Irvington man charged with hitting foster child in head with frying pan


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Irvington man charged with hitting foster child in head with frying pan

IRVINGTON — An Irvington man has been arrested after smashing a frying pan over his 15-year-old foster daughter’s head earlier this month, police said.

Keith Watts, 56, was charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence in the Aug. 16 attack, according to Irvington Police Director Joseph Santiago. The victim also told investigators her foster parents often prevented her from making contact with the outside world by restricting her access to phones, Santiago said.

The girl has been removed from the Watts family’s custody, according to Santiago, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation and an internal probe by the state Department of Children and Families.

Police became aware of the alleged attack when the girl managed to make contact with her biological father on Aug. 17. Irvington police met with the victim and her father, whose identities are being withheld to protect the girl, and she told investigators she was "horseplaying" with Watts when he hit her with the frying pan.

The girl suffered a "large contusion" on her head, and was taken to Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark for treatment, Santiago said.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office was unable to provide any updates on Watts’ case, and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

There are hundreds of foster parent abuse complaints filed each year, according to Children and Families, but few cases of abuse and neglect against foster parents are ever proved.

In 2010, less than 1 percent of abuse and neglect cases involving foster children were substantiated, according to the June monitoring report by Center for the Study of Social Policy, a nonprofit organization evaluating the court-order overhaul of New Jersey’s child-welfare system.