-year-old girl was a foster child. She was not related to the victim by blood, said Gifford’s mother, Havlik, 65, of Oklahoma City.

"In any child death, there is an immediate investigation and the results will be turned over to the district attorney,” he said.

Johnson said state law prevents him from providing additional details.

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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:30 pm ... le/3325649

Oklahoma family mourns for little boy
News story tells city grandmother, mother that 5-year-old died while in foster care

Published: November 27, 2008

Dewanna Cleary was looking forward to getting her Wednesday newspaper from outside her apartment and looking at the recipes, but she never made it past a smiling face, half-hidden in the shadow of an oversized yellow hat.

Dewanna Cleary holds a photo of her grandson John Brian Gifford, 5, who died Tuesday. Photo BY DOUG HOKE, THE OKLAHOMAN

That was her grandson in the photo on the front page of The Oklahoman, and the story said the 5-year-old boy she called John-John had died while in foster care.

She read John Brian Gifford was killed Tuesday in Wilson when a 13-year-old girl accidentally put a car in gear and ran into him.

The paper fell from her hands, and Cleary searched for her telephone as she tried to concentrate on her breathing.

"I was in shock,” she said. "I didn’t believe it, but I read the article, and I knew it had to be true.”

The first call she made was to her daughter Samantha Cleary, John’s mother, who lives in the same Oklahoma City complex.

"I asked her roommate to send her over here because I didn’t want to tell her on the phone, then I started calling DHS to try to find out what was really going on and why we weren’t notified.”

Cleary said she has anger toward DHS — for not notifying them about John’s death, for not telling them the details of what happened, and for making all the funeral arrangements without their input. But one thing she doesn’t blame them for is taking John and his three brothers in the first place.

"Samantha is really feeling some anger,” her mother said.

"She told DHS that they killed her son. But I don’t feel that way. I think he was in more danger had he been left in an abusive situation. This, at least, was an accident,” Cleary said.

Samantha Cleary, interviewed briefly Wednesday at her mother’s apartment, said she lost her three older boys a few years back when she was in a custody battle with her ex-husband, Mel Gifford.

She then lost John after she had "gotten mixed up in something she shouldn’t have been,” Dewanna Cleary said, and Gifford was awarded custody of him also.

The Department of Human Services later took custody of the boys.

Samantha Cleary said she also lost custody her only daughter, Brittany, age 3, who had a different father.

A DHS official said Wednesday he could not by law provide any details about the accident or the foster care situation.

Dewanna Cleary said she’s still finding it hard to accept that John is gone, but she said she has no ill feelings toward the foster parents or toward the girl who hit him.

"My heart just goes out to that little girl, she’ll have nightmares probably her whole life now,” Dewanna Cleary said.

But that doesn’t stop her from wanting more details.

"We don’t even know if she was living at the same house or was just a neighbor. I know Wilson is a farming community and kids do drive young. But like any family, we want details. We want to know what really happened. We want to know was John Brian happy there.”

Samantha Cleary said her son was the "best baby” in the world. He never cried and everyone called him Smiley. She said she made an appointment with a lawyer to find out if she has any hope of getting the other children back.

Samantha Cleary said she’s not certain she will get to speak to any of them at John’s funeral on Sunday, but she hopes they will be there so she will at least get to see them from across the room.

This Thanksgiving, Dewanna Cleary said, she and her daughter are having a hard time finding anything to be thankful for.

"I don’t even have any money to send flowers to his funeral,” the grandmother said.

She said she is finding comfort in the dozens of friends who are offering to help, but even that support falls short when she remembers the image of John-John in his little yellow jacket.

"I hope God gives comfort to everybody involved because everybody’s hurting, and it’s going to take someone much stronger than us to sort this thing out.”

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