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Postby Marina » Sun Jun 01, 2008 2:21 pm


http://lacrossetribune.com/articles/200 ... ster31.txt

Couple’s parental rights taken; grandparents unable to adopt
By Tribune staff

Last year, the La Crosse Tribune published two stories about families whose children had been put into the foster care system against their will. Since then, here’s what’s happened:

On April 1, 2007, we reported on David Erickson and Crystal Taylor of La Crosse, who had two children together, Jesse and Chyanne. Both parents, who are not married or currently a couple, have mental disabilities, and live on Social Security disability payments.
Since then, a court has terminated their parental rights to Jesse, who is now 2½ years old. They’re appealing that decision to a higher court. La Crosse County also is planning a termination of parental rights hearing in September for Chyanne, who is now 1½. Erickson is able to have supervised visits with Chyanne but not Jesse.

Friday, Erickson was in court to show why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for not paying between $7,000 and $8,000 in court-appointed attorney’s fees related to the cases. Judge Dale Pasell declined to find Erickson in contempt because he’s living on disability, which can’t be garnished.

Erickson said he has another daughter, also age 1½, with another woman, and he’s able to see that daughter without any county supervision.

On Sept. 30, 2007, we reported on Pat and Jill Moldenhauer of La Crosse, and their attempts to adopt their grandson, Christian, who was put into foster care at age 3 months.

The Moldenhauers’ daughter, Amber, voluntarily terminated her parental rights, but Christian’s father, Josh McDowell, fought to be reunified. A court later terminated McDowell’s parental rights.

The Moldenhauers applied to adopt Christian, who is now 3 years old, but social workers recommended he be adopted by his foster parents. Pat Moldenhauer said there were errors in the home study. Christian has now been adopted. The Moldenhauers have decided not to appeal.

Moldenhauer said he’d like to see state law changed to give grandparents some visitation rights with a grandchild who has been adopted.

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Postby Marina » Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:09 pm


Milwaukee County
Relatives tried to help baby, sister
Great-grandparents asked caseworker to remove children
By Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Nov. 17, 2008

11/13: Foster mother charged with killing boy, abusing girl
11/14: Lawmaker seeks investigation into torture of boy, sister
11/18: Bureaucracy scrutinized after abused boy's death

The great-grandparents of Christopher L. Thomas Jr. said Monday they begged a state case worker in September to immediately remove the then-11-month-old and his 2-year-old sister from their Milwaukee foster home. Last week, police say, Christopher's foster mother beat him to death.

"Help me, Lord; help me, Lord," Katherine Shaw said, hugging the children's mother, Candace Glover, as they prepared to visit the girl at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Police said the child suffered months of torture at the hands of Crystal P. Keith, her aunt and foster mother.

Keith, 28, remains in jail on charges of first-degree intentional homicide and felony child abuse. Her husband, Reginald Keith, the children's biological uncle, has not been charged.

The case has sparked public outcry and calls by lawmakers for the state Department of Children and Families to conduct an in-depth investigation into how case workers tasked with monitoring the children's well-being didn't notice their injuries. Department officials say a review is under way.

"If I had been able to get those children out of there, he would be alive," Katherine Shaw said.

"Help me, Lord," she said, weeping. "This would not have happened."

The Shaws, who raised Glover, 23, live in Lanett, Ala. In September, they said, they drove to Milwaukee and stayed with Glover, hoping to catch a glimpse of the children, who had been taken from Glover in March. After temporary stays with other foster families in West Allis and Germantown, the children were placed with the Keiths in June.

Frank Shaw said he and his wife met with a Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare case worker, who, they said, promised them four supervised visits at a child welfare center. The Shaws said they stayed a month; Keith and her husband, Reginald, did not show up for any of the meetings, the Shaws said.

"Every time we got ready to go, they canceled their visit," Frank Shaw said.

Katherine Shaw said she called Reginald Keith's mother and told her: "I done come 1,000 miles to see those children. Don't make me act stupid and come over there and kick the door down."

A day or two later, the Shaws said, the Keiths parked their car across the street from Candace Glover's home. They refused to bring the children to the house. At first, they refused to even take them out of the car. The Shaws said they went across the street to peek at the two children through the car's windows.

Frank Shaw said it was early evening, just getting dark. The Keiths removed Christopher from his car seat and allowed Frank Shaw to hold him.

"It was wonderful," Shaw said.

Katherine Shaw said she insisted that Christopher's sister also come out of the car. Crystal Keith removed the girl from her car seat and placed her on the curb. Katherine Shaw said she bent down on the street and stroked the child's hair.

"I said, 'Give me a hug and a kiss,' " she said, but noticed something was wrong with the girl.

Frank Shaw said he called a case worker and told her, "My great-grandson's got scratches. He's got marks on his face."

The Shaws said they spoke with a case worker about taking the children with them, that day, to Alabama. They said they offered to sell their home and move to Milwaukee. The case worker, they said, was encouraging, but said they would have to go to court.

Glover said her daughter does not understand what has happened. She said the girl is unable to walk or raise her left arm and her face is scarred. Court records indicate the girl had burns over much of her body, several broken bones and was severely undernourished when police came to the Keiths' home Nov. 10.

According to police records, the children were removed from Glover's home because she was mentally ill. Glover said she is not mentally ill but has epilepsy. According to online state court records, she has no criminal record in Wisconsin.

Glover said she does not know when her daughter will get out of the hospital. But, she said, she hopes to take her home.

"She ain't going back into no system," she said.

The Shaws said they are encouraged by the outrage expressed in the Milwaukee community over Christopher's death while in foster care. They hope if that emotion is used constructively, perhaps something important will come of Christopher's short life.

"We don't want just some investigation and then nothing changes," Frank Shaw said. "We want someone to be held accountable."

Two case workers interviewed by investigators in connection with Christopher's death were contacted by the Journal Sentinel on Monday. Each declined to comment.

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Postby Marina » Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:25 pm


Another couple tried to help abused baby
Grandparents say agency rebuffed them
By Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Nov. 24, 2008

Two months before police say 13-month-old Christopher L. Thomas Jr. was beaten to death by his foster mother and his 2-year-old-sister was rescued from months of torture, the state approved placing the children in their biological grandmother's home, their grandfather said Monday.

The children, however, were never moved.

Week after week, the grandfather, Kenny McClellan, said repeated calls to the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare asking to have the children moved from their foster home and placed with their grandmother went unanswered.

Even calls warning the bureau that the siblings might be being abused were never returned, he said.

"This is a professional, public organization?" McClellan asked. "C'mon."

McClellan, however, was unable to recall the full name of the person that he and his wife say they called.

Attempts Monday to speak to Denise Revels Robinson, bureau director, were unsuccessful. A receptionist told a reporter to call the media number for the state Department of Children and Families, where questions were left in a message bank.

Altogether, three couples have now said they tried to adopt Christopher or have him and his sister placed in their homes after they were taken from their birth mother in March. Two of the couples have said they alerted the child welfare bureau to possible abuse.

Crystal P. Keith, 24, the children's aunt, is charged with killing Christopher and abusing his sister after state officials placed them in Keith's foster care in June. Christopher died of his injuries Nov. 11. His sister remains hospitalized.

McClellan, 36, worked for Cooper Industries in Wisconsin. Last November, he was transferred to Cooper Wiring Devices in Atlanta, where he is a senior electrical technician. His wife, Shantrice Freeman-McClellan, 38, is a personal care assistant. Her daughter, Candace Glover, 23, is the mother of Christopher and his sister.

Child services removed the children from Glover's home in March.

In April, as soon as she found out, Freeman-McClellan petitioned to have the children placed with her. The children at that time were in temporary foster homes.

The children's case worker, McClellan said, told them the agency would not place the children in a home in another state. So Freeman-McClellan rented an apartment in Milwaukee and moved here.

In September, McClellan said, they were informed the children could be placed with their grandmother.

"We got the paperwork, everything seemed ready to go," McClellan said.

McClellan said the couple thought they would get the children in their care, and then tackle the issue of state residence.

His wife, he said, tried over and over to contact the children's case worker, but her calls were never returned.

Nor, McClellan said, was his wife allowed to visit the children. When Glover reported to them that the children seemed injured, Freeman-McClellan called the children's case worker. Those calls also were not returned, he said.

McClellan said they began to run out of money. His wife lost her job in Atlanta, and they were attempting to support two households on his paycheck.

In October, McClellan was in a motorcycle accident. His wife returned to Atlanta to take care of him.

"She called the case worker just about every other day," he said.

The case worker never returned their calls, he said.

An e-mailed response to questions left with the Department of Children and Families said the agency could not verify if calls placed to the case worker were unreturned without knowing the case worker's full name.

McClellan said, however, that when he and his wife returned to Milwaukee after Christopher's death, they spoke to the case worker, at the hospital where their granddaughter is being treated.

"She said, 'I just want you to know I got your messages,' " McClellan said.

She was apologetic, McClellan said. He wanted to know why she did not call them back.

"It was never clear why she didn't return the messages," he said.

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Postby Marina » Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:37 pm


Protest planned next week over child welfare agencies
By Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Nov. 26, 2008 11:11 a.m.

After Becky Welk's successful fight to adopt her foster daughter was described in a Journal Sentinel story last week, she said, hundreds of parents, foster parents and others contacted her about their own concerns and frustrations with the state's child welfare system.

"The response has been unbelievable," Welk said.

Now she's trying to marshal that concern into a protest Dec. 3 outside the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare's Region 3 office, on Milwaukee's south side. The demonstration is to demand that employees at the bureau and the state Department of Children and Families be held publicly accountable when children are killed or injured while in foster care.

Welk said the death of 13-month-old Christopher L. Thomas Jr. and the torture of his sister have galvanized her to action.

Police have charged the siblings' aunt and foster mother, Crystal P. Keith, with Christopher's slaying and with abusing his sister.

In an e-mail announcing the protest, Welk wrote:

"Please join me in a protest for justice, for changes to be made in the foster care and adoption system, and for holding abusers accountable and the system accountable for their actions. Too many children have been placed in harm's way too many times, and it needs to stop. We can make a difference if we stand together."

The protest is set to begin at 8 a.m. outside the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare's Region 3 office, 2745 S. 13th St.

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Postby Marina » Fri Nov 28, 2008 8:40 pm


Bureaucracy scrutinized after abused boy's death

By Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel


Crystal Keith, 24, the children's foster mother and aunt, is charged with first-degree reckless homicide and with child abuse.

She had the children since June, after they were taken from foster families in West Allis and Germantown. One of the foster families said it had tried to adopt Christopher. As for the system, it will be held accountable, Cyrus Behroozi, administrator for the Division of Safety and Permanence at the state Department of Children and Families, said Tuesday, though mistakes that may have occurred in Christopher's case are unlikely to ever get public scrutiny. The Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare is part of the department.

The Milwaukee County Child Abuse Review Team, which is independent of state agencies, will combine efforts with those within the state system that are conducting an internal investigation. The result of that investigation is expected to be completed by the time another group, the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council's executive committee, meets in January, Behroozi said.

The Partnership Council advises the state regarding child welfare services in Milwaukee County. Its quarterly meetings are open to the public, but under state privacy laws, the results of the investigation will not be made public, Behroozi said.

"The law is the state of the law as it is," he said.

Behroozi said he recognizes that the bureaucracy that has encased Christopher's death seems cold-hearted.


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Postby Marina » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:57 pm

http://www.wisn.com/news/18196384/detai ... l&psp=news

People Protest Over Death Of 1-Year-Old In Foster Care
Christopher Thomas'

POSTED: 1:14 pm CST December 3, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- The beating death of a 1-year-old Milwaukee boy while he was in foster care has outraged many. One group is demanding changes in the foster system, and it hit the streets Wednesday morning to get the message out.


The protestors want more funding, more accountability and more training for social workers.

Several people are taking petitions around and collecting signatures, saying they want change in the system. Then they plan on taking the petition to Madison.


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Postby Marina » Sun Dec 07, 2008 6:00 pm


Before closed meeting, officials promise answers in boy's death

By Gina Barton of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Dec. 5, 2008

Officials from the state Division of Children and Family Services and the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare said this morning they are working diligently to investigate the death of 13-month-old Christopher Thomas - but they will do it in secret.


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Postby Marina » Sun Dec 07, 2008 8:45 pm

http://www.wisn.com/news/18214008/detai ... l&psp=news

Former Foster Mother Speaks Out About Death Of 1-Year-Old
Formal Report Could Be Released Next Month

POSTED: 4:01 pm CST December 5, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- The death of a baby boy in foster care took center stage at a heated meeting of the Milwaukee Child Welfare Council Friday morning.

Former Foster Mom Speaks Out About Baby's Death

Community members turned out to protest last month's death of 1-year-old Christopher Thomas.

Prosecutors charged Christopher's foster mother with beating him to death and seriously injuring his 2-year-old sister.

Becky Welk was Christopher's foster mother before the state transferred him to the care of a relative.

She told council members she went to the baby's funeral and made him a promise.

"I kissed his forehead, and I said, 'Christopher, I promise you I will get you justice,' and I'm telling you now, no matter what you people decide, no matter if you say you're going to take care of this, and things are going to change you're never going to get rid of me," Welk said.

The council continued its meeting behind closed doors.

The Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare has not answered questions about its supervision of Christopher's foster parents.

The foster mother charged in his death told police she had been beating both children for months.

The bureau said a report on the incident could be released in January.

Another link

http://www.myfoxmilwaukee.com/myfox/pag ... geId=3.2.1

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Postby Marina » Tue Dec 09, 2008 7:26 pm


Caseworker from fatal foster placement still monitoring dead boy's sister
By Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Dec. 5, 2008

The caseworker responsible for Christopher Thomas's sister, who police say was tortured for months by the children's foster parent, remains assigned to the girl's case, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has learned.

The aunt, Crystal Keith, was charged last month with beating 13-month-old Christopher to death and with abusing his two-year-old sister. According to a police report, Keith began abusing the girl as soon as officials placed the children in her home in June for foster care.

A doctor who examined the girl, whose injuries included repeated scalding, multiple broken bones and ligature scars – called her wounds blatant, and she spent weeks in the hospital after she was taken from Keith's home after Christopher's death Nov. 11.

The Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare has yet to explain how the caseworker could have visited the child for months and not noticed her condition.

The little girl is recovering well, and remains in state custody at an undisclosed location, according to her great-grandparents, Katherine and Frank Shaw.

The Shaws, who live in Alabama, are returning home Sunday, and Katherine Shaw said she wants the caseworker removed.

"They failed me once," Katherine Shaw said.

"Who can say they won't fail me twice."

At a meeting earlier in the day, state child protection officials would not comment on the status of the caseworker who had been involved with Christopher and his sister.

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Postby Marina » Sun Dec 14, 2008 7:44 pm

http://www.wisn.com/news/18268241/detai ... l&psp=news

Results Of State Investigation Into Death Of Foster Child Revealed
Blame Assigned To Subcontractor Assigned Care Of Thomas Children

POSTED: 5:53 pm CST December 12, 2008
UPDATED: 6:14 pm CST December 12, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- One month after one-year-old Christopher Thomas died in his Milwaukee foster home, the Department of Children and Families held a news conference to reveal the results of its investigation.

Child Welfare Investigation: 'Series Of Lapses' Led To Baby's Death

“The death of baby Christopher was clearly not the result of a minor mistake or oversight, but it is my conclusion there was a series of lapses that led to this tragedy,” Reggie Bicha from the Department of Children and Families said.

Prosecutors charged Crystal Keith in the death of Christopher and the abuse of his 2-year-old sister. She was their aunt and foster mother, and police said she confessed to beating both children for months.

Today the secretary of the Department of Children and Families also assigned blame to La Causa, the subcontractor assigned to care for the Thomas kids.

“There were indications at different times, especially in September and October, that had they been pursued and followed up on by La Causa,” Cyrus Behroozi from the Department of Children and Families said. “There is a strong likelihood that the abuse these children experienced could have been identified before it came to its fatal conclusion.”

Bicha said the La Causa caseworker was inexperienced, poorly trained, and poorly supervised, and she failed to address important clues of ongoing abuse. For example, 2-year-old Christiana was walking with a limp. Bicha said he ordered a review of the case worker's other files.

“Has someone gone to see these kids...physically? I don't believe that someone has gone out to see those kids,” Bicha said.

Bicha said state employees will now do physical exams of each foster child under three, and when that's done, they'll check the 4 and 5-year-olds.

As for La Causa, it oversees 650 of the 2700 kids in foster care in the Milwaukee area. Bicha said he put La Causa on probation after finding a pattern of problems with its case management.

The Thomas’ case worker is still employed by La Causa, but both she and her supervisor have been reassigned.

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