Memorial website in the memory of your loved one
Timeline
 
Kelsey Smith-Briggs, 2-year-old


Many are pointing to Kelsey Smith-Briggs' death as as an example of how the judicial system and DHS fail to protect children.
Read more....

She was put here to make a difference - to make sure other children are protected. Read more...
 
Deraye Lewis , 3-year-old

A catalogue of errors by social services allowed tragic tot Deraye Lewis to be brutally beaten to death by his mum's boyfriend, the Citizen can reveal.

This week, as evil Nicholas Halling began a life sentence for murder, the sad history of his three-year-old victim – and the officials who let him down – began to unfold.

It has now been confirmed that social workers in neighbouring Bedfordshire were tipped off that Halling was abusing the
little mixed-race boy some six months before the murder.

Mistake number one came when they failed to pick up the signs of Halling's racist attacks, which included stubbing out cigarettes on the little boy's body and calling him racist names.
Read more..... 

 
Aaron O'Neil , 3-month-old

Social Worker sacked after baby murder
Doctors who later examined Aaron found 37 visible injuries as well as three skull fractures, 12 rib fractures and two broken legs. A jury at Newcastle Crown Court heard how Aaron was beaten and burned so badly that he died 92 days after he was born.
Read more....

 
Kennedy McFarlane , 3-year-old

Death could have been prevented

An independent inquiry has concluded that the death of a three-year-old girl "could have been prevented". But it refused to apportion blame to health and social work officers saying that "her violent death could not have been accurately predicted".

Kennedy McFarlane died on 17 May last year after a blow from her mother's boyfriend sent her crashing into the leg of a bed.
Read more....
 
Perrin Barlow , 9-month-old

Agencies 'failed' to protect baby
Perrin died from bronchopneumonia, which may have been triggered by dehydration and malnutrition, while on the child protection register and under an interim supervision order.
Read more....
 
Ashley Chadburn, 2-year-old

Social services criticised over boy's drug death
An inquiry into the death of a two-year-old boy who swallowed a bottle of his mother's methadone found a "tolerance of drug misuse" among social services staff.
Read more...
 
Chloe Fahey, 5-year-old

THIS is little Chloe Fahey, the five-year-old girl found stabbed to death in her home in Stretford. The previous morning, officers arrested Chloe's mother for an alleged breach of the peace and she was taken to the Manchester Royal Infirmary with minor injuries. Police then handed her case to the "appropriate authorities" - believed to be social services. Read more....
 
Shirley Arciszewski, 12-year-old

Mother wants answers after group home fined for child's death 
The state has handed down a $10,000 fine against a Charlotte group home where a 12-year-old girl died after being restrained by a worker. The home is closed and its license was revoked, but the girl’s mother says the worker should be prosecuted.
Read more....
 
Victoria Climbie , 8-year-old

Where are the Others that Failed Her? Climbie social worker is free to work with children again!!!

Victoria, who died in February 2000, had been sent from the Ivory Coast by her parents to live with 'aunt' Marie Therese Kouao in the hope of a better education. Her body carried 128 injuries, and she spent her final weeks lying in a bath, freezing and bound head and foot inside a bin bag. 
Read more....
 
Courtney Crockett, 3-year-old

This Little girl died with 100 injuries on her tiny body
‘I tried to phone social services but the social worker was not there at the time because it was the Christmas holidays. She never called me back. I just wish they had done something about it before it was too late.’
Courtney’s grandmother Carol Crockett, 53, said: ‘Social services have not learned any lessons as far as Victoria Climbie and other children who have been in similar situations are concerned.
Police believe Courtney died following a two-week period in which Rees either kicked, punched or swung the little girl by the legs and slammed her head against the wall.
Read more...
 
Ukleigha Batten-Froggatt , 6-year-old

Mark Nicholas, 30, admitted stabbing to death 33-year-old Nicole Batten and suffocating her daughter Ukleigha Batten-Froggatt. The bodies were discovered at their home in a flat in Ossulston Street, Camden, north London, after police forced their way in. Concerns had been raised by social services because Ukleigha, who was on an at-risk register, had not been seen at school for a week.Following Ukleigha's death, the council launched an inquiry into the conduct of the multi-agency child protection team responsible for her safety.            Read more.....
 
Alexander Gallon, 4-month-old

Care review follows baby's death 
A review has begun into the care given to a four-month-old baby, who was killed in a fire started by his mother. 
The Local Safeguarding Children's Board (LSCB) is to conduct a "serious case review" into the child's death. It will examine the role played by agencies including the city council's social services department and primary care trust. 
Read more.... 


 
Aaron Gilbert, 13-month-old

Doctors at Swansea's Singleton Hospital and later the University of Wales Hospital, Cardiff, tried for 18 hours to save Aaron's life but he died of brain damage. Read more......
 
Chloe Thomas , 14-weeks-old

Chloe Thomas was 14 weeks old when she died in 2003 with 40 broken bones.
She died after collapsing at her home in Pencoed, Bridgend, in April 2003 with 40 fractures to her skull, wrist, rib, leg and fingers. Chloe had been placed on an "at risk" register by health workers in the weeks before her death.
Read more...



 
Laura Ashley Skinner, 3-year-old


Three-year old Laura was killed by her mother’s boyfriend, Bruce Lower while her mother was at work. According to his testimony, he killed her when she refused to give him oral sex. Forensic investigators determined that she had been sodomized and raped before she was killed. According to friends and family, there was a history of physical abuse, but child protective services, despite visiting the home on several occasions, never found sufficient evidence to remove Laura from the home. Lower served 16 years of a 25-year sentence for Laura’s rape and murder and was released from prison.
 
Elizabeth Steinberg, 6-year-old

Six-year old Lisa was found in a coma at her home after her adopted mother, Hedda Nussbaum, dialled emergency to report that she was not breathing. Doctors found fresh bruises and cuts all over her entire body. She never regained consciousness and died three days later in hospital. Nussbaum also had several broken ribs, a fractured jaw and numerous other injuries. Lisa’s adopted father, Joel Barnet Steinberg had beaten both Lisa and Hedda over a several year period. He was convicted of first degree manslaughter and sentenced to 8 to 25 years in prison. He was released in 2004 after serving sixteen years of the sentence. Hedda Nussbaum, after years of psychiatric care, became a counselor for battered women, but left New York after Steinberg was released from prison. Read more....
 
Jennifer Shafiq, 4-year-old


Jennifer was allegely repeatedly abused by her mother, Khairual Abdul throughout her short life. She was taken out of the home when she was just one month old and put into foster care. She was returned to her parents when she was three years old. The abuse apparently began again and several months later, when her foster mother saw her, she reported to authorities that she believed that the abuse was ongoing. Jennifer, however, was left with her parents. She was apparently beaten to death by her mother on December 4, 1990, then buried by her father, Parmjit Singh, near the Long Island Expressway. Her body was not discovered until 1996, when a hiker came across her skull. The rest of her body and some clothing was found nearby. Despite efforts by police, her remains were not identified until 2005. By that time her parents were living in California where they had moved in 2000. Following his arrest after a domestic dispute, Singh confessed to police what had happened to Jennifer. Based upon his testimony, he was charged with hindering prosecution whilst Abdul was arrested and charged with murder. Both were then extradited to New York to face those charges. Read more....
 
Amanda Gallegos , 19-months-old


The loss of innocents

Colorado children are dying from neglect and abuse even after social service agencies receive warnings of trouble. Yet a system created to learn from the deaths is plagued by mistakes and incomplete records.
An autopsy found that Amanda Gallegos, 19 months, died with an internal hemorrhage, possibly caused by repeated blows to the body or a fatal squeeze. At least eight times, the Adams County abuse line received calls about her and her sister, who nearly died months before. The last time, a caseworker allegedly dismissed bruises on Amanda’s spine.
                             By David Olinger
                          Denver Post Staff Writer
David Olinger can be reached at 303- 820-1498 or dolinger@denverpost.com
 
Sharllene Morillo, 2-year-old


Two-year old Sharllene failed to regain consciousness after being brutally shaken and dropped on her head by her mother’s boyfriend, 28-year old Paul Jimenez. Doctors operated to try and remove two blod clots from her head, but were unsuccessful. There is evidence that Sharllene was routinely abused by Jimenez. Neighbours regularly heard her screaming and crying. A doctor who examined her two weeks before her death noticed that the normally bubbly girl was hardly responsive and that she was bruised. He reported his suspicions of abuse to the hospital where he sent her for tests, but failed to contact child protective services. Sharllene’s babysitter also suspected abuse and saw that Sharllene was terrified of Jimenez. She reported her suspicions to officials but after a house visit they determined that nothing was wrong.
 
Braxton Wooden , 8-years-old


Slain foster child in home with eight unsecured guns 
A little over a month after Braxton Wooden was shot in the head and killed in his Alba foster home, hearing how he died still feels like a punch in the gut.
Where were Braxton's foster parents when he was killed?
The investigation indicates both were at work.
It concludes that after Braxton's foster brother shot him, he called foster mother Treva Gordon. Before she called 911, Gordon traveled home, where Braxton was dying. Then she made the emergency call.

Now, did the Children's Division licensing worker know where all these unsecured guns were located in the Gordon home? At their old house, she had recorded that all eight guns were in a gun safe in the family's garage, but when the family moved in June 2004, the report states the worker didn't know where the gun safe was.
Read more....

Contact columnist Sarah Overstreet at soverstreet@News-Leader.com

 
Kiana Rosado, 3-year-old


Three-year old Kiana was found by a neighbour motionless and not breathing after she heard the little girl screaming. She rang emergency and followed their instructions to try and resuscitate her to no avail. The girl was bruised all over her body and subsequent to her death, her mother, eighteen-year old Jessica Rosado, was arrested and charged with manslaughter and criminally-negligent homicide. An autopsy revealed a wide range of injuries in various stages of healing, suggesting an ongoing history of abuse. Neighbors, as well as Kiana’s biological father, who did not live in the home, had also noticed bruises and injuries, but the family had not come under the scrutiny of social services. Jessica Rosado has reportedly confessed to beating Kiana repeatedly.

May little Kiana rest in peace, far from the constant abuse that cut her precious life short.


 
Jordan Heikamp, 36-day-old

Only in death did he begin to matter:
-Jordan was mentioned by name only five times in the social worker's 59-page service log! -

TORONTO - Death was the prime of Jordan Heikamp's life. To borrow from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, "Some are born posthumously."

Alive, Jordan was only ever lightly upon this Earth. He never cracked the five-pound barrier. He knew loneliness, ignominy and the pain of hunger. His world consisted of a small darkened room at the top of the stairs in a downtown Toronto native women's shelter, the respective confines of a donated stroller and a borrowed crib, the edges of a tightly wrapped receiving blanket around his face always bracketing his view of the passing parade.

In no real way was he seen, heard, fed. He did not matter. He did not count. He had no impact. He made no dent.

When, early on the morning that would have marked Jordan's 36th sunrise, he died, everything changed.

He became profoundly important.

The death of the baby upon whom the great Canadian welfare state had spent directly not one red cent triggered a massive outpouring of public cash, almost $2-million, the great bulk of it to defend, one way or another, the publicly funded agency that had declared him "a child in need of protection" and its employee who had failed to keep him safe -- the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto and social worker Angie Martin.

Round one, a 79-day preliminary hearing that saw charges of criminal negligence causing death dismissed against both Mrs. Martin and Jordan's mother, Renee Heikamp, has already cost Ontario taxpayers a whopping $998,662 -- or $12,641 a day -- for Mrs. Martin and the Society's legal representation alone.

At the same approximate hourly rates for approximately the same number of lawyers from the same firms, the tab for round two -- the 53-day coroner's inquest that yesterday went to the jurors -- likely will top a minimum of another $500,000 just for Mrs. Martin and her employer.

Add to that the publicly borne costs of lawyers for Ms. Heikamp (Paula Rochman, whose wages were capped at an average $75 an hour by the Ontario Legal Aid Plan, will end up billing about $120,000 total for the two proceedings) and the other publicly funded institutions that were represented by counsel at the inquest, plus costs for Crown counsel and police at two proceedings, and salaries for the preliminary hearing judge, the inquest coroner and other courtroom staff.

But lawyers, and money, are the least of it.

Jordan died on June 23, 1997.

Though it was instantly apparent that he had wasted unto skin and bone, it took almost three weeks before forensic tests ruled out any underlying disease and experts determined that he had, indeed, died of chronic starvation.

That shocking news broke first in a front-page story in The Toronto Star, complete with ominous references to an ongoing Toronto Police investigation, on Saturday, July 12.

This will stand as Jordan's posthumous birth date, because it was only then -- the police sniffing about, the hounds of the press baying, the public horrified that an infant could have died this way in the very epicentre of urban affluence -- that the baby began to count in the very places, and with the very people, where until then he had been invisible and insignificant.

At the head office of the Catholic CAS, one of their own apparently in jeopardy, senior agency employees swung into action with speed, efficiency and a strength of purpose that stand in sharp contrast to the way that Jordan's actual case had been handled.

The baby had only ever been mentioned by name five times in the 59-page "service log" of documents Mrs. Martin generated before he died. Three of these references Mrs. Martin copied directly from a report created by someone else; none was of the warmish personal variety with which she had frequently described his then 19-year-old mother.

But now, there was a "Baby Jordan media relations" plan quickly put in place, and one of the Society's first corporate acts after the cause of Jordan's death became common knowledge was to bring on board the public relations firm of Bonner Communications to help the agency respond to the barrage of media coverage.

Indeed, as events continued to unfold, this early reaction appears to have set in stone the tone of what would become the Society's enduring response to Jordan's death: First, try to spin the press and contain the damage; second, close ranks around Mrs. Martin; third, denounce criticism and scrutiny as mean-spirited or uninformed; fourth, cite provincial spending cutbacks as the underlying problem; finally, vigorously and to the end defend Mrs. Martin and the quality of her work because to protect her was to protect the institution itself.

Nothing captures this so well as what Colin Maloney, the Jesuit-trained theologian and philosopher who was then the agency's long-time executive director, wrote in an internal e-mail to his entire staff on July 17, five days after the Star story appeared.

This e-mail, and more than two dozen others, were directed to "Everyone" -- presumably to the agency's 400 full-time staff. The National Post has obtained copies.

"Like many of you, when I saw the Star story, I couldn't believe it," Dr. Maloney wrote that day.

"When I went on vacation, I knew that a baby had died but the cause of death was unknown. Under the circumstances, the worker had acted reasonably and did what any prudent worker would be expected to do. I could not understand why this case was causing such an uproar against CCAS."

He added, "It is discouraging to be dedicated to helping children, working without the necessary supports and then to be treated in the press as criminals."

It had just been revealed that a five-week-old child had starved to death while under the agency's supervision.

The police probe was barely begun.

And the Catholic CAS had undertaken no investigation of its own -- indeed, it never would complete the only one it was mandated to do.

But the man at the top of the agency had already pronounced Mrs. Martin reasonable and prudent -- in effect, utterly blameless -- painted her as the victim of unfair attacks, and attributed to her the noble intentions and the sense of calling that are the hallmarks of the best social workers.

By July 25, as Wendy Vineyard, then CCAS's public relations manager, told employees in an e-mail, agency spokespersons, armed with statistics on the sweeping funding cuts that had begun two years previous with the election of the Mike Harris Conservatives, were being sent out for interviews where they "expressed deep sadness and concern about the death of the baby."

By July 29, the society's executive team had met the boss of the PR company, Allan Bonner, and in another e-mail sent this day, Dr. Maloney reported that "Michael Valpy of The Globe and Mail is writing an article which will appear in Friday's edition." When indeed the story appeared, with Mr. Valpy ruling the "instant inclination to blame someone, to hunt out who was responsible for Jordan's well-being and failed him," Dr. Maloney hailed it as "fair" and sent it out on the internal e-mail system.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be mentioned that I was then working as a columnist for The Toronto Sun newspaper; in fact, it was donations from the paper's readers that paid for the marker on Jordan's grave. My harsh columns about this case were condemned by Dr. Maloney. As he wrote in a July 17 memo, "I think we need to hold on to the truth of our good work for this is what will remain and the articles of Christie will be long forgotten." That said, I wasn't the only journalist who got under his skin. Moira Welsh and Kevin Donovan were the Star reporters who broke the story of Jordan's death as part of their award-winning series on child abuse. On Aug. 21, the executive director told his staff of a conversation he'd had that day with Ms. Welsh. "I also told her to tell Donovan that I am surprised that with so much hard work and knowledge on his part that he has found so little wisdom or compassion.")

On Aug. 7, the society was notified that police were going to charge both Mrs. Martin and Renee Heikamp with criminal negligence causing death.

By Aug. 12, Dr. Maloney was reporting to his staff of "the humiliation and suffering that Angie is going through" -- this an apparent reference to her having been subjected to a partial strip search after she had turned herself in on Aug. 8 at a police station with one of her lawyers -- and regretting what he perceived as the "understandable" officers' motive for searching her this way.

"They want to punish someone for it," Dr. Maloney explained.

He also mentioned that the police were serving so many search warrants on the agency's branch offices that "it raises the spectre of a fishing expedition."

Indeed, by the time the preliminary hearing was underway, where Paul French of the Hughes, Amys firm functioned as the agency's usual legal counsel, the Catholic CAS had also retained high-profile lawyer Brian Gover as a search-warrant specialist.

Coupled with the members of the prominent Smith Lyons law firm who were defending Mrs. Martin -- Queen's Counsel Frank Marrocco and partners Glenn Hainey and Lynn Mahoney -- and in-house CCAS counsel Marvin Bernstein, who kept a watching brief on the hearing, this brought to six the number of lawyers variously involved in representing the worker and her agency.

It was also on Aug. 12 that Dr. Maloney sent staff another e-mail, praising the "quick thinking of some of Angie's colleagues," who, he said, had managed to shield her from the press at the police station, and thanking employees for their messages of support.

Mrs. Martin, Dr. Maloney wrote, both of them displaying a lack of irony that was remarkable in the circumstances of a starvation death, "described these messages as 'my nutrition.' "

By Aug. 14, Dr. Maloney, detailing another court appearance by Mrs. Martin, described her spirits as "amazingly centered and strong," and noted the show of support there had been from social workers, her union and senior staff.

Happily, Dr. Maloney also had a message from Mrs. Martin herself, in which she thanked her colleagues and the agency for "supporting me financially in order to be able to finally have one week of holiday with my family," pledged her love, and signed off, sounding rather like the late comic Red Skelton, with a cheery, "God Bless you all!"

In the lengthy quote Dr. Maloney attributed to her, Mrs. Martin said, "I promise you that I will continue fighting in the name of my children and in the name of all of you. I know that I have a big responsibility and believe me that I will try hard to get up to the end. When the time comes, we will be together and we will fight together for what is right for all of us.

"I wanted to let you know that even though the pain has been so great, today after court, I have felt more confident and I have more hope that we will win."

Win?

So it was a war, then, undeclared, but as real as any other.

The first battleground was the courts at Old City Hall in downtown Toronto where, starting in September of 1998, the preliminary hearing of Mrs. Martin and Ms. Heikamp began before Madam Justice Mary Hogan of the Ontario Court of Justice.

Known as a feminist and activist, Judge Hogan was the first woman to serve as Ontario's deputy attorney-general (she was an appointee of former New Democratic Premier Bob Rae) and the former head of the Parkdale Community Legal Services clinic in the gritty west end of the city. It was there, as a lawyer, Judge Hogan practiced poverty law that focused on landlord-tenant matters, immigration and welfare cases, and homelessness, and also coincidentally where years later, Ms. Heikamp's lawyer, Paula Rochman, would also hone her considerable skills as a law student.

In her now-five years in the Ontario Court, Judge Hogan has acquired a reputation as a judge either thoughtful or lenient, depending on who's doing the talking.

Certainly, her decision in this case was controversial.

The threshold for getting a criminal charge to trial is low, much below that required for conviction. The legal test is simple: There must be some evidence upon which, a reasonable jury properly instructed by a judge, could find the accused guilty.

After testimony that was spread out over seven months, Judge Hogan threw out the charges against both women.

In essence, the judge found that Ms. Heikamp's lies that she was taking Jordan to the doctor and that he was gaining weight explained the professionals' collective blindness to his precarious state and thus got Mrs. Martin off the hook, and that the professionals' blindness in turn excused the mother's and so allowed her to wriggle off it, too.

Judge Hogan appeared to agree with Ms. Rochman's portrayal of her client as a compliant young woman who might well have grown to become a successful parent. If only, Judge Hogan wrote, "someone had sat down with Ms. Heikamp and explained to her the critical importance of medical appointments and weight checks, she would have co-operated."

In fact, just weeks before the preliminary hearing had begun, that arguably generous view of Renee Heikamp was put to the test.

When she had been released on bail, it was in part on the understanding that she would stay with her own mother, Dianne, at her home in a small town north of Toronto.

Neither was Ms. Heikamp required to attend the preliminary, for in the face of Legal Aid's refusal to pay for a hotel, it would have meant a return to the shelter system from which she had just emerged, and where many of the very witnesses who would be testifying about her still worked.

And on the eve of the hearing starting before Judge Hogan, Ms. Heikamp told Ms. Rochman she was pregnant again, the pregnancy the result of a four-month liaison with a local man whose mother was already raising his son by one woman and who was at that time involved with another who had just discovered she too was pregnant

Ms. Rochman, who is both soft-hearted and hard-nosed, wasted no time phoning Ms. Heikamp's doctor up north, who already knew a little of the young woman's history, and filling him in on detail.

The local children's aid was already involved, and eventually, with Ms. Rochman's input, a plan was prepared whereby Ms. Heikamp would be allowed to keep the baby but only under careful supervision that called for daily nurse visits, regular weightings and doctors appointments.

With the authorities figuratively breathing down her neck, Ms. Heikamp did what Judge Hogan would later speculate she might have done with her first baby, Jordan -- got regular checkups, in this case prenatally.

Yet her conduct fell far short of demonstrating that she could have been moulded into a reasonable facsimile of a responsible parent with only a little push, here and there: She was, after all, under the proverbial gun when she took proper care of herself during the second pregnancy.

And Ms. Heikamp did little else to support any belief that this leopard had changed her spots.

Her mother eventually revoked her surety because she was spending her days at the local Country Style. Neither did Ms. Heikamp follow through on her oft-discussed plan to return to school. Ms. Rochman would make inquiries; Ms. Heikamp would stall, and it was only when the lawyer, herself a mother of three youngsters, flatly ordered her client to bring her proof that she was attending classes that she actually ever went.

In the spring of 1999, the hearing still underway, the Toronto Police officers in charge of the case learned Ms. Heikamp was pregnant.

In short order, Detectives Frank Simone and David Needham, as well as Ontario deputy coroner Dr. Jim Cairns, who went on later to preside at the inquest, wrote stern letters to the local children's aid, urging the baby be declared in need of protection.

As a result, five days after the little girl was born on April 1, under the threat of her imminent apprehension by the local children's aid, Ms. Heikamp signed an agreement to place the baby in temporary care. She was sent to live with a local foster family.

What followed was the classic high melodrama upon which Ms. Heikamp seems to thrive.

She named her former lover as the baby's biological father, then recanted, inspiring him, at the behest of his mother, to take a DNA test proving he was and provoking his family's curious and protracted battle to win custody of the baby girl for relatives living in another Ontario city; the couple with whom Ms. Heikamp was then living, and upon whom the children's aid was relying to keep tabs on her, split up, leaving her on her own; she moved in and out of various temporary shelters and boarding houses.

And, with no one to ride herd on her, the attention fading, the dubious excitement of the looming inquest beckoning, Ms. Heikamp just stopped showing up for her supervised access visits with her daughter. Was she bored, or had she merely lost heart?

Whichever, on two separate days last February, smack in the middle of the inquest, Ms. Heikamp signed off on the various papers that saw the little girl, who turned two just last weekend, made first a ward of the Crown and then adopted by her foster parents. The baby is reported to be the pet of a loving and stable family, and recent pictures reveal an impish, chubby child.

As Ms. Heikamp said a day or so after this deal was done, referring to herself in the odd manner of many professional athletes, "It doesn't matter now what Renee wants. It's what's best for X [her daughter]."

As always, even as she mouthed the right words, they rang hollow, for as late as the last fall, she was insisting she could provide a stable home for her little girl while doing absolutely nothing to actually make one -- and contributing to the almost two years it took for the baby's fate to be decided.

With the criminal charges swept aside, Crown prosecutors had a decision to make: Should they seek the remedy of a preferred indictment from the Ontario attorney-general, which if successful would send Ms. Heikamp and Mrs. Martin directly to trial, or let the inquest proceed?

"We felt Judge Hogan was wrong at law," Paul Culver, the veteran senior Toronto Crown, said last week.

"The consensus was, and we consulted a number of people, that Judge Hogan had made an error, that she had gone further than a preliminary hearing judge should, and made findings of credibility."

But Mr. Culver said the system has evolved "such that the defence is part of the decision-making process," that lawyers for Ms. Heikamp and Mrs. Martin could have made submissions, and that this, coupled with the expected delay in getting necessary transcripts from the lengthy preliminary, would have meant a trial might not have proceeded for as long as three years.

"More and more," he said, "and my own personal philosophy has changed on this, now we [prosecutors] ask, 'What are we going to accomplish with this prosecution?' " The feeling was that given the unpredictability of juries, and with a bereft young mother and a middle-aged social worker in the prisoner's box, convictions were no sure thing. "And if we convicted either or both of them," Mr. Culver said, "how much jail time would they get? What would it accomplish?"

In the end, knowing Dr. Cairns would call an inquest in any case, prosecutors decided better sooner than later.

In Canada, as Ontario chief coroner Dr. Jim Young wrote in his brief 1993 history, death investigation is a provincial responsibility, with some provinces, like Saskatchewan, Quebec, New Brunswick and British Columbia joining Ontario in opting for a coroner's system, and others operating with a medical examiner's one. In all, wide-ranging fatality inquiries or inquests may be called to examine the circumstances of a death.

The inquest is a quasi-judicial proceeding, with the coroner, a medical doctor, in the role of judge. The rules of evidence are less strict than in the criminal courts and the general tone less adversarial; the inquest jury is strictly prohibited from making findings of blame and its recommendations are usually directed to governments or the organizations they fund.

Witnesses testify with the protection of the Ontario Evidence Act, which means evidence cannot be used against them in other proceedings, though, as Dr. Young noted in his review, "in many cases, determining liability is a background issue."

The inquest has two primary purposes, both captured in the ringing motto of the Ontario coroner's office -- "We speak for the dead to protect the living."

Taken together, what all this should mean is that this is a better forum for a truth-seeking exercise than the criminal courts, where an accused's liberty is at stake, his right to a fair trial paramount.

Arguably, this ought to have been particularly the case at the Heikamp inquest, for charges against the two most significant players -- Ms. Heikamp and Mrs. Martin -- had already been laid, and dismissed.

Yet on the morning of Jan. 9 this year, when the inquest convened before a five-member jury and Dr. Cairns, eight parties with a significant interest in the proceedings had been granted standing and the front benches were crowded with lawyers, some of them familiar faces.

Present were counsel for Northwestern hospital; for the hospital nurses; for the doctors and for CUPE, the union representing the various social workers and counsellors. For the Anduhyaun shelter was Susan Hare; for Ms. Heikamp, Ms. Rochman; for the Society, Mr. French, and for Mrs. Martin, Mr. Hainey and an intermediate-level lawyer from his firm, Emily Cole, the two of them occasionally supplanted with Ms. Mahoney.

It became quickly evident that even with the lawyers for these disparate parties appearing to blame one another, most were singing from the same songbook, and that the popular working theory was that what happened to baby Jordan was a tragedy borne of a system under siege.

This notion of systemic failure -- its most beloved expression has Jordan "falling through the cracks" of a cruelly under funded safety net where overburdened social workers all strive mightily to guard their vulnerable charges -- found purchase in a variety of places, in the public domain beginning with Mr. Valpy's Globe and Mail column of Aug. 1, 1997, where he warned, "If the question is only, 'Who do we blame?,' we risk not asking, 'Why did the system fail?' "

On just the second day of the inquest, with Dr. John Watts, a pediatrician and expert witness in the stand, Mr. French laid out the agency's official view of Jordan's death.

"To some extent," Mr. French asked, "baby Jordan was born into a system, to some extent? Yes?"

"Yes," said Dr. Watts.

"And without debating the point too extensively, sometimes when things go wrong it's a system problem as opposed to a person problem, is that fair enough?"

Dr. Watts replied, "It's actually more likely to be a system's problem than a person's problem."

But the sum of his evidence was that the two things -- system and people failures -- could occur separately or co-exist, and that he found it astonishing and appalling that anyone, let alone helping professionals, "could have looked at that baby [Jordan]" and not recognized that he was very ill, as early on as a week to 10 days before he died.

Yet to varying degrees, all the central players in Jordan's death took up this battle cry.

In the mounds of paper with which the jurors have been deluged, among hundreds of suggested recommendations, are pleas for better training (for hospital nurses; social workers; shelter counsellors; doctors and pediatricians) in dozens of areas (breastfeeding; street culture, even special courses for the various professionals to help them understand one another's purportedly intimidating jargon) and expensive proposals such as the establishment of walk-in medical clinics within youth shelters to better catch the approximately 200 street teens who get pregnant in Toronto every year.

But the baby did not fall tumbling through great gaps in a troubled system.

The system was, albeit in the imperfect manner of a complex bureaucracy, rather perfectly in place.

Ms. Heikamp was living at the Youth Without Shelter (YWS) residence when, after years of claiming to be pregnant, she discovered she actually was.

There, she had the good fortune of having, as her primary worker, a woman she called "Mum" -- Lidia Bravatti, a pragmatic type who liked the teenager, but recognized she needed an immense amount of help to prepare for motherhood and proceeded to get it for her.

Ms. Bravatti bent the rules to allow Ms. Heikamp to stay at the shelter until a sought-after spot at Massey Centre, the Cadillac of maternity homes, opened up, and talked to her at length about the life-altering responsibility that having a child brings.

Continued from part one.
In early March of 1997, Massey Centre found a room for Ms. Heikamp, and Ms. Bravatti put her into a taxi and sent her on her way.


But Ms. Heikamp instead directed the cab to another shelter, Horizons for Youth, where she stayed until she delivered Jordan at Northwestern hospital, by emergency Caesarean section, on May 18.

Essentially, her prenatal care was non-existent, but for visits to emergency rooms and walk-in clinics when Ms. Heikamp herself had a problem of one sort of another.

Pregnancy is the make-it-or-break time for young street mothers: If they begin to solve their problems during this period -- show any nesting instinct and start to prepare for the baby's arrival; stop using drugs or alcohol, if they have those difficulties (Ms. Heikamp didn't), and take care of themselves -- they likely will be good and caring parents.

A surprising number, as Ms. Bravatti put it, simply "rise to the occasion."

But many do not, and the best test comes before they deliver. As one former long-time foster mother for an Ontario children's aid society said last week, "At some point, they all find out they're pregnant, and usually, they have six to nine months to get their act together; 99% of the time, if they don't do it, if they wait until after the baby is born, the child will end up in care."

Her experience was that she would first get a baby of four or five weeks; then the child-welfare agency would arrange for the mother to have supervised access, and the baby would be taken away for visits; then the young mother would stop showing up, the infant returned. After several months, the woman said, and she saw the proof in their fallen faces afterward, the babies simply abandoned hope.

Like Ms. Bravatti, the Northwestern nurses made Renee Heikamp for what she was-- at the least, a monumentally self-absorbed young woman -- almost instinctively.

Despite the initial observation of Janet Yanchula, a gentle woman with decades on the job, who was there when Ms. Heikamp first walked into the nursery after her C-section and so saw Jordan first open his eyes to the sound of his young mother's voice, it would have taken more than this fleeting instance of tenderness to convince these seasoned realists that this was a teen mum who would manage.

They continued to watch Ms. Heikamp, on the infrequent and brief occasions she was at the nursery. Soon, they saw more than enough to alarm them, and, after discussion with a doctor, reported their suspicions about her to the Catholic CAS.

Mrs. Martin was assigned.

Again, the system had worked: A risky mother had been identified as such, and promptly reported to the appropriate authority, the agency with the statutory duty to protect Jordan.

Discharged on May 29 to Mrs. Martin and Ms. Heikamp, he should have been safe as pie.

"In this business, you cannot guarantee kids won't get hurt or die," Bruce Hardy, the executive-director of the Westcoast Family Resources Society in British Columbia, said in a recent interview.

"But coming into care shouldn't make your life worse, and goddamnit, you shouldn't die."

But Mrs. Martin never really considered the baby her client, but rather his mother.

Her remarkably sloppy notes are replete with references to her that are so sympathetic they practically leap, cooing, from the page.

The worker recorded every emotion she saw cross Ms. Heikamp's face and was quick to label her "very child-oriented," inexplicably quoting her saying, of Jordan, "Is my baby," as though this were hard evidence of her willingness to care for him.

Mr. Hardy, whose Westcoast agency works with about 100 families, the majority of them single mothers from the rough Vancouver east side, said this who-is-the-client debate is an old one. "We've had this in B.C.," he said. "I guess it's hard to relate to an infant, so workers relate to the young adult. With us, it's black and white -- the child comes first."

Had Mrs. Martin brought even a modicum of that attitude, or a whit of the skepticism of the Northwestern nurses to her view of Ms. Heikamp, she too ought to have been alarmed.

The worker was quite correct when she wrote that this young woman, who turned 23 in January, "presents well."

Ms. Heikamp is built like an athlete, with a powerful body and proud carriage. Her gaze is bright and focused, her wide smile engaging. For a high school dropout, she is literate and articulate (far more so than Mrs. Martin, who in her records correctly spelled barely a single name or place), reads easily, and has a wide vocabulary. She is approachable, laughs at the right times and is pleasant company.

But for all her presentation skills, there are readily apparent clues that she is, in the modern parlance, a mile long and an inch deep.

Her emotions come and go like summer storms, and for all their tumultuousness, seem to leave her essentially unaffected.

At the inquest, which she attended much of the time, she wept frequently, but for the most part, her tears came whenever the witness who was testifying was talking not about her dead child, but about her. Minutes later, she was often back to her normally sunny self.

She confides too quickly, and to those who are strangers or acquaintances, the sort of things most people tell only good friends -- a trick not unfamiliar to salesmen, or for that matter reporters, who may do the same thing to inspire trust.

Her stories about her life change like the wind; her plans are built on quicksand.

For the duration of the inquest, she was still living in the town north of Toronto, and commuting, usually by bus. When things began in January, she was sharing an apartment with friends; at some point, she said she had found her own place, but it turned out to be but a room in a Christian boarding house.

One day, Ms. Heikamp would talk about how, when the inquest ended, she had a job lined up at a Mississauga restaurant ("Fine dining," she called it); the next she was talking about going to a community college near the town; the next, she was going back to Toronto for school.

As her own stint in the witness stand was fast approaching, we walked once during a recess from the coroner's court to a nearby Starbucks. She was nervous about testifying, so I told her the story of my experience as the key witness in a libel trial while I was still at the Sun (the paper, for the record, successfully defended the case). "If you just tell the truth," I said, "you won't have to worry about being tripped up."

She asked, "But what will I say about why I lied about taking him [Jordan] to the doctor's?"

I ended up buying her a latte that day, and a half-dozen other mornings as well. A handful of inquest regulars were doing the same thing; some recesses, Ms. Heikamp was handed two coffees.

One morning, she arrived at court late.

Ms. Rochman had just finished cross-examining a witness when Ms. Heikamp bent down and whispered in her ear. She then took a seat, and I watched Ms. Rochman get a $20 bill from her purse and put it discreetly into an envelope, which she quietly passed back to her client: Ms. Heikamp had got a ride that day from a fellow who was outside in his car, waiting for her to kick in gas money.

While at the inquest, Ms. Heikamp stayed at a hotel across the street. That cost Ms. Rochman, who wanted her client to face as much of the music as she could bear, $3,000 out of her own pocket.

And this was the most telling, and the most constant, thing about Ms. Heikamp: Renee knows how to take care of Renee. When she needs something, or wants it, she gets it. If it is probable that she genuinely didn't know how to breastfeed, how is it possible this strong young woman could not have asked for help for her child? She is surely not stupid. Why would she have switched to formula and not bothered to glance at the directions on the can? The evidence is her breast milk was drying up by the time she left hospital and that the formula she made, with tap water, was watery gruel. Were the charms of Jordan simply wearing off?

To be perfectly fair, Ms. Heikamp came closer to accepting responsibility for her carelessness with the baby than anyone else. As Ms. Rochman once remarked privately, it was probably unrealistic to expect her to also face the truth of who, and what, she is.

This may be a simmering question, but it isn't the burning one. Ms. Heikamp was, after all, spotted as a potential risk to her child.

But given this, given the oft-contradictory (and thus transparent) tales she spun at the drop of a hat, how could Mrs. Martin and all those at Anduhyaun, which the social worker insisted on describing as "the pregnancy home," have bought Ms. Heikamp hook, line and sinker?

Seven Anduhyaun employees -- all women, all native, most mothers themselves, and indeed, most plump and deceptively motherly looking, though they were in the main a crispy lot -- testified.

The sum of their evidence was that in the 25 days that Jordan lived among them with Ms. Heikamp, they rarely heard or saw him. Only infrequently did one or another of them pick him up. Only one ever saw him unclothed, in a diaper. They claimed that though they thought him small, Ms. Heikamp's vague mutterings about him gaining weight and eating well assuaged any slight concern that might have sprung from his appearance.

At the end of the day, it was obvious that the shelter staff had over-sold to Mrs. Martin the squishy programs they offer residents -- a casual chat over a cigarette is labeled "general support" -- and that she was misled about what their bragged-of "nurses" would do.

These turned out to be one genuine registered nurse, and one former nursing assistant. Their testimony, wherein they explained at length how they had never functioned as nurses but as counsellors, was some of the most profoundly insulting evidence the jurors heard.

Yet for all the failures that emerged about Anduhyaun, funded by Ontario taxpayers to tune of $621,552, the fact remains that the shelter was to the Catholic CAS, with its current budget of $57,830,244, akin to a kid sister -- "a collateral," a community resource.

By law, the CCAS and its workers cannot delegate to any collateral their legal duty.

And from painful experience, no one should have been more aware of this than those staffers, Mrs. Martin among them, who had moved to the agency's Etobicoke/York office in west-end Toronto when the agency's former branch in High Park closed its doors in 1994.

It was from that High Park office where, in the spring that year, a baby named Sara Podniewicz was a client of the Catholic CAS.

Almost three years to the day before Jordan was born, Sara was supposedly "receiving services" from the society, as the lingo has it.

She was six months old when, gasping for breath and probably coughing up blood, her crack-addled parents found her in her little Kanga-Rocka-Roo infant chair. She had been there, dead, long enough that the blood pooled in her body in the distinctive pattern of the chair.

It was pneumonia that killed her, but at autopsy, it was discovered that Sara had 24 broken bones, including 16 fractured ribs, broken legs and a broken arm.

Her parents, Michael Podniewicz and Lisa Olsen, were charged with second-degree murder, and in the spring of 1996, went on trial, where it became crystal-clear that Sara had been spectacularly failed by many more than her parents.

Michael Podniewicz had so badly shaken another child, the couple's baby son Mikey Jr., that the little boy was left deaf, blind, paralyzed and with the permanent mental age he was -- 10 weeks -- at the time of the attack. Podniewicz was just barely out of jail, still on parole, when Sara was born.

One of the critical issues that emerged at the parents' trial -- they were convicted -- was that the Catholic CAS worker had been heavily relying on a collateral called the Canadian Mothercraft Society, whose own worker was supposed to visit the family weekly.

This woman, as it turned out, made only about half of the visits, and missed seeing blatant warning signs when she did show up, once actually putting foot jingles on Sara's fractured legs and watching cheerfully as the poor child gamely reached for her toes.

But she and the CCAS worker rarely spoke, and essentially functioned independently.

Yet there was Mrs. Martin, just a year after this much-publicized trial, this case involving a colleague from the same office surely fresh in her mind doing the same thing -- de facto delegating her legal responsibility for Jordan to Anduhyaun.

It is virtually inarguable that this is precisely what the 45-year-old worker did.

After settling mother and child into Anduhyaun on May 29, Jordan then just an ounce shy of five pounds and blossoming, she saw them only once again, and, in arranging this lone visit to her office, Mrs. Martin tried to wrangle things so that Ms. Heikamp would get a sitter and come alone, presumably so she could better talk to her "real" client without distraction.

In the witness stand at the inquest, where she testified for four days despite being on medication for depression, Mrs. Martin repeatedly offered the excuse of having been frightfully overworked -- made frantic by the demands of other, far more alarming cases. Why, she snapped several times, she was carrying a caseload of 38 files!

But a chart prepared for use at the preliminary hearing and obtained by the National Post, breaks down what she did every day of the baby's short life. It reveals that many of those 38 files were closed, or virtually inactive: Jordan's was the only case to which Mrs. Martin devoted any significant chunk of time, about 20 hours, not counting the long stints she put in on the computer.

Mrs. Martin was born and raised in Santiago, Chile.

Her first language is Spanish; she learned English only after coming to Canada in 1985.

But she learned it well enough, despite an accent that waxes and wanes, that her lawyers felt no need to supply her with a translator. She testified that at home, she and her husband, Edgar, speak to one another and their two children in both languages. And it was her bilingualism, as she acknowledged, which got her the job at the agency in 1991, the plan that she would handle mostly Spanish-speaking clients, though it ended up that she did not.

With the exception of Mary McConnville, CCAS's current head, those employees from the agency who testified, including Mrs. Martin's direct supervisor, praised her as a good worker who had done, at minimum, an appropriate job on the Heikamp case. Only Mrs. McConnville offered a guarded acknowledgement that some things might have been done better. And certainly, the jurors heard, Mrs. Martin has never been disciplined.

This is not the ringing endorsement one might imagine.

Sources close to the Catholic CAS say agency employees are rarely disciplined, the employer-union record virtually devoid of the sort of arbitration hearings that are routine in most organizations. Difficult employees are most often quietly urged to leave, or bought out, as apparently happened in a modest house-cleaning after Jordan's death. Few are outright fired.

Not so at the 17-year-old organization run by Bruce Hardy.

Westcoast workers, he said last week, have sometimes complained that the agency's child-first policy "jeopardizes work with the family. But it doesn't. We're honest. We tell them we're going to put the child first, and we don't tend to lose families.

"My workers have asked sometimes for more leeway, and my reply is, if I find you have made judgment calls that may have put a child at risk, I'll fire you."

When a child is hurt, the 50-year-old Mr. Hardy immediately suspends with pay the involved worker. Westcoast promptly launches an internal review, at the end of which workers have been fired, or suspended without pay and put on notice. And Mr. Hardy and his managers are equally scrutinized, every four years, by the New York-based Council on Accreditation by which Westcoast, with only 13 other Canadian agencies, is accredited.

The Catholic CAS is accredited by the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS), a membership-driven body that Mr. Hardy said lends its reviews "at least the perception of a conflict of interest," if not an actual one.

As evidence of the close ties between the Ontario association and its members, in the immediate aftermath of Jordan's death, one of Dr. Maloney's e-mails indicated he "expected" OACAS to "communicate with all of the other societies so that they are not just left with information" about the case from the newspapers. Mrs. McConnville, who replaced Dr. Maloney, is the former OACAS boss.

His workers, like those at the Toronto Society, are unionized, but Mr. Hardy said this is no impediment to running a tight ship.

"The union has no investment in incompetence," he said impatiently. "The union has an investment in process." In fact, at the inquest, it was the Canadian Union of Public Employees, whose members include agency social workers and shelter workers both, which urged the jurors to make some of the toughest recommendations.

Mr. Hardy, who also teaches social work students at the University of Victoria and child and youth care students at an area community college, has been using newspaper coverage of the Heikamp inquest as a tool.

He is enraged by how agency employees have failed to acknowledge mistakes, and by the sort of limp entreaties best exemplified by what the agency's lawyer, Mr. French, earnestly told the jurors on the first day.

They would have to wrestle, he told them, with the fact that they would be hearing from witnesses, all "decent, honest, hardworking people" who had looked upon Jordan and yet done nothing to help him.

Why should the witnesses -- the Anduhyaun workers, Mrs. Martin, her supervisors -- be presumed going in, each and every one, to be good? Life experience surely teaches us otherwise. In every office, are there not those who are lazy? Irresponsible? Incompetent? Even malicious?

As Mr. Hardy said, "Why should we cut more slack for professionals than we ever would with a parent? When parents screw up, we take their kids. When we screw up, it's always an honest mistake and everyone has to be understanding."

In this real-world context, Jordan Heikamp's death was attributable to individual, not societal, errors. His was no accidental slippage through a worn safety net, but rather the product of a nation where many have lost their nerve. Woven into the factors at play here were many of the fuzzy-minded notions an increasing number of Canadians have come to treasure -- vacuous "support" over sensible advice; employment equity over hiring on merit; the non-decision for the hard one.

As no one wanted to judge Renee Heikamp, now, they demand not to be judged.

The worker who was supervising baby Sara when she was murdered remains at the agency as a children's services worker. Angie Martin is still an employee there, though now on long-term disability.

When the jurors return with a verdict, likely next week, and the inquest ends, the coroner's constable, Ernie Drummond, will remove from the small notice board in the foyer of the building a handful of black magnetic letters. Mr. Drummond is of the old school. He was born and raised in Yorkshire, where young gentlemen of a certain age were always addressed in a respectful manner, and so, from this board, Mr. Drummond's fierce, unheralded gesture, the letters he will take down read, for courtroom A, "Mstr. Jordan Heikamp."

Master Jordan: It even sounds as dear, as outdated, as the stern values that might have saved him
*Christie Blatchford can be contacted at cblatchford@nationalpost.com

 
Sean Paddock, 4-year-old

Dead child's mom sought discipline tips
Lynn Paddock ordered books by a minister and his wife that recommended using pipe to spank kids
A few years ago, Lynn Paddock sought Christian advice on how to discipline her growing brood of adopted children.
Paddock -- a Johnston County mother accused of murdering Sean, her 4-year-old adopted son, and beating two other adopted children -- surfed the Internet, said her attorney, Michael Reece. She found literature by an evangelical minister and his wife who recommended using plumbing supply lines to spank misbehaving children.

Paddock ordered Michael and Debi Pearl's books and started spanking her adopted children as suggested. After Sean, the youngest of Paddock's six adopted children, died last month, his older sister and brother told investigators about Paddock's spankings.

Sean's 9-year-old brother was beaten so badly he limped, a prosecutor said. Bruises marred Sean's backside, too, doctors found.

Sean died after being wrapped so tightly in blankets he suffocated. That, too, was a form of punishment, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.

The Pearls' advice from their Web site: A swift whack with the plastic tubing would sting but not bruise. Give 10 licks at a time, more if the child resists. Be careful about using it in front of others -- even at church; nosy neighbors might call social workers. Save hands for nurturing, not disciplining. Heed the warning, taken from Proverbs in the Old Testament, that sparing the rod will spoil the child.

Paddock and other moms in her rural Baptist church chatted about the Pearls' strategies for rearing obedient children, Reece said.

"I think she was trying to do the right thing by her children," he said.

Paddock, 45, faces a possible lifetime behind bars or execution if convicted of causing Sean's death.

Paddock seems to have carefully followed the Pearls' teachings. Investigators found 2-foot lengths of plumbing supply line in several rooms of her remote farmhouse.

The Pearls offer shopping advice on their Web site, www.nogreaterjoy.org: "You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility will keep the kids in line."

The Pearls' first book, "To Train Up a Child," has sold more than 400,000 copies since it was published in 1994, according to Mel Cohen, general manager of the Pearls' business, No Greater Joy Ministries. After the book came out, so many readers wrote in with questions that the Pearls started a newsletter. Every two months, Cohen said, the Pleasantville, Tenn.-based ministry mails more than 60,000 newsletters to parents around the world.

The Pearls declined to be interviewed. "They feel the material speaks for itself," Cohen said.

Christian evangelicals who, like the Pearls, teach the importance of corporal punishment have loyal followers. The results are tangible, said Dot Ehlers, executive director of a Smithfield nonprofit who teaches parenting skills to mothers and fathers referred to them by the Johnston County Department of Social Services. She said about a quarter of the 60 parents she instructs each week say their faith defends and encourages corporal punishment.

The Pearls' techniques helped Sandy Hicks, a mother in Texas who said she was desperate to restore peace in her home.

"Some people would rather spend an hour reasoning with a defiant 5-year-old instead of requiring the kid to behave and giving him a swat if he doesn't," said Hicks, who said she has used a peach-tree switch to spank her four children. "Some people are just queasy about swatting their kids."

The Pearls' teachings helped mobilize another group of Christian parents to speak out against such corporal punishment. The Web site Stoptherod.net rails against the Pearls' first book; the Web site's founders, Susan and Steve Lawrence of Virginia, say the book "reads like a child abuse manual." The Web site encourages parents to post critical reviews of the book on Amazon.com.

Some of the Pearls' defenders say you can't blame them for parents who take their advice to an unhealthy extreme.

Gena Suarez, publisher of a magazine for home-schooling parents that publishes advertisements for the Pearls' books, said their teachings are often inappropriately used to defend child abuse.

"[The Pearls] are talking about something that would fit in a purse," Suarez said. "The only way you can kill a child with that is by shoving it down his throat."

The Pearls acknowledge that discipline turns to abuse when the "child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued ..."

The minister advises one mother on his Web site: "I always give myself one swat before I swat the child to remind myself how much force to exert. It stings the skin without bruising or damaging tissue. It's a real attention-getter."

(News researchers Susan Ebbs, Becky Ogburn and Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Mandy Locke can be reached at 829-8927 or
mandy.locke@newsobserver.com .

State Was Paying Paddock Family
 Biological family outraged
Investigators say Sean Paddock died of asphyxiation after being tied up with blankets. His adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock is charged with murder. She's also accused of beating Sean and his siblings with PVC pipes. 
Eyewitness News has learned that the state was paying the Paddocks to care for the children. The money the adoptive family got was money biological relatives say they could have used to care for the kids themselves. They say they did not know the money was available.
When social workers took Sean, Hannah and David out of their unsafe and unsanitary home in Wake County, their uncle, Ron Ford Jr., took them in.

"We love the children. They're my brother's kids, and it really hurt us to let them go," he said.

Ford let them go because he and his wife could not afford to care for them and their own three kids.

"We had a savings account and everything," he said. "We just ate through it really quickly."

The state had been paying Lynn Paddock and her husband $1,270 a month for adopting the three kids, based on their ages and a payment formula for adopting a group of siblings. It is financial assistance that Ford says he did not know about.

"We were never told anything about that," he said.

Ford says he also did not know the adoption agency got $45,000 -- $15,000 per child -- for placing all three kids together in the Paddock home. He says the state could have saved that money if the Fords had been offered assistance in the beginning. He also believes Sean's life could have been saved.

"We've got my 4-year-old nephew now who's been buried as a result of all this," Ford said. "They should've just listened to begin with."

Ford and his family are hoping to overturn the adoption and get custody of the two surviving siblings. They will have to wait and see how the criminal case plays out.
                                                     By Shae Crisson
                                         ABC11 News Team
 
Miranda Davila, 2-year-old

Foster child, 2, killed by father
Foster mom says county missed abuse signs.

The Orange County Register
Foster mother Nancy Perez cried after she saw the sad state of the little girl she'd cared for through infancy.

Miranda Davila, who'd recently returned to her parents, was thin and withdrawn. The 2-year-old had clumps of hair missing from her head.

Perez called the social worker to warn him.

”I told him, ‘Something is wrong. She looks really bad,' ” said Perez, who has more than 20 years of experience caring for medically fragile children in Cypress. “He said he would take care of it.”

The next call, months later, was from the police. Miranda was dead.

The little girl had been found unconscious in a filthy motel room with a skull fracture and bruises on her face, neck, back and buttocks. There was spoiled, moldy food in the refrigerator and maggot-infested food in the bathtub, a county report said. It was October 2003.

Miranda's father, Salvador Davila, was charged with killing his daughter by pushing her into a wall. He is serving 25 years to life in prison for her death. The mother, who initially said she caused the accident, recanted, saying she was trying to protect the father, court documents show.

Perez and the girl's grandmother, Angela Miranda, say the 2-year-old should not have been returned to her parents, who lived in a cramped motel room and struggled with drug addiction. They believe the social worker should have seen signs of abuse.

“How could (the social worker) look at the baby and do nothing?” asked the grandmother, who says she also called the social worker with worries about Miranda's weight and hair loss.

The social worker, Daniel Whitehurst, declined to comment, citing agency policy prohibiting workers from talking about their work.

Michael Riley, director of the county's Children and Family Services, wouldn't speak specifically about the case except to say social workers are one part of a team of people who decide a child's fate. He added that situations can change from good to bad quickly.

Robert Hutson, presiding judge of the Juvenile Court, said the court thought Miranda Davila was being protected.

“I couldn't imagine the bench officer allowing the child to stay there if they had an inkling,” Hutson said after reading reports of her death. “I'm looking at the reports here that says … that they were living in squalor. ... It seems to me it was a change in situation. It's what I hope to believe.”

Miranda is one of at least three Orange County children who died since January 2000 after being returned by the Juvenile Court and social workers to their parents.

Details of Miranda Davila's story were revealed in a child death review written by the county Social Services Agency and obtained by The Orange County Register.

The report showed Salvador Davila asked his social worker to delay his daughter's return until he and his wife could find suitable housing.

The social worker agreed. But a juvenile court judge, pressed to unite families in short order, returned Miranda Davila to them in March 2003. After a 60-day trial period, the social worker reported the family appeared to be doing well despite the housing situation.

Yana Kennedy, the girl's court-appointed attorney, said she learned only later that Miranda's home life was deteriorating. The motel room was cluttered and the girl had small bruises, she read in a report after the girl's death.

Kennedy said these signs indicated a drug relapse.

“The father was losing it. He picked her up and slammed her against the wall,'' Kennedy said. “I wish the social worker had told us things were deteriorating. We would have sent someone out unannounced. ... It might or might not have made a difference.”

By JENIFER B. McKIM
 
Aaren Marie Dunn, 7-year-old


Suffer the Children
The tragic case of Aaren Dunn's murder raises questions of responsibility, responsiveness and the need for reform in child protective services
On June 26, 2000, in the late afternoon, just as heavy rain was beginning to break what seemed like an endless, dry heat wave in Manitou Springs, inside a small house on the main street of the tiny mountain town, Robert W. Dunn broke his 7-year-old daughter Aaren's arm, stabbed her in the chest with a kitchen knife, then repeatedly stabbed her in the neck until she died.

Aaren's 11-year-old sister Nadine, who had endured an afternoon of terror alongside Aaren, was also under her father's grip but wrenched away, ran out of the house and down the street to the neighborhood convenience store, Tubby's Turnaround, where she screamed for help while her father continued his attack on Aaren.

Two men responded swiftly and rushed to the Dunn house. Finding the front door locked, they ran to the back of the house and entered the unlocked back door. They found Robert Dunn in the kitchen, hovering above Aaren, who lay on the kitchen floor, no longer breathing.

One witness pulled Dunn away from his daughter and dragged him to the back yard where, after a short struggle, he lay down on the grass, face down, bloodied palms up.

Within minutes, Sgt. Mary Jo Smith and Officer Michael Jon-Thomson of the Manitou Springs Police Department arrived on the scene. According to the police report filed by Sgt. Smith, when she arrived Dunn said to her, "The devil is here." Dunn then yelled, "I killed the devil. She was possessed. I killed the devil." Sgt. Smith handcuffed Dunn, then ran into the house.

A crowd gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Dunn home. A neighbor from across the street, Sandra Cross, comforted Nadine Dunn until she was taken by police to the Manitou Springs Fire Department. She waited there until her mother, Jennifer Dunn, arrived to take her to her home in Widefield.

Manitou police took Robert Dunn into custody, and their officers and an agent of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation questioned Mr. Dunn until late that night when Dunn was taken to the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. In an extended interview, Dunn contended that the devil possessed his daughter, that the devil was here in Manitou Springs and he had no choice but to kill the devil.

In days to come, Manitou neighbors, classmates, school teachers and friends of the Dunn girls gathered to mourn Aaren's passing. A blanket was passed around and signed by all who wished to be part of a tangible memorial to the little girl.

Aaren Dunn was buried on July 3, 2000, next to her maternal grandmother, in a cemetery near Calhan.

Her death and the memorial were chronicled on television and in the local daily newspaper. Some mourners expressed their bewilderment over the circumstances of her death, asking how it could have happened right under their noses. What could have been done, some wondered aloud, to prevent the tragedy?

On July 1, Robert Dunn was moved from the El Paso County jail to the state mental hospital at Pueblo (Colorado Mental health Institute), because he threatened suicide while in custody and because the public defender assigned to the case, Deborah Grohs, wanted him placed there for psychiatric evaluation.

A competency hearing was held in which Dunn was declared competent to stand trial. On Dec. 14, in a preliminary hearing, Dunn's attorney, Grohs, entered a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI), citing a diagnosis agreed upon by three state psychiatrists and one psychologist obtained by the public defender's office.

On Dec. 21, following brief testimony by the state hospital's chief forensic psychiatrist, Dr. David Johnson, El Paso County prosecutors Geoff Heim and John Newsome declared they had no evidence of sanity and could not, therefore, prosecute Mr. Dunn. Division V Judge Larry Schwartz, citing the prosecution's burden of proof, declared Mr. Dunn Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.

Dunn was sent back to the state mental hospital where he was ordered to remain until he is no longer deemed a danger to himself or anyone else. Should he be deemed no longer a danger, he could be released and cannot be tried again for the crime.

That's one side of the story. 

But the larger story, told by Aaren's mother, Jennifer Dunn, and by a close look at the DHS record and the Manitou Springs Police Department report, is messier. Gaping holes in the initial account of events raise questions that should not be ignored by a society charged with the protection of its youngest members.

Did the Department of Human Services act appropriately, promptly and without prejudice or malice in the case of Aaren and Nadine Dunn? Did the family court system of El Paso County adequately serve to protect the Dunn girls? Was there reason to believe that Robert Dunn was a danger to his daughters prior to Aaren's murder and, if so, why were the girls allowed to remain in his custody?

Can any of us presume to know what's in a father's -- or a mother's -- heart?



Talking heads

In an e-mail addressed to the weekly Pikes Peak Journal last fall, following an account of the Dunn murder, Jennifer Dunn wrote: "To date there has been precious little in the way of a relationship with the truth in the matter of the lonesome death of Aaren Marie Dunn."

And in a civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court on August 28, 2000, Ms. Dunn charged criminal negligence and dereliction of duty by the state of Colorado, by the El Paso County Dept. of Human Services, by CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates of El Paso County), and by individuals of all three agencies.

Almost immediately following Aaren Dunn's death, El Paso County DHS began an internal investigation to determine what, if anything, they might have missed in the Dunn case -- what, if anything, they could have done to prevent Aaren's murder at the hands of her father.

Six months later, in early January, 2001, a 12-person panel at the state of Colorado Department of Social Services exonerated El Paso County DHS of all blame, concluding that, though clerical errors occurred and reports filed by Ms. Dunn against her former husband dating back to 1996 had been overlooked by DHS in the months leading up to Aaren's murder, there was nothing the department could have done to change the outcome.

Jennifer Dunn contends that asking state DSS to investigate county DHS is "a little like asking Bill Clinton to teach a class in sexual abstinence."

She claims the county's excuse that it misplaced the early files in another family member's folder -- and thereby effectively lost them -- is bogus. Ms. Dunn says that she was told when she filed complaints of behavior by Mr. Dunn she believed to be sexual "grooming" for eventual abuse, that those complaints were inadmissible under DHS guidelines.

Ms. Dunn contends, and DHS reports confirm, that "peeping" behavior and charges involving the willful misplacement of pornography by Mr. Dunn were dismissed as unfounded and insignificant.

In the two months prior to Aaren Dunn's murder, Manitou Springs police were called three times by friends of the girls, and by personnel at Manitou Elementary School. Each time a report was filed, DHS was contacted.

Reports filed between May 1 and June 26, 2000, the day of Aaren's death, alleged physical violence, threats, bizarre behavior and rages by Robert Dunn. None of those reports individually, nor the sum of those reports, were deemed worthy of an investigation by the county into the Dunn household on Manitou Avenue where Robert Dunn finally killed his youngest daughter.

Trouble ahead, trouble behind 
Robert and Jennifer Dunn married in May of 1992. It was her third marriage. In May of 1995, the Dunns separated when Jennifer fled the house and took the girls with her to the Safe House run by the Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence.

At that time, says Ms. Dunn, there "was a great deal of agitation in our marriage" related to Mr. Dunn's alleged sexual addiction and his unwillingness to seek treatment from any therapist besides one who had recently ended her private practice. "I believed it would be in the best interest of the children to prevent them from being exposed to any further domestic violence," said Ms. Dunn.

Experience with domestic violence was, unfortunately, not unknown to Jennifer Dunn. Her second husband had severely beaten her two sons by her first husband, an event noted in her DHS file. Ms. Dunn was charged with Dependency and Neglect by DHS for failing to report her husband's physical abuse, a turn of events which, she says, "got her sober." An admitted alcoholic, she stopped drinking and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous sessions religiously.

Further complicating matters, in 1993, after serious bouts with suicidal depression, Jennifer Dunn was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and began taking lithium under a doctor's direction.

The Dunns had no legal arrangement from May of 1995, when Jennifer left, until February of 1999. The girls spent time with both parents.

During this time, in order to try to understand the dynamics of her marital difficulties with Robert Dunn, Jennifer began attending meetings of COSA, Codependents of Sex Addicts Anonymous. It was there that she began hearing of "grooming" behaviors. Close friends in the group, including Fred Stone *, a man who had been convicted of sexually molesting his own daughter and a leader of conferences for people in sex addiction recovery groups, assured her that these behaviors should not be ignored and that the potential danger to her daughters was real.

"Until you commit the crime, there's no scrutiny," said Stone. "But you've got to keep it away from the kids. In most cases, there's a serious addiction to pornography associated with molestation."

In November, 1996, a report was filed with DHS accusing Mr. Dunn of improperly exposing the children to pornography. Seven months later, Dunn was accused of inappropriately "peeping" at his young daughters while they dressed and when they were in the bathroom. Both of these complaints were filed with DHS and were considered unworthy of investigation.

Finally, in February of 1999, after Nadine Dunn once again told her mother that her father had left pornography laying around the house, Jennifer Dunn called the police, called DHS, then drove to the Manitou home of Robert Dunn where she loaded the girls in the car and took them into hiding. On Feb. 25, Mr. Dunn arrived at Ms. Dunn's Holland Park apartment with a court order and a police escort to remove Aaren and Nadine from their mother's home and return them to Manitou Springs. Jennifer Dunn was ordered to appear in court before Magistrate Jan Du Bois.

"When she asked me why I took the children, I explained the soft perp or grooming behaviors, the phone call from Nadine and the hardcore porn," said Jennifer Dunn. "Magistrate Du Bois ordered the appointment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer to conduct interviews and compile a report for the court's determination of custody."

In effect, this event marked the beginning of divorce proceedings between Robert and Jennifer Dunn.

A temporary custody arrangement placed the girls in Mr. Dunn's home Monday through Friday, and with their mother from Friday evening through Sunday.

In a report dated May 20, 1999, CASA worker Ann Beckerman stated: "Both of the parents have concerns about the ability or suitability of the other parent to be an appropriate and nurturing parent for the Dunn children."

But Ms. Beckerman's report of October 18, the final word before divorce and formal custody arrangements were handed down, said those concerns were apparently relieved. She recommended that the custody and visitation arrangement remain the same as they had been since the girls were retrieved in late February, giving Mr. Dunn primary custody of the girls.

Beckerman's report dismissed Jennifer's concern about Dunn's alleged grooming behaviors, but expressed another "main concern" -- that Jennifer Dunn was influencing Nadine's opinions and feelings about her father by making statements about him in front of the child.

Indeed, many people involved in the case believed that the children were unfairly drawn into the middle of an ugly custody battle in which each parent pitted the children against the other. One neighbor, who asked not to be named, cited "revenge and vengefulness on both parts," and said, "... from what my daughter had told me, I told a DHS worker that, in my opinion, Bob (Robert Dunn) was the better parent.

"I feel bad about that now." 

Mayhem in Manitou

In the months immediately prior to Aaren Dunn's death, police calls citing violent and irrational behavior by Robert Dunn began pouring into the Manitou Springs Police Department.

On May 1, Sgt. Mary Jo Smith responded to a call from Daryl Spencer, a nearby neighbor and the grandmother of one of Nadine Dunn's closest friends.

"I had to put her up on the kitchen counter, she was shaking and crying so hard," said Spencer. "At first I couldn't understand what she was trying to say. She said, 'Our dad is going to kill us.'" Spencer went on to describe Nadine as a little girl who was usually "extremely composed ... so much so that I worry about her."

Sgt. Smith's report includes Nadine's assertion that, on some occasions, the Dunn girls had been made by their father to take their shirts off to eat dinner. Nadine complained of unsanitary conditions at home, of flies and dirty dishes. Sgt. Smith contacted the counselor at Manitou Springs Elementary, where the girls attended school, to inquire if the school had received any similar complaints. The respondent said yes, and that she was going to notify the Department of Human Services, requesting that the case on the Dunns be reopened.

The next day, May 2, another Manitou Springs police officer responded to a call, this time by a child who reported she feared for the safety of her friends, Nadine and Aaren Dunn, who were not being allowed to leave their house. When the friend came by to visit that day, according to the police report, "she stated she could hear her friends crying and yelling inside the residence."

The officer, along with Sgt. Smith, contacted the Dunn girls by phone and were told their father was across the street at Manitou Liquors. (Dunn was owner and manager of that business for 13 years.)

Mr. Dunn met the officers at the house and invited them in to take a look. It was noted that the place was "extremely cluttered" and that dirty dishes were lying about. Sgt. Smith related her concerns of abuse to the girls, to which Mr. Dunn replied by asking his daughters "when was the last time they received a spanking." When they said, in front of the officers, that it had been about a year ago, Mr. Dunn then proceeded to tell the officers that the girls wanted to "live with their mother, Jennifer Dunn," and because of this, "his daughters are trying to make him look like a bad father." The police advised Mr. Dunn to improve the cleanliness of his home and he agreed.

On May 26, Manitou police received another complaint from a friend of the Dunn girls who called from a pay phone. The caller said she was afraid her friend was being hurt by her father, Robert Dunn. The investigating officer, Lt. Jerry Johnson, responded to the call, visited the Dunn home and concluded that, although Nadine Dunn claimed her father hit her that morning, there were no corroborating marks and that it apeared the girl "would rather live with her mother and has enlisted the aid of her friends to make complaints against her father."

In nearly illegible, often undated reports, Department of Human Services workers indicate that each of these calls received a follow-up by the department. In a report following the May 1 complaint, a DHS case worker relates her conversation with Nadine Dunn in which the girl said: "Dad loved me as a baby, but doesn't now."

The report goes on to state that after Nadine's friend called the police, "Dad demanded to know who called -- shook fist in her face." On that same day, Nadine told the case worker that once "a long, long time ago," her father tried to suffocate Aaren, and that her father "goes into rages."

A DHS account date May 31, 2000, relates a report by a staff member at Manitou Elementary School, stating that Aaren Dunn had told school personnel, "she wants Dad to stop hitting." The informant expressed concerns about the children and asked that the case be kept open. She went on to say that the "last time DHS [was] out, [the] child got blamed by Dad."

But about halfway through, this report, like Ann Beckerman's, takes a turn and begins raising suspicions about the involvement of Jennifer Dunn in the children's complaints, especially Nadine's. 

The case worker says that Nadine Dunn, also interviewed on that day, "worried Dad may kill her as she has heard what some child abusers have done ..." The case worker's clear assumption is that the suggestion of child abuse was planted by Nadine's mother.

Both girls, on this day, stated that they could talk to their mother about things, and that they would prefer living with her. When pressed to explain why, the report says, the girls said they didn't know.

The case worker concludes: "... Mom really dysfunctional ... Mom bi-polar and really needs to take meds ..." Elsewhere in the DHS record, on at least two occasions, Jennifer Dunn is negatively characterized for her flat affect, including during the days immediately following Aaren's death. In notes added to the DHS record on June 26, CASA workers complained that Jennifer Dunn "had so many meetings she did not have time for [her] kids."

Jennifer Dunn contends that following the Dependency and Neglect charge involving her older sons, she spent four years trying to take control of her personal problems and trying to protect her daughters from abuse and neglect. "I knew that I was powerless to stop the evil that this man was going to unleash on my daughters," she said. "But I told Nadine, 'You have to tell Ms. Jones (a Manitou Springs Elementary School employee) if things are happening to you.'"

On June 7, less than three weeks before the day Robert Dunn killed Aaren, a DHS report was filed that recommended closing the case.

The social worker states: "Sgt. Johnson said that the only calls they (the Manitou Springs Police Dept.) have received on the family has (sic) been from children. Sgt. J. elaborated that no adults have called on concerns about Nadine and Aaren. Sgt. J. said that he thinks Nadine and a couple of other children in the neighborhood have gotten together on plan to call [the police]. Sgt. J. used the word 'conspiracy.'"

The report concludes with a recommendation of counseling for Nadine for which Robert Dunn, apparently, offered his verbal consent.



Not guilty by reason of insanity

When Robert Dunn was first taken into Emergency Protective Custody at the state mental hospital in Pueblo, and for several weeks afterward, he was characterized by Dr. David Johnson as "extremely psychotic."

Over the next two months, Dr. Johnson reviewed the Manitou Springs Police Department reports, the CBI agent report, an interview conducted with Nadine Dunn following the murder, the DHS report, various toxicology reports, Dunn's records from a former hospitalization in the 1970s (for substance abuse), and interviews with employees from Manitou Liquors.

Based on those reports, on interviews with Mr. Dunn and on the corroboration of two other state psychiatrists, Dr. Johnson concluded that "Mr. Dunn's psychotic symptoms seemed authentic." His diagnosis: bi-polar disorder with psychotic features.

On Dec. 26, Dr. Johnson testified before Division V El Paso County Court Judge Larry Schwartz, Public Defender Deborah Grohs, deputy District Attorneys Geoff Heim and John Newsome, and a handful of onlookers, in support of Mr. Dunn's plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.

On the possibility of malingering (basically, faking psychotic symptoms), Dr. Johnson testified that Mr. Dunn's particularly grisly method of killing his daughter matched other cases he had seen of defendants who believed they had "killed the devil." As for possible motive, perhaps covering up evidence of sexual abuse against his daughters as had been suggested by Dunn's former wife, Johnson concluded there was "no substantial evidence to support that."

Johnson went on to testify that on the day of the offense, Dunn made his daughters undress and would not let them go to the bathroom, but this behavior was presented as evidence of his psychotic break, not of sexually aberrant behavior.
Not mentioned by Dr. Johnson was a section of Dunn's interview with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation on the day of the murder, where amidst explanations of how he had killed the devil which had entered Aaren Dunn's body, Robert Dunn admitted that he too removed his clothes that day.

"We all had our clothes off," he said. "We were having a good old time." Dunn explained that he wanted the girls to be naked to get over "bad" feelings they had gotten, allegedly from Jennifer Dunn and her common-law husband, Dale Abernathey. In the same interview, Dunn characterized Jennifer as a "dysfunctional wife ... either crazy or an alcoholic or both ... worse than bipolar."

None of this testimony was raised as evidence at the hearing.

"Your honor," concluded deputy D.A. Newsome, "in all candor, the people have no evidence of sanity."

Judge Schwartz, who called the crime a "horrendous, horrible tragedy, in many respects beyond description," cited the statutory burden of the prosecution to disprove insanity and concluded that "except for some lay evidence that may have been disclosed should there have been a trial, indicating certain opinions about Mr. Dunn," there was no evidence of sanity. Schwartz declared Dunn NGRI.

Never mentioned in court was a telephone conversation that took place the hour before the murder between Mr. Dunn and the girls' therapist, Kathy Varrone.

Because Mr. Dunn had failed to take the girls to their court-ordered therapy session with Varrone earlier in the day, the therapist, at about 4 p.m. on June 26, called the Dunn household.

Aaren answered with Nadine standing next to her. According to DHS notes compiled after the murder, one of the girls told Varrone their Dad had said "there was a murderer on the loose." According to the report, Robert Dunn then got on the line and, presumably sounding normal, agreed that he would bring the girls to therapy "same time next week." The girls told Varrone "Dad doesn't want us to go out." The therapist made a note to talk to Dunn about not scaring the kids to control their behavior. An hour later, Aaren was dead.

Following the handing down of the judge's ruling, Dale Abernathey read aloud a statement by Jennifer Dunn, reiterating her attempts to report Robert Dunn to DHS and specifiying her suspicions about him.

But public defender Grohs got the last word, objecting strongly to the statement, indicating that the "relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Dunn was a big custody battle," and declaring "all allegations made to DHS [by Ms. Dunn] were found to be unfounded."

"The bigger tragedy," Grohs said, "would be to think this man does not love his daughters. He loves them very much."

One week later, from the mental hospital in Pueblo, Robert Dunn tried to demonstrate that love by sending a Christmas card to his surviving daughter, Nadine Dunn, addressed to her mother's home.



Nothing to lose

On Jan. 4, 2001, Jennifer Dunn was granted a stay in the proceedings of her civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court, pending acquisition of an attorney. As of this date, no legal counsel has stepped forward.

Ms. Dunn believes a Supreme Court ruling from 1989, DeShaney vs. Winnebago Cy., is the major hindrance in pursuing legal action against the various agents of the state she accuses of failing to protect her daughters, causing irreparable harm.

The petitioner in DeShaney was a young boy (via his Guardian Ad Litem) beaten so severly by his father after repeated reports to Winnebago County Department of Social Services in Wisconsin, that he was rendered permanently severely mentally retarded.

The lawsuit charged that the respondents, by failing to intervene to protect him, had deprived the boy of his "liberty interest in bodily integrity," thereby his rights under the 14th Amendment's Due Process clause.

In a split decision, U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled for the respondent. "A state's failure to protect an individual against private violence does not constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause," the summary read. "The Clause is phrased as a limitation on the State's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of safety and security; while it forbids the State itself to deprive individuals of life, liberty and property without due process of law, its language cannot fairly be read to impose an affirmative obligation on the State to ensure that those interests do not come to harm through other means."

In August of 2000, despite stated reservations by El Paso County DHS workers who questioned whether Nadine should remain with her mother, the court granted Jennifer sole and permanent parental responsibility for her surviving daughter. Ironically, the ruling was handed down by District X Judge Douglas Anderson, the same judge who, in November of 1999, had granted primary custody of the Dunn girls to their father, Robert.

"We've been in this battle for years," said Ms. Dunn in a recent interview. "The only thing that makes any sense is to believe we're safe now.

"I have a satisfied mind. I have nothing to lose by continuing to tell the story -- I've already lost my daughter. And I don't need to defend myself. All I was doing was the job of defying people who abuse kids.

"No matter what happens in the legal outcome, should there be one, they will never silence me because I'm gonna live to be a very healthy and very vocal old lady.

"The truth will be repeated," said Jennifer Dunn. "So help us God."
 

by Kathryn Eastburn


 
Kayla Lorrain Wood , 16-year-old


The death of Kayla

Who was that girl discovered in the rubble of a Moreno Valley fire? The victim of a sad, brutal life.

10:58 AM PDT on Friday, September 15, 2006

Kayla Lorrain Wood's short life was defined by turbulence and violence. She was sexually abused. She was diagnosed with a mental disorder. She ran away from foster care in two states and she was suspected of prostitution. 

The 16-year-old, whom relatives and social workers portrayed as a victim, suffered until the very end.

Moreno Valley police found Kayla's stabbed and abandoned body on Saturday after firefighters put out a blaze at an abandoned building frequented by transients.

The blond, blue-eyed girl had been missing for nine days, after again running away from a group home. Kayla's body was found with her aunt's phone number tucked in her pocket. Relatives say they think she just wanted to come home.

The adults in Kayla Wood's life could not or did not save her, though some tried.

Others victimized her. Kayla was sexually assaulted by a relative, court records show. She was put into foster care after her mother's arrest on drug charges.

"This little girl led such a tragic life," said her aunt, Ann Wood, of Hesperia. "She was placed in protective services and someone should have protected her. It seems like someone slipped up."

Kayla, a dependent of the San Bernardino County foster care system, ran away almost daily.

A 2005 San Bernardino County counselor's evaluation shows that Kayla may have had schizophrenic tendencies and depression and that there was a prescription for a psychiatric medicine. On Aug. 27, Child Protective Services recommended that she be committed to a secure psychiatric facility, said Carol Sittig, child welfare manager with the Department of Child Services in Rancho Cucamonga.

But four days later, Kayla ran away again.

"If we could have kept her in a place where she could not have run, this might have been prevented," Sittig said.

To Cover Up Killing

Riverside County sheriff's officials remain close-lipped about the status of their investigation, including whether they have identified any suspects. Coroner's officials have said she is a victim of homicide, slain before her body was found in the abandoned building.

Ann Wood said investigators told her Kayla had been stabbed multiple times and that the fire was likely set to cover up the killing.

Kayla's relatives, who are struggling with the loss, are angry that she was so easily able to run away from the group home, Abby's Adolescent Development Center.

Paternal grandmother Vivian Wamsley, of Albany, Ore., said her granddaughter should have been more closely monitored.

"Why didn't they know where she was? Why did she end up dead?" Wamsley said by phone from her home in Oregon.

The group home's manager did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The center is licensed to operate four different homes for a combined 24 teens, all in Riverside County, state records show.

The Moreno Valley home on Thunderbird Drive where Kayla had lived was last inspected in May and was found to be clean and safe. State records show the home is licensed to care for six children and prefers to take in girls between the ages of eight and 17.

In 2003, the nonprofit company took in $1.18 million from government agencies for providing residential care and treatment to emotionally and physically neglected children, according to its 2004 federal tax-exempt filing. It has been operating since about 1998.

Family members are upset at the entire foster care system, particularly because relatives weren't told Kayla was missing until after she was dead.

According to the California Department of Social Services, group homes must have a plan for dealing with runaways but need only to include law enforcement when appropriate.

'My Baby Girl Died'

Tamara Wood, Kayla's mother, was distraught this week and declined to talk about the circumstances that put her daughter in foster care. She said Kayla wanted to be a model.

"She was beautiful. She had blond hair. She was tall and skinny with dark blue eyes and she was 16," Wood, 36, of Hesperia, said.

Growing up, Kayla liked anything pretty and frilly and "was all girl," her mother said. She loved art, music, animals and the color green. Wood was overcome by her daughter's death.

"My baby girl died in a violent death and I really don't want to discuss anything with anybody," she said.

Kayla was born in Oregon, where she spent most of her childhood, relatives said.

The family moved to Hesperia, where she lived briefly. But Kayla and her father soon moved back in with Wamsley in Oregon, leaving Kayla's mother, who had a history of substance abuse and drug-related arrests in San Bernardino County. Court records show Tamara Lynn Wood faced multiple possession and drug-manufacturing charges from 1998 to 2006.

Just before Kayla's 11th birthday, a male relative molested her, according to records in Linn County, Ore. Randy Flowers of Lebanon, Ore., was convicted on three counts of sexual abuse in two separate cases involving Kayla and her brother, records show.

Wamsley later asked Kayla's father to leave the Oregon home because of a drinking problem, Ann Wood said.

In 2003, Kayla was back in San Bernardino County, staying with her mother. That summer, relatives say, a man was arrested and charged with raping the girl. A man matching the name they provided was charged in August with raping a girl with Kayla's date of birth, San Bernardino County court records show.

The girl's name is withheld in the records and prosecutors declined to confirm that Kayla was the alleged victim. The man was not convicted.

Kayla remained with her mother through Christmas. But she was thrust into the state's foster care system and a group home in April 2004 after her mother was arrested, relatives said. It was a month before Kayla's 14th birthday.


Missing at Least 10 Times

The state maintains contact with the family for 18 months after a child enters the foster care system. At that point the case becomes part of a permanent placement with the state. Sittig said in this case social services lost contact with the parents, but maintained visitation rights with the grandmother and other relatives.

Wamsley said Kayla contacted her and told her she was in a foster home, but Wamsley heard nothing from the state. Wamsley said she fought for custody of her granddaughter and in June 2004, Kayla returned to Albany, Ore., when her grandmother was designated for foster care.

While in her grandmother's care, Kayla continued to run away frequently but always returned, Wamsley said. Oregon officials returned Kayla to Moreno Valley after her grandmother told them she could not control her granddaughter, Sittig said.

Kayla returned to Moreno Valley on May 25, 2005, the day after her 15th birthday, and continued to struggle in the foster program.

Though she visited with family frequently, Kayla tried to run away and find her family several times, both social services and her family said.

In the last month she was alive, social workers reported Kayla missing at least 10 times, including once when she was picked up by police on suspicion of prostitution in Arizona, Sittig said.

Kayla reportedly wrote a letter to a friend saying a pimp had picked her up in front of the Moreno Valley group home and dropped her off in an Arizona park, her grandmother Vivian Wamsley said.

Kayla returned July 27 and in the letter she named the man who took her across state lines and Kayla said he threatened her.

Her family is now searching for that letter as a clue to who might have been involved.

They are awaiting the release of Kayla's body, which will be sent back to Oregon for her funeral.

Reach John Asbury at 951-567-2408 or jasbury@PE.com

Reach Lisa O'Neill Hill at 951-368-9462 or loneillhill@PE.com

Staff writers Duane Gang, Dan Lee and Sharon McNary contributed to this report.

 
Chassidy Whitford , 2-year-old


Chassidy's death their 'legacy'

By Christina Toth - CToth@abbotsfordtimes.com

A review into the death of two-year-old Chassidy Whitford is an unflinching list of failures to meet agency protocols by the social workers involved in her case.

The review was presented jointly on Thursday at the Sto:lo Government House in Chilliwack by Minister of Children and Family Development Gordon Hogg and Sto:lo Si'yam Tyrone McNeil.

The review looked at the role of Xyolhemeylh, the Sto:lo Child and Family services program that has overseen the care of aboriginal children since 1993. Chassidy's was the only death of a child in the care of Xyolhemeylh.

"I don't think that at any time we can fear to identify the weaknesses in the program. The Sto:lo believe that everyone has a gift and the gift Chassidy leaves behind is this legacy, to learn from the weaknesses," McNeil said.

McNeil said the Sto:lo community is still reeling from Chassidy's death and the circumstances. He added that despite the harsh report, it would be unfair to paint the entire aboriginal child welfare program with a negative brush.

"We have too many successes," he said of the agency.

Chassidy came to the attention of Xyolhemeylh social workers when the toddler was taken to Mission Memorial Hospital in July, 2002 for injuries that suggested abuse. The workers gave her back to her young father's care at the Leq'amel First Nation reserve just east of Mission, where they were staying. Chassidy's body was found there on Sept. 22, 2002. Her father Shaw Mackinaw pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death last month.

Jeremy Berland, assistant deputy minister, read 14 recommendations resulting from the review, which did not name any of the staff members involved. Four of those relate to training in recognizing abuse indicators and risk factors, while the rest deal with policies to ensure there are consultation guidelines and clear expectations regarding documentation and communication.

"It's quite clear the staff involved had difficulties in carrying out the steps they were required to do," said Berland. "These kinds of findings are not dissimiliar in other reviews in this province and around the world."

Although he would not name them, Hogg said two people have resigned since Chassidy's death. He added the Sto:lo agency is still reviewing what led to the breakdown in following standards, whether it was due to a lack of training or "blatant abuse of standards."

Berland flew to Edmonton on Wednesday to present the review to Chassidy's family, including Ken Perrault.

"All the recommendations are good, but it's too damn bad they weren't there when my granddaughter was alive," he said Thursday from his Alberta home.

He is disappointed there still has been no admission of guilt by Xyolhemeylh or

no consequences for the workers involved. Perrault said he received contradictory information on whether or not a social worker retains her job with the agency.

Perrault also slams the Leq'amel community for ignoring the abuse Chassidy suffered.

"As far as I know people knew Chassidy was being abused," he said. He added he may be filing a lawsuit against the Sto:lo Nation.

Susan McKamey, chief of the Leq'amel First Nation in Deroche, also part of the panel presenting the review, said the aboriginal communities must be encouraged to report suspicions of abuse.

"As a leader, as a grandmother, I find it difficult to think this goes on. If a friend or family member is doing something wrong, we have to get them to not cover up," she said, adding that could have happened with Chassidy.

ù The full report is available at the ministry's website at www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/media.

 
Annette Marie Hirsch, 2-year-old


Annette Marie Hirsch, 2 years and 3 months old, was taken from her earthly family to live with her Heavenly Father on February 23, 2002. She was a beautiful child that was always full of laughter and smiles. Now she is our little angel.
A 49 year old woman was charged in the beating death of her 2 year old granddaughter after the toddler's body was found wrapped inside plastic garbage bags secured with duct tape and a shoelace. The grandmother told investigators she became upset after the child went to the bathroom on the floor and the girl refused to clean it up. She then put the girl in the bathtub and when the child did not obey she "grabbed Annette by the back of the head and used her hair to clean up the feces."

Hirsch told investigators the child moved to the back of the tub and said, "No Grandma, no" and then she hit the child in the face with an open hand, knocking her unconscious. She then dressed the child and put her to bed. Hirsch found the child dead the next morning. She said she panicked and placed the child in the bags so the body would not "stinkup" the house.

The grandmother was charged with intentional child abuse resulting in death, a felony that carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

 
Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell ,20-month-old


'We all loved him so much'
Family buries 'Baby Nathaniel'
By Nicole Paseka, Journal staff writer

MACY, NEB. -- Black smoke curled into the air Thursday morning before a tiny white coffin arrived at the Omaha Indian Cemetery in Macy, Neb.

Two grandfathers and a great-grandfather of the child who was to be buried kept watch over the flames near the open grave.

"Even the fire itself represents life," said Adrian Saunsoci, member of the Omaha Nation. "Without that fire, we wouldn't be able to live."

Nathaniel Saunsoci-Mitchell, the 20-month-old son of Jacki Saunsoci and Nathan Mitchell, was buried at 10:30 a.m. at the Omaha Indian Cemetery, directly on top of his paternal grandfather's grave.

"Because he wasn't raised with his father's family, in this sense, we are giving him back," said Adrian Saunsoci, who in the Omaha Tribe's culture is considered one of the child's grandfathers. His biological sister is Olivia Saunsoci, the mother of Jacki Saunsoci.

"His grandfather will hold him in his arms," Adrian Saunsoci said.
Family members wept as they took turns shoveling the earth back upon the grave. Two red heart-shaped balloons that said "I love you" were released into the air on the chilly autumn morning, quickly disappearing from view.

Children carried flowers and toys to Nathaniel's grave, including miniature plastic horses and stuffed teddy bears.

More than 100 people attended the ceremony, circling around Nathaniel's coffin.

"The circle is one of the biggest symbols of Native life," Adrian Saunsoci said. "Nathaniel is in the middle. Nobody told them where to go. It just happens."

Nathaniel's great-great grandmother, Sarah Dick, wept throughout the ceremony, her hands cupped to her face. Dick said she never was able to meet Nathaniel because he was shuffled from home to home, and she is disabled and does not get around easily.

The hardest part of the tragedy is not knowing what really happened to Nathaniel, the great-great grandmother said.

"I just imagine everything," she said. "Maybe he was crying ... or whether he was knocked out and didn't hurt. It's like a puzzle, and a piece of it is missing. I need to find that missing piece."

Nathaniel died Sunday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha after suffering severe head injuries. He was living with a South Sioux City foster family when his injuries occurred.

The Sioux City Journal has chosen not to print the names of Nathaniel's last foster parents unless criminal charges are brought against them.

Nathaniel also endured two breaks to his collar bone, a broken leg and a dog-bite to his nose while living in foster care, members of the Saunsoci family said.

No criminal charges have been filed against the child's foster parents or anyone else. The case is under investigation by the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. Criminal charges, if any, would not be filed until the investigation is completed.

Evan Saunsoci, another grandfather of Nathaniel's, said he has heard negative comments about American Indians since the child's death, including online feedback on the Sioux City Journal's Web site. He said it upsets him that people are so close-minded.

"As soon as they hear the word 'reservation,' they think the worst," Evan Saunsoci said. "It's not like that."

Evan Saunsoci said he knows Nathaniel was sent here for a reason.

"Maybe that reason is to show that our children are being mistreated," he said.

All of the Saunsoci family members said they wanted more than anything for Nathaniel to remain on the reservation with them.
Nathaniel suffered from severe asthma, and it was difficult for his young mother, who was 17 at the time of his birth, to care for him. Jacki Saunsoci completed rehabilitation classes for alcohol and drug abuse and also took a parenting class, her mother, Olivia Saunsoci, said. Olivia Saunsoci could not be granted custody of Nathaniel because she had a criminal record.

While Jacki Saunsoci was in rehabilitation, Nathaniel lived with his first foster parents, Robert and Susan Goodburn, who were shocked to learn of the child's death.

"He was a sweet little boy, and I wished they would have left him here," Susan Goodburn said on Wednesday.

Officials try to keep American Indian children in American Indian foster homes. After living with the Goodburns, Nathaniel lived with Jacki Saunsoci's sister, Tiara Saunsoci.

But he was removed from Tiara Saunsoci's home because of his medical problems, his grandmother, Olivia Saunsoci, said.

From there, Nathaniel went to live with another foster family in South Sioux City, where he remained until his death. The Saunsoci family said the foster parents were not members of the Omaha Nation nor the Winnebago Nation, and that the foster father was not American Indian.

Jacki Saunsoci remained calm throughout the ceremony and carried a scrapbook full of cute photographs of her apple-cheeked, smiling son.

"He was very sweet. He was really smart. He was very loveable. He meant everything to me," Jacki Saunsoci, 18, said after the ceremony. "He was my first baby, and everybody loved him."

Jacki Saunsoci said she knows Nathaniel is happy now.

"I don't want to grieve too much because his soul's not going to rest (if I continue to grieve)," she said.

Jacki Saunsoci's voice never trembled except when she spoke of the person or persons who might have harmed Nathaniel.

"I hope that whoever did it to him gets arrested and locked in prison or executed," she said. "They just can't get away with this. It's not right."

Young cousins who surrounded Jacki Saunsoci chatted about happy times with Nathaniel, such as when they taught him baby sign-language.

Nathaniel would bring his hands together when he wanted "more!" He placed his hands on his mouth when he was hungry. He put one hand over his heart to say "love."

Nathaniel loved chocolate-chip cookies and often had chocolate covering his face, said cousin Josephine Saul, 8.

Josephine smiled at the memory. "We all loved him so much."

Journal staff writer Nicole Paseka can be reached at 712-293-4276 or nicolepaseka@siouxcityjournal.com.

 
Brian Edgar , 9-year-old


Small church in Kansas City, Kansas (USA). Its leaders, Neil and Christy Edgar, have been charged with murdering their adopted son, and with abuse of their other three children. Various rumors circulate regarding the church, and others from the church have been charged with abuse as well.
The leaders of a Kansas City, Kan., storefront church were charged Tuesday with murdering their adopted 9-year-old son and with abusing three other adopted children.

On Tuesday, the pastors of God's Creation Outreach Ministry, Neil E. Edgar, 47, and Christy Y. Edgar, 46, were charged with the felony murder of Brian Edgar.

The Edgars also were charged with three counts each of felony child abuse involving the other three children, who are siblings. Brian was not related to them by blood.

The parents were in jail Tuesday; bond was set at $2 million each.

At a news conference, Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic alleged that Brian and his siblings -- boys 16 and 12 and a 9-year-old girl -- were frequent victims of abuse that involved binding and gagging before bedtime. Authorities said the three children were in protective custody.

Tomasic said that Brian, who was homeschooled, died late Sunday at a house on North 82nd Terrace, near State Avenue. Early Monday morning, police said, Neil Edgar brought Brian's body to KU Med. Police then took Neil Edgar into custody.

Wyandotte County Coroner Alan Hancock said in an interview that Brian's mouth had been taped shut and that something like a sock had been stuffed in it. He said there were signs that Brian had vomited and that he had been bound around the chest with a belt. The boy died of asphyxiation, Hancock said.

"This is about as bad (a case of child abuse) as any of them," Hancock said.

The autopsy, he added, showed that Brian had been dead for several hours before being brought to the hospital. The autopsy also found bruises on his cheeks and old marks on his wrists and ankles, suggesting he probably had been bound with a rope in the past.

Tomasic said that the practice of strict physical discipline "is a teaching of the church" and that the case could yield more charges.

Late Tuesday afternoon, police executed a search warrant on the church, 817 Central Ave., and adjacent addresses.

Tomasic recalled that a member of the church had been convicted a few years ago of using a stun gun against a child. Neil Edgar had been called as a witness, Tomasic said.

A Web site describes the church's ministry as one that helps young people find jobs and teaches them to be independent and responsible for their own actions. It also says the ministry aims to help young people develop "a better self-esteem to overcome serious emotional and educational problems."

It's unclear how many members the church has. According to records with the Kansas secretary of state, Christy Edgar incorporated the ministry in April 1992. The church forfeited its corporation status in September 2000 after failing to file an annual report.

The church's two-story building on Central Avenue projects an image of loving ministry. Its name hangs on a heart-shaped sign above the front door. A red awning above a side door says, "Smile, God loves you." Painted on the wall next to the door is a red and sky-blue mural of larger-than-life praying hands. A red neon "Jesus" sign shines above. 

Kansas City Star, Jan. 1, 2003
 
Dennis Craig Jurgens , 3-year-old


Dennis Jurgens was born Dennis Craig Puckett in Sauk Center Minnesota, a child of teenage Jerry Sherwood (who herself was a ward of the state) and her teenage boyfriend. Coerced by the authorities into believing she did not have the proper life skills or resources to care for her child, Jerry gave up her young son for adoption with the promise that he would be given a good home.

In the decade preceding the adoption of Dennis, Lois Jurgens had suffered bouts of depression and psychosis, including an extended stay at a psychiatric institution where shock treatments were administered. She was diagnosed as having mixed psychoneurosis, and also unable to conceive a child with Harold. This drove Lois further into madness, as she felt she needed children to complete the “perfect picture” of housekeeping.
Forbidden by official channels from adopting children due to Lois’ history of mental illness, the Jurgens managed to adopt a baby named Robert from private channels. Robert fit in well at the Jurgens household, as he learned from a young age not to get in his mother’s way or cause an undue mess that would likely send Lois Jurgens into a rage. The Jurgens adoption of Robert seemed successful to the eyes of authorities and they began to consider the possibility of the Jurgens adopting more children through official channels.

Dennis arrives in the Jurgens’ home
Just past one year of age, Dennis was given a placement at the Jurgens home in anticipation of an adoption after spending much of his first year in foster care where he was well-loved and taken care of by an elderly woman. Almost immediately Lois took a severe, obsessive dislike of Dennis who was a normal, rambunctious and spirited toddler-unlike Robert who in Lois’s eyes was the “good son.” Harold Jurgens suggested that perhaps they should not go forward with the adoption of Dennis, but Lois refused out of concern that it would discourage the authorities from allowing them to adopt further children. Within months of Dennis’ arrival he was rushed to the hospital with first and second-degree burns on his genitalia, which was reported and accepted as being an accident. The process of adopting of Dennis was completed.
Read more.....

 
Phoenix Sinclair, 5-year-old


Phoenix Sinclair found dead on Manitoba reserve, police believe
Last Updated: Saturday, April 22, 2006 | 9:57 PM ET CBC News 

RCMP say they believe they have found the remains of Phoenix Sinclair, a five-year-old girl who went missing in Fisher River, Man., about 10 months ago. Police said Saturday they had found human remains in a wooded area on the Fisher River First Nation reserve, about 150 kilometres north of Winnipeg.They believe the remains are of the young girl, but they are waiting for the results of a forensic test before they make a positive identification. Samantha Dawn Kematch, 24, and Karl Wesley McKay, 43, have been charged with first-degree murder in the case.

A foster child most of her life, Phoenix had been returned to the custody of her birth mother, Kematch.
Police say Phoenix was missing for nine months before anyone reported her absence.
Manitoba launched two reviews into the province's child-welfare system last month after police laid the murder charges.
The case has raised serious concerns about the child-welfare system. Three children have died while in the care of Child and Family Services agencies in the past year. Another six children who died last year had received assistance from Child and Family Services in the past.


 
Gilbert Bonneau, 8-year-old


Children have been enduring abuse at the hands of the nun's at St Colman's for way to long.
Three children have died under suspicious circumstance's that we know of. How many that we don't know of? How many children have to suffer before the authorities do something about the severely abusive conduct by the nun's? There are several survivors that have testified to the fact that they endured extreme abuse at the hand's of the so called "Gods servants" at St Colman's.
8yr old Gilbert Bonneau cried for help for close to 3 days! While his brain hemeraged in his skull. The only help the nuns would offer is to suffocate him to death. There is a witness! There are also witnesses to Gilberts brutal stick beating that landed him in the infirmary where he was later suffocated. Read more...
 
Joshua Causey , 4-year-old


Prosecutor says pair overlooked 2 earlier attacks on dead boy
By Jennifer Brooks / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- Two social workers who were supposed to safeguard a 4-year-old in foster care have been charged with child abuse and criminal negligence after authorities say the boy was beaten to death in his new foster home.

The child, Joshua Causey, died March 18, and his foster mother, Lynda Carol Baker, is awaiting trial on a first-degree murder count. But on at least two occasions, prosecutors say, the boy's caseworkers overlooked evidence of abuse in the home -- including two black eyes and a fractured shoulder.

Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan Monday announced the charges against social worker Beth Kaplansky, 30, of Birmingham, and her supervisor, Lori Ann Wright, 33, of Taylor. They were charged Monday with second-degree felony child abuse and with failure to report child abuse. Both work for the St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center in Farmington Hills.

Joshua was one of six siblings from Pontiac who were removed from an abusive home and placed in state foster care last year. He and his 3-year-old brother were placed in the Baker home in August. In the seven months that followed, records show that his caseworker visited only once, in December, even though his care plan called for monthly home visits.

On Feb. 18, Joshua arrived for his regular counseling session at the Fisher center with two black eyes and a sore arm. The next day, center staff reviewed the incident and took no action.

On Feb. 28, he showed up with an Ace bandage wrapped tightly around his arm from shoulder to wrist, crying in pain. Although there was a nurse on duty, prosecutors say Kaplansky took the boy to her supervisor, who called the foster mother and accepted the explanation that Joshua had hurt his arm falling out of bed.

His autopsy would show an untreated shoulder fracture. It was the sort of injury that could only come from an arm being pulled violently, not from a fall, said Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Leonard.

At the time of Joshua's death, he was one of four foster children living in the home. Baker earned approximately $96,000 a year from the state for caring for the foster children and an adopted child and for helping her mother care for her own foster children.

Officials at the St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center are backing their caseworkers, even as they launch a review of the incident.

"St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center is confident that no act or omission by its employees caused Joshua's death," the center's president, Paula J. Herbert, said in a statement Monday.

Second-degree child abuse carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison; failing to report child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor.
 
Jacqueline Dawn Brewer , 28-month-old


Jacqueline Brewer aged 28 mos,who died in Saint John on Dec.17 ,1996,neglected,dehydrated and forgotten in her crib at home where she lived in loneliness squalor and misery with her parents,under the supervision of social workers,health care experts and child protection officials.Her death diminishes all of us.We will remember Jacqueline." 

The wide attention that Jacqueline's death has attracted is a stark contrast to her short life.Shut away in dirty little room for hours on end,she was largely ignored by her parents.At the trial,witness after witness testified that they rarely saw Jacqueline out of her room. A medical expert testified that deprivation by her parents was the likely cause of death.She had not been given anything to drink for several hours before her death.Mark Janes and Helen Brewer, her parents had been under the watchful eye of Health and community services who investigated more then a dozen complaints.
 
Ciara Floyd , 3-year-old


Jury Finds DCF At Fault In North Florida Girl's Death

STARKE, Fla. -- A Bradford County jury found the state Department of Children & Families 100 percent at fault Wednesday in the death of a 3-year-old girl left in an abusive home.
Ciara Floyd was beaten to death by her mother's boyfriend in 1996, a month after the girl's father took her to Shands Hospital in Gainesville with bruises on her chest and back. A state child abuse investigator said there was not enough evidence to remove the child from her mother's home. 
The boyfriend, Larry Christopher Noegel, had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Jurors awarded $250,000 to Ciara's father, William 
"I'm glad my story could finally come out and everybody else could finally see they had more than enough; they could have prevented her death," Floyd said.
DCF officials did not immediately say whether they would appeal the verdict.
"We are reviewing the jury's decision and are exploring our legal options," DCF spokesman Tim Bottcher said in a statement.

DCF's lawyer said in closing arguments that the investigator, Janice Joiner, had no recourse under the law but to leave Ciara with her mother. Deputy Attorney General Denis Dean said in defending DCF that there were no doctor's reports from Shands indicating abuse.

"Without that, there were no reasonable grounds to justify the removal of Ciara," Dean said. "Whether she'd like to do something, whether she has a feeling, she has to follow the law. It'd be great if she had a crystal ball."

But Floyd's lawyer said the bruises on the child's chest and back, an admitted domestic battery by her mother's boyfriend and a verified abuse report involving another child should have prompted Ciara's removal from the home, attorney Val Bates said.

"Would you have to have more information than that?" Bates asked jurors. "Ms. Joiner, she wants to see a knife sticking out of your neck."

"I did everything I knew everything I could legally do and it didn't do any good," Floyd said he told Ciara as he held her unconscious body just before she died.

Bates asked jurors to award Ciara's father $250,000, more than twice the state cap of $100,000, for negligence claims against state agencies. Bates said no amount of money could ever compensate Floyd for losing his daughter, who would now be 11 years old.

Dean called Floyd's death a "tragedy" but urged jurors not to "let the tragedy of her death be compounded by blaming Janice Joiner."

News4Jax.com   POSTED: 4:15 pm EST January 5, 2005
 
Isaac Lethbridge - 2-year-old


Another life cut short - again at the hands of those entrusted to care for him !
Just 12 days before 2-year-old Isaac Lethbridge died of a beating in a Detroit foster home, two social services workers let his foster mother keep the boy despite noting that he was covered with "greenish, blue and black" bruises and had two black eyes. Read more....
 
Heaven Traverse , 2-year-old


Manitoba to review child-welfare agencies
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 | 4:42 AM ET
CBC News
The Manitoba government announced Monday it will review the treatment of children at its Child and Family Services department, following recent reports of the deaths of two children in the Fisher River First Nation community.
Family Service Minister Christine Melnick said the external review will examine the protocol surrounding the opening and closing of cases, the transfer of cases between various child-welfare authorities and the caseloads managed by front-line social workers.

Melnick said she hopes the review process will improve services for children in care and provide support for social workers who are on the front lines. 
The opposition Conservatives also want a full public inquiry into child care, so clients and workers can speak freely about problems they see in the system. They have also called for Melnick's resignation.

Second Fisher River girl died in care

Meanwhile, the father of another child on the Fisher River First Nation has come forward with a troubling story of his daughter's death in the care of child-welfare authorities.

Fisher River resident Lawrence Traverse said he believes his two-year-old daughter, Heaven, was abused while in the care of the child-welfare system.

Traverse told CBC News he saw unexplained bruises on Heaven on several occasions while she was in the care of a foster family. He said he raised concerns about his daughter's care with child-welfare authorities.

Heaven died in a Winnipeg hospital in January 2005. Traverse said she appeared to have several bruises on her body, including a large welt on her head. He said doctors told him Heaven died as a result of head trauma.

RCMP investigators say Heaven's death is still being investigated. No charges have been laid.

Traverse's case is the second tragic story in recent weeks about children in care on the Fisher River First Nation. Last week, RCMP charged Samantha Dawn Kematch, 24 and her common-law husband, Karl Wesley McKay, with first-degree murder in the death of the Kematch's five-year-old daughter, Phoenix Victoria Sinclair.

Phoenix had been missing for nine months, although her case only came to light recently. Court documents indicate police believe the little girl was abused, confined and eventually killed in June 2005. Her body has not been found.

Phoenix was in and out of the child welfare system for most of her life. Her case had been closed by social workers before her death.

Lack of resources: former social worker

A former social worker said a lack of resources and foster families may have contributed to the deaths of the two little girls on the Fisher River First Nation.

Janet Brady, a former social worker who currently teaches at the University of Manitoba's faculty of social work in Thompson, said most groups who work with endangered children are facing a lack of resources.

"I think the problem is now with agencies having enough placement resources for children," Brady told CBC News on Monday. "Do they have enough foster homes? What is the quality of those foster homes that they do have, and is there training going on for those foster parents?"

Brady believes there should be a public inquiry into the deaths of Phoenix Sinclair and Heaven Traverse, but she's not confident it would result in changes, noting inquiries have been held on similar cases in the past.

"It's very sad when I hear this over and over and over again," she said. " I thought we've done this before. Have we not learned from our mistakes? We've had internal reviews of the system and recommendations have been made, so it kind of begs the question, how come things are not getting any better?"


"Manitobans want to know the answers," she said. "I want to know the answers. We will find out the answers, and we will make the changes to improve the child and family services system for all of our children."

The external review will be carried out by Manitoba ombudsman Irene Hamilton, children's advocate Billie Schibler and an Ontario child and family services director.

The internal review under the Child and Family Services Act will examine financial files and accountability, review file-management practices and interview agency staff, management, clients and community members.

The external review is scheduled to have a draft completed by the end of June, with a final report due by September.

 
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