Foster parent arrested for child abuse, toddler has permanent brain damage




TUCSON - A foster care parent was arrested and charged with child abuse on Tuesday.
Griselda Badilla, 34, was booked into the Pima County Jail and remains there upon legal-status verification from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The investigation began with a 911 call made on March 11 regarding a child choking.
That child was 2-year-old Anthony Armenta, who was taken to the hospital with massive bleeding in the brain.
Further medical examination revealed that Anthony suffered permanent brain damage consistent with that of non-accidental trauma.
Badilla's attorney, Rafael Gallego, insisted she had nothing to do with the head injury but would not specify how it happened.
Throughout the investigation, detectives learned that Griselda Badilla was the child's foster mother and had custody of him at the time he sustained these injuries.
Gallego said Badilla has been a foster parent for only six months.
Anthony's biological parents said they have seen him suffer multiple injuries since Child Protective Services placed him in foster care back in September.
Badilla is being held until ICE agents can verify that she has the proper documentation to remain in the U.S.
According to Gallego, Badilla has been in the country for about year and a half and is in the country legally.
News 4 Tucson reached out to Child Protective Services for comment but has not received a response.



Teen Held in Adult Prison for 3 Weeks Because She's Under Foster Care



By Tequan Wright

Selina Garcia, a 17-year old senior from Southeast Raleigh High School in Wake County, North Carolina, has just been released after spending 3 weeks in prison for getting into a school brawl.
Garcia pled guilty to misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct at her court hearing this Thursday. The Afro-Latina teen was arrested on March 7 by a school resource officer after she allegedly punched another student in the head on a school bus. She was then placed in the Wake County Detention Center until March 10 when the judge ordered her release until her this past week's hearing.
Still, Garcia remained locked behind bars.
North Carolina law states that any 16 or 17 year old charged with a crime, including misdemeanors, will be put into the adult legal system. However, Garcia is still considered a minor by the state's social service laws, and as such, she could only be released into the custody of her legal guardian.
But Selina Garcia happens to be a foster child - she has no legal guardian. When no one came to pick the girl up, the state had no choice but to have her remain in jail until the hearing.
For weeks, many protested Garcia's confinement, a reflection of the state's inability to properly care for foster children, and the school system's overreliance on using law enforcement to punish student behavior. The Legal Aid of North Carolina filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice against the Wake County School System in January. According to the complatint, district use of "school resource officers" has resulted in a disproportionate number of minority students being turned over to the county legal system.
Jennifer Story, an attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina's Advocates for Children's Services, has been one of the most vocal advocates for Garcia's release. She has followed Garcia throughout her journey through the foster-care system. Garcia had suffered major abuse as a child before she entered foster-care and has jumped from various homes and schools in the last two years.
"You cannot use jail as a boarding house for foster children," said Story.
Upon her release on Thursday, Wake County officials confirmed that they were able to find placement for Garcia in Raleigh. Garcia told the judge she will work on managing her anger and setting a better example. Story said that they will work with the school system to make sure Garcia graduates this year.



Ramsey County urges foster parents to stop smoking around children in their care



By Frederick Melo

Ramsey County is urging foster parents to put away the cigarettes while they're taking care of foster children.
County officials said they will add smoking to the list of red flags when they're considering child placements.
"If we have a child in a home ... it should be clear that the intent of this board is that smoking is not acceptable," said Commissioner Rafael Ortega. "If we have somebody who is smoking two packs of cigarettes a day ... we should really be looking for alternatives."
After a lengthy discussion Tuesday, the seven-member Ramsey County Board amended and then adopted the recommendation of its Community Human Services Department, which, in light of a lack of clear direction from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, has been studying smoking guidelines for foster families in counties across the state.
Board members said their goal is to strike a balance between the smoking rights of foster families and visitors to the foster home, and the needs of children to live free of secondhand smoke, which can be just as much as a health hazard as smoking.
According to the resolution, the new parameters, which are still being finalized, "intend to keep smoking from occurring when foster children and adolescents are in residence in the home, but are not intended to ban smoking by foster care providers ... altogether."
Commissioner Janice Rettman expressed concern about the policy affecting otherwise successful foster care placements and foster care licenses, especially placements with relatives.
"You've got some people in foster homes right now, (and) they may be in a kinship home, or they may be in a place where they're thriving," Rettman said.
Others agreed.
"The one thing we don't want to do is make this so prescriptive," said Commissioner Blake Huffman, who is a licensed foster parent. "There may be a child (living with) a grandma, and for whatever reason, the grandma may not be able to smoke outside. ... I don't want to tie hands too tightly."
County Human Services Director Monty Martin also worried that the wording may come across as a requirement rather than a guideline.
The Human Services Department will explore how best to implement the parameters, and officials said they will not automatically remove children from successful placements or blood relatives because smoking has occurred.
Responding to those concerns, Commissioner Toni Carter added more flexible language to the resolution, stating that "whereas implementation of the parameters and placement preference will be with the highest regard to the health, safety and welfare of children or adolescents ... and with regard to the circumstances of prospective and current providers."
Board members said the parameters will provide a new tool and stronger starting point for social workers to engage families.
"We shouldn't avoid those tough conversations with these families, when the interest of the child should be paramount," said County Board Chair Jim McDonough.
The board plans to revisit the parameters in six months to see how well they are working.

Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172. Follow him at twitter.com/FrederickMelo.

Hoeven introduces legislation seeking tougher foster care rules for reservations; Heitkamp a co-sponsor





WASHINGTON - While the state of North Dakota has long required background checks for foster parents and other adults in foster homes, that’s not necessarily been the case on the state’s American Indian reservations, something Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he hopes to change.
He and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., have introduced legislation to toughen foster parenting requirements in Indian Country. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., is a co-sponsor, as is Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. Tester is chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Barrasso is the ranking member.
Hoeven and Heitkamp have been involved in working with the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation to improve child protection, following the highly publicized death of several children there.
But the children died while in the care of their families, in one case the child’s mother, in another the children’s cousin, and in still another, the child’s step-grandmother.
Still, Hoeven said he believes improving the foster care standards can only help save lives in the future.
“We need to do everything possible to make sure all of our children are safe and prevent abuse in the home,” Heitkamp said in a statement. An aide said she was on the floor of the Senate and could not speak to reporters when called. “This bill takes a solid step toward accomplishing that. Combined with my bill to create a Commission on Native Children, we can address many of the challenges facing Native children by reducing domestic violence and substance abuse, and setting our Native kids on a path to grow and succeed.”
Safer homes
The commission she referred to would study issues affecting Indian children – such as high rates of poverty, child abuse, crime and substance abuse – and make recommendations to help improve their lives. It would also look at programs and grants available.
Hoeven and Tester are sponsors of Heitkamp’s legislation.
If Hoeven’s legislation, called the Native American Children’s Safety Act, passed, it would require the Bureau of Indian Affairs to run background checks on all adults living in a prospective foster home. The foster home would have to undergo periodic background checks, which would lead to the detection of any adults who had not been screened.
An existing law requires that Indian children be placed with Indian households where possible, Hoeven said. “That’s another reason you need this law that I’m working to pass now because you’ve got to make sure you’ve got background checks done so that it’s a safe environment.”
Some advocates of reservation children’s safety have criticized the requirement for placement in Indian homes, saying that tribes have put children at risk to avoid placing them in non-Indian homes. The requirement is meant to preserve Indian culture.
Asked if his legislation would increase the workload of BIA agents without increasing funding, Hoeven said, “Obviously, if you ran the BIA, you’d understand you have responsibility to make sure the foster homes are safe. I don’t know that there’s what I would call a big cost associated with it. But to the extent there are costs, that’s something I would be willing to make sure we address in the appropriation process.”



Kirkland woman charged with abusing then-2-year-old foster child





by RAECHEL DAWSON,  Kirkland Reporter Reporter

A Kirkland woman was recently charged with second-degree assault of a child after she was arrested for allegedly abusing a then-2-year-old foster boy in the spring and summer of 2013.
Tonja J Maciolek, 47, is being held at King County jail on $75,000 bail.
After a lengthy investigation, Kirkland police arrested Maciolek in January for fracturing the 3-year-old boy’s elbows and severely injuring his head.
She was charged with two counts of the crime at King County Superior Court on March 18.
On May 10, 2013, Maciolek took the boy to the emergency room of EvergreenHealth Medical Center for an elbow injury he had been complaining of for two days.
Doctors determined the boy, whose initials are A.O., had a supracondylar fracture to his left elbow. Upon follow-up at ProOrtho Surgeons in Kirkland, one of the doctor’s asked A.O. how it happened, to which he replied, “Mommy did it,” according to charging documents.
Three months later on Aug. 14, Maciolek again brought the boy into the emergency room at EvergreenHealth Medical Center. According to the charging documents, she told doctors her foster son complained of head pain and had vomited at dinner that evening.
“Tonja Maciolek was concerned that he had fallen and suffered a head injury, which she claimed not to have witnessed,” charging documents state.
Doctors later determined he suffered a subdural hematoma, which was caused by a head injury that resulted in intracranial bleeding.
The boy was rushed to Seattle Children’s Hospital by ambulance, during which doctors observed bruising all over his body. When he arrived, medical staff called the police.
A social worker and two Kirkland police detectives interviewed Maciolek at the hospital.
Charging documents state they observed her to be “detached from A.O. and declined an offer to see him before he was transported from the ER to the medical floor (ICU)."
During the interview, Maciolek allegedly referred to the boy as a brat and she repeatedly said he was clumsy and “always falling and causing head injuries to himself.”
“She offered no explanation whatsoever for the bruises that covered A.O.’s body,” the documents continue, noting that her husband was out of town at the time on a business trip.
Police contacted A.O.’s Kirkland daycare and learned that the boy had not had bruises all over his body at daycare nor had he had any accidents the day he was taken to the hospital. The operator indicated she knew this because he had worn shorts and a t-shirt that day, according to the charging documents.
In another interview with Maciolek, police allegedly heard her admit to being a “grabber” and aggressive. When asked if she had ever grabbed the boy hard enough to break an elbow, she said, “Maybe, but I didn’t intend on breaking anything,” the documents continue.
“When I asked Tonja if she ever hit A.O., she didn’t offer a denial but rather said, ‘I wanted to when he first came,’” a Kirkland police detective stated in the charging documents.
Maciolek and her husband had been foster parents to  A.O. since October 2012.
During A.O.’s several doctor visits following his head trauma, doctors noted his bruising was inconsistent with falling or normal child’s play. They also found an unknown elbow fracture, different to the one reported in May 2013, and that he was underweight at 21 pounds, which put him in the 1 percent category for his age.
A.O. was placed in a different foster home after he was discharged from the hospital. Charging documents state neither hospital staff nor his new foster family noticed he was “clumsy” or prone to bumping or falling.
With a new family, the boy gained weight and told his new foster mom twice that his prior foster mother had hurt him. He allegedly said his ‘mommy’ banged his head into the wall during bath time. About a month later, he said his ‘mommy’ broke his arm, as he showed his new foster mom a twisting motion with his arm.
“It hurt bad,” he said, according to charging documents.
After A.O. had been living with his new foster family for three months, a detective visited the family for a follow up interview. During this time, he noticed A.O. had gained weight.
Although the detective states he didn’t direct any questions at the boy, A.O. told the officer, “Mommy Tonja hit my bottom really hard,” and “Mommy Tonja hurt my ear too. She bent it," at the time of the visit.
Maciolek, who has no criminal history, will be arraigned on March 31 at King County Superior Court.



8 children in foster care, mother charged with abuse



By: Lauren Hansard

Eight Alamogordo children are in foster care after police found them living in deplorable conditions.
Their 26-year-old mother has been arrested for child abuse.
Now police are looking for the grandmother.
26-year-old Angel Baca has seven children.
Her 6-year-old son went to school with a bruise on his face, and police were called when the boy told the school nurse his mother abused him.
Police learned the boy and three other children were living at their grandmothers house, Ana Hurtado, and went to check it out.
Alamogordo Police Sergeant Roger Schoolcraft says officers immediately knew something was wrong.
“It was an overwhelming smell of feces both human and animal," said Schoolcraft.
Police say the home was without running water for at least three weeks.
“The house was un-kept, old food, detergents, poisonous cleaners left out were easily accessible to the children," said Schoolcraft.
Police found Baca at another home living with four other children.
All eight children are now in state custody.
Baca is behind bars for child abuse.
Police say Hurtado, the grandmother, is on the run.
She is wanted for four counts of child abuse.
If you know where she is, call the Alamogordo Police Department at 575-439-4300.




Doctors Weigh In on Foster Child Death




by Mikaya Thurmond

With autopsy results revealing new and old brain bleeding and a body covered in bruises, local doctors say those injuries indicate a horrible cause of death. "With retinal hemorrhages there, that is also a sign of shaking baby syndrome. You think there would probably be some abuse in the past and might've been some in the present," says Dr. Teresa Baysden.

And with such a troubled life, either is possible for the little girl known as Sahara Palmer to her foster home and Sahara Weatherspoon on her death certificate.

The Georgia DHS's first report of abuse was about a year ago  when she and her 6-year-old brother, reportedly, observed their father, Ellis Weatherspoon, stabbing their mother AND setting their trailer on fire in an attempt to kill all three. The children the report says were placed in DFCS custody due to extreme domestic violence.

But after the February incident, things didn't seem to get any better. The children bounced from foster home to foster home.

Eventually, they went back to their biological parents, but it was soon after when there was another run in with the law. The DHS report says one of the parents was arrested in September 2013 with meth and the children in the car. But, it appears DFACS was the last to know and left the children in their custody until they "discovered it through a newspaper article. "

From there, the kids remained in state custody handed off to at least three different case managers none of which were sharing the concerns or reports of abuse in their case files.




Baby in foster care dies after visit to biological mother





Michele Fiore

KENOSHA - Authorities say it's been more than a decade since they've seen a case like this.  A baby boy in foster care dies after a visit with his biological mother.  The baby was living with a family in Kenosha, but his biological mother noticed something was wrong during a visit last week.
The little boy died on March 13th at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha, but information is still scarce.  We do know Kenosha police are investigating and sent detectives to Aurora Medical Center to find out what happened.
 It's a sensitive case that no one is saying much about right now. A one year old boy, living with a foster family in Kenosha is now dead.  The only official document we were able to get is from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.  It shows he'd been taken from his family and placed in "out of home care" by the agency.  Now, they're investigating his death for possible maltreatment.
 Police tell us the biological mother lives in Pleasant Prairie and it was on a visit with her that she noticed something was terribly wrong and rushed her baby to the hospital.
 What we don't know is the timeline. How long did she have the baby? Did she just pick him up from foster care or had they been together for several hours? And one more question, were her visits supervised?
 The unexplained death of a one year old is shocking parents of little ones in Pleasant Prairie and in Kenosha.  Chris Constabileo has a seven month old and says before she got pregnant, she'd considered being a foster mom.
 "So I'd imagine as anything, there's good and there's bad unfortunately, ya know, and that's why I was saying I wonder you know, the screening process, how well is it, how does it compare to adoption 'cause I know that's hard," said Constabileo.
 The Kenosha police department is investigating, along with the Racine County Human Services Department. The director told us it's a rare situation, and their investigation could take up to 60 days to complete.
 No charges have been filed yet, and since we won't know the results from some of the medical tests done on the baby for several months, it seems, it could take a long time before we know what happened.



Foster teen alleging sex with cop provides salacious details





Investigation involving a veteran Miami Beach detective continues
Author: Andrea Torres

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. -
A foster teen's allegations included in a search warrant the Pembroke Pines clerk’s office released Monday read like a script for porn.
The characters: A veteran Miami Beach detective and a teenage girl with a criminal record trying to graduate from high school.  The dark twist: She was in foster care and was living in Miami Beach Det. Oldy Ochoa's home with his wife -- a retired Miami Beach police officer. They have three sons and two step-sons.
Pembroke Pines Police Capt. Al Xiques said the investigation is ongoing.
"We are waiting on the results of DNA tests," Xiques said. "Those usually take a few weeks."
It was a day before Valentine’s Day. The two were in an unmarked 2013 silver Ford Fusion Miami Beach police car with dark tinted windows. Ochoa was taking the teen to Florida Career College, 7891 Pines Blvd., in Pembroke Pines, when he allegedly decided to park "in a secluded alley."
They kissed "in a passionate manner," the girl said. Oral sex followed.  The girl "straddled on top" of the officer who was in the driver's seat.  He didn't wear a condom and used a towel to clean himself.
The girl said she and the detective, a 24-year-veteran with Miami Beach police, "were often flirtatious with each other" via e-mail and Facebook. He also used his mobile phone to take pictures of her "while she posed," a search warrant said.
There was a second time when he used a condom, but he dropped it on the floor, the girl told police March 4. Six days later, Pembroke Pines police detectives took DNA swabs and a towel from the Miami Beach police car.
"We are cooperating with the Pembroke Pines Police Department to make sure there is a thorough investigation," Miami Beach Chief Raymond Martinez said in a statement earlier this month.
The Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes said in an e-mail earlier this month the abuse report and the girl's status were confidential.
The Ochoa family declined to comment. And Miami Beach police said the detective remains suspended with pay pending the results of the investigation.



severely injured while in foster care



By Jonquil Newland

Jennifer Palmer spent Monday at Erlanger Children's Hospital after a surprise knock at her door early in the morning.

"Police and DFCS lady came to my door, my case worker. She told me she had something bad to tell me about my daughter," Palmer explains. That's how she learned her daughter, Sahara, was severely injured.
It's been a rough year for Palmer and her children. Last February Palmer's then-boyfriend was charged with kidnapping their two kids, 6-year-old Elijah and Sahara who was 1-year-old at the time.
Ellis Weatherspoon was also charged with trying to burn down a camper with the children inside and stabbing Palmer 14 times.
The state put the children in foster care in Ringgold. Palmer claims she saw bruises on her children when she visited and tried to tell her case worker.
"I told her, there's something going on in that house, they're doing something to my baby," Palmer says.

Sahara, now 2-years-old, is fighting for her life in a hospital bed with apparent bruises on her arm. Her outlook doesn't look good, according to Palmer.
"If there's any chance she can make it she's going to be a vegetable. She'll never be able to walk or talk, she won't know who I am, her brother," says Palmer.
    
Channel 3 spoke to Palmer's case worker who had "no comment." We reached out to the spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Human Services who says by law they cannot confirm or deny any involvement in any investigation unless it involves the death of a child.

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk says his department is aware of the incident and is following up on the child's injuries.
"Her face is swollen, she's bruised up on both cheeks, on her forehead she's got new bruises. Her arm has bruises, her back has bruises," explains Palmer. "I knew something is going on there, my heart tells me something is going on there. I'm just hoping they're strong enough to tell the truth."

Palmer's 6-year-old son was also examined and went through a forensic interview Monday afternoon. Meanwhile Palmer says she's looking for legal council.

Sheriff Sisk says the investigation is extremely early and they're trying to get all the facts laid out.

Child severely injured while in foster care



By Jonquil Newland

Jennifer Palmer spent Monday at Erlanger Children's Hospital after a surprise knock at her door early in the morning.

"Police and DFCS lady came to my door, my case worker. She told me she had something bad to tell me about my daughter," Palmer explains. That's how she learned her daughter, Sahara, was severely injured.
It's been a rough year for Palmer and her children. Last February Palmer's then-boyfriend was charged with kidnapping their two kids, 6-year-old Elijah and Sahara who was 1-year-old at the time.
Ellis Weatherspoon was also charged with trying to burn down a camper with the children inside and stabbing Palmer 14 times.
The state put the children in foster care in Ringgold. Palmer claims she saw bruises on her children when she visited and tried to tell her case worker.
"I told her, there's something going on in that house, they're doing something to my baby," Palmer says.

Sahara, now 2-years-old, is fighting for her life in a hospital bed with apparent bruises on her arm. Her outlook doesn't look good, according to Palmer.
"If there's any chance she can make it she's going to be a vegetable. She'll never be able to walk or talk, she won't know who I am, her brother," says Palmer.
    
Channel 3 spoke to Palmer's case worker who had "no comment." We reached out to the spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Human Services who says by law they cannot confirm or deny any involvement in any investigation unless it involves the death of a child.

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk says his department is aware of the incident and is following up on the child's injuries.
"Her face is swollen, she's bruised up on both cheeks, on her forehead she's got new bruises. Her arm has bruises, her back has bruises," explains Palmer. "I knew something is going on there, my heart tells me something is going on there. I'm just hoping they're strong enough to tell the truth."

Palmer's 6-year-old son was also examined and went through a forensic interview Monday afternoon. Meanwhile Palmer says she's looking for legal council.
Sheriff Sisk says the investigation is extremely early and they're trying to get all the facts laid out.


As Outrage Grows Over Child Deaths, Lawmakers Talk Money




TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Legislative leaders are responding to public outrage over a series of child deaths in Florida last year — and not just in the policy arena. They’re also talking about spending more money on the state’s troubled child-welfare system.
Committees have been studying the deaths since September and have come up with complex legislation touching a dozen different concerns, from improved safety planning to expanded death reviews to keeping siblings together and medically fragile children in their communities.
But on Tuesday, as The Miami Herald continued a detailed investigation into the children’s deaths, legislative leaders were also talking about money.
“We need comprehensive services, not adequate services,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. “In our statute, it says ‘adequate services.’ Adequate’s not good enough.”
And that means money. The Herald analyzed the deaths of 477 children whose families had a history with the state Department of Children and Families, finding that the agency’s budget had been reduced from $2.88 billion in fiscal year 2005-06 to $2.80 billion in fiscal year 2013-14.
During that time, the overall state budget grew from $64.5 billion to $74.1 billion. The 477 deaths occurred over a six-year period.
While Gov. Rick Scott has recommended spending nearly $40 million to hire 400 new child protective investigators during the upcoming fiscal year, he hasn’t recommended more money to serve children and families once they’re in the system.
The Herald, for instance, found that two-thirds of the 477 child deaths were related to substance abuse. Advocates have long called for the state to fund more substance-abuse and mental-health treatment programs.
“Now that we’re in economic good times, an investment on the substance-abuse side would be an important step,” said former Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, who is running for attorney general this year.
Senate President Don Gaetz said Sobel’s committee, which passed three child-welfare reform bills last week, hadn’t yet arrived at a recommended amount, “but I’m committed to doing what we need to do.”
“It’s been the Senate’s intention right along that we will invest more money on a recurring basis in developing a child-welfare system that is more professional, that’s more effective and less porous — and hopefully, will be a system we can be proud of instead of one we can be horrified at,” said Gaetz, a Niceville Republican.
The House Healthy Families Subcommittee, which had planned to take action Tuesday on a far-reaching child welfare reform bill, put off the vote for a week to fine-tune the proposal.
“We’re going to change the system,” Chairwoman Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said. “We’re going to make it better. … We are going to do everything in our power to stop children dying at the hands of an abuser.”
Department of Children and Families Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said an extensive analysis of gaps in Florida’s child-welfare services system would be released in the near future, with preliminary findings out as early as next week.
“As soon as we get that, we can target the different areas of the state that have issues in terms of resources needed or programs needed for safety,” Jacobo said.
Harrell, too, said her chamber is talking about finding more money for child welfare services. The committee’s original bill would have created a tuition reimbursement program for child protective investigators who take social-work classes. The revised bill would extend that benefit to case managers, who work for the privatized community-based care lead agencies, not the state, providing adoption and foster care services.
“There’s going to be some money out there,” Harrell said. “The (community-based care lead agencies) are going to get some more money, is our plan.”
This report is by Margie Menzel with The News Service of Florida.



New Details in Foster Child Death



by Mikaya Thurmond

Panicked... That's the reason Sahara Palmer's foster parents say they waited seven hours to take her to hospital. Foster mom, Clara Edwards, described the two-year-old as unresponsive in her final hours of life.
  
Police say it all started New Year's Day, when Edwards claimed that Sahara fell down the stairs to chase a toy. A very different story from what she told police the day of the incident when she describe two days full of "minor injuries"

Edwards says the child was fine after the fall, but noticed the two-year-old was laying in her bed more than 8 hours later, not moving. Edwards says she "attempted to revive the child by placing hands in cold water and then taking the child outside in the cold air."

Once realizing things weren't turning around, the foster parents decided to go to the hospital, but not before "driving around for a little while and then driving back home."

With multiple case workers and a 12-page DHS summary documenting a series of injuries, many may wonder if this case fell through the cracks. While there's more questions than answers, one thing is certain. This little girl suffered a life of neglect and abuse.


CATOOSA COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -
New documents show North Georgia foster parents waited seven hours before seeking help for an injured child in their care. Two-year-old Saharah Weatherspoon later died from that injury.

It's a case Channel 3 has been following since it happened late last year. Division of Family and Children Services documents list other injuries and allegations of abuse and neglect against the foster parents.

In the 12-page, heavily-redacted report, around 2:30 p.m. on December 29th, 2013, Saharah Weatherspoon's foster parent said she fell down the stairs inside the Ringgold residence while playing with a ball. The foster parent reported the child crying a little, but said she kept playing and seemed fine.

Later that night around 10 p.m., a sibling found Saharah slumped over and making snoring noises. The foster parent tried reviving her with cold water and fresh air, and drove around for a while, but Saharah never got better. When asked why they didn't call 911, the foster parent said they "panicked."

Eyewitness News spoke with the child's biological mother, Jennifer Palmer, right after it happened. She suspected her child was a victim of violence.

"I told her, there's something going on in that house, they're doing something to my baby," Palmer said.

In the case summary, preliminary autopsy results showed evidence of bruising on the child's neck, back, arms, face and torso, along with new and old brain bleeding. The 12-page document notes three previous complaints and allegations of abuse and neglect against the foster parents.

In May 2013, the foster parent said one child's cut on the cheek happened after falling out of a chair. The case manager ruled it was "completely accidental."

Just months before Saharah's death, there were two additional complaints involving bruising, abuse and neglect. Case managers ruled those allegations were either accidental or unproved.

No charges have been filed, but the case is still open according to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office. Captain Chris Lyons said they are "waiting on final autopsy results to come back" before deciding to pursue any charges.

The Catoosa County Coroner said the pathologist is performing additional autopsy tests, and those results are not back yet. It could take up to several weeks or months, she said.



State audit: 25 DCF homes match sex offender addresses




State investigators found dozens of instances in which the addresses of homes under DCF matched those of Level 2 and 3 sex offenders, according to an audit released today that found the state’s child welfare agency does not screen for whether sex offenders live in a foster home’s neighborhood, does a shoddy job of keeping records on the background checks it performs on foster parents, and lags in getting kids in its care to doctors.
In the audit’s 27-month timeframe, state Auditor Suzanne Bump’s office said, investigators found 25 instances in which the addresses of foster homes, adoptive homes and others under the Department of Children and Families watch matched those of Level 2 and 3 sex offenders. When DCF investigated, it said none of the sex offenders were actually living in the same home and that they could not “substantiate” that any abuse happened.
But Bump’s office said some examples still posed “high-risk” placements, including a 3-year-old under DCF care who was living in a different unit of the same building as a Level 3 sex offender convicted of rape of a child with force. In another instance, a 12-year-old and 9-year-old lived in the same building as another Level 3 sex offender up until October 2012.
 Related: Read the Auditor's report
Bump’s office said it “believes that some of the situations we identified during our matching process represent a significant risk to a child, and therefore, DCF should consider using this SORB information, which is readily available, as another means to ensure the safety of children placed in its custody.”
DCF officials told Bump’s office that it did not have what it considered “streamlined access” to the Sex Offender Registry but that it is “working on obtaining this access,” according to the report.
The report from Bump’s office deepens the scrutiny of the embattled Department of Children and Families, which is also under investigation by a Washington, D.C., advocacy group as well as legislators looking to identify systemic issues.
The audit, which covered a 15-month period between July 2010 and Sept. 2012, pre-dates the case of Jeremiah Oliver, a Fitchburg 5-year-old whose disappearance went unnoticed for months by state social workers assigned to his family.
But it zeros in on a number of issues that have emerged in the wake of the case, among them how the department documents its background checks.
The audit found that DCF maintains an incomplete record of the checks it performed, meaning “DCF cannot provide assurance that such checks were performed and properly evaluated before DCF placed children in those foster homes,” Bump’s office said in a statement.
Under DCF rules, prospective foster parents with a variety of criminal records may be barred from taking in children, but the agency can consider giving them a waiver. The Herald has reported the agency issued more than 550 waivers last year alone for foster parents with criminal records.
Bump said because DCF couldn’t give her office a complete list of foster placements for which the background check waivers had been issued, she has now launched an additional “limited-scope audit”of DCF focusing on how the agency grants background-check waivers to licensed foster homes.
“DCF front-line workers and managers need better guidance and better tools in order to effectively protect the children entrusted to their care,” Bump said in a statement. “The kind of accountability that this office needs and the public wants to see requires planning, oversight, and access to additional information and technology at the front end, not just acceptance of responsibility for something gone wrong.
“Without proper documenting, DCF’s management cannot effectively supervise its staff and ensure the public that it is achieving its mission,” she added.
The agency also isn’t ensuring that kids in their care are being seen by doctors within the seven-day and 30-day windows set by DCF.
The Child Welfare League of America — a Washington, D.C. advocacy group hired by Gov. Deval Patrick to probe DCF— had also released findings on medical screening in an initial report this month. It urged the agency to do initial screenings within 72 hours; almost a quarter of children in DCF’s care do not currently get medical exams even within 30 days.
DCF and its commissioner, Olga Roche, have been under heavy fire in recent months, starting with the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, who was last seen by family members in September. His sister alerted school officials three months later in December that he was missing, and authorities, fearing Oliver is dead, have launched a homicide investigation.
The boy’s mother, Elsa Oliver, and her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, were indicted last week on a series of charges in connection with the case, including kidnapping, assault and battery, and in Sierra’s case, indecent assault and battery of a child.
The Herald has exposed a number of other problems at the agency, including cases of abuse in foster care and that only one-third of its social workers are actually licensed by the state. DCF has also acknowledged that more than 100 “on the run” kids in their care are missing.
The report drew quick responses from Massachusetts Republicans, including gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker, who said the audit's "sobering" findings pushes his notion that Commissioner Olga Roche needs to resign.
"From faulty record keeping, to lack of oversight resulting in missed visits to our state's most vulnerable children, it is clear that the state is not meeting its responsibility to keep safe the children in DCF's care," Baker said in a statement released through his campaign. "I continue to believe that putting new leadership in place is the first step in fixing this broken agency."
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said Bump's report "reconfirms" the types of failures inside the agency, and used it as a call for reforms, in part, through legislative action.

"Now, more than ever, it is clear that reforming this agency needs to be a priority for the Legislature and the Administration, and the job needs to be done in a timely and effective way," Tarr said in a statement.

Las Vegas police: Former foster parents arrested on child abuse, neglect charges



By BEN BOTKIN
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

Two former foster parents were arrested on charges of abuse and neglect of three children whom they later adopted, according to Las Vegas police reports released Thursday.
Janet Solander, 53, and Dwight Solander, 50, face multiple felony charges that include child abuse, neglect or endangerment. The mother also is charged with sexual assault of a minor. Also facing charges is Janet Solander’s biological daughter, Danielle Hinton, 21.
The three adults were taken into custody March 20 after Metro SWAT officers served a search warrant at their home on Wakashan Avenue, near Deer Springs Way and Grand Canyon Drive. The foster children were placed there by the Clark County Department of Family Services in June 2010, and were adopted by the Solanders in January 2011, police reports show.
Four other foster children placed in the Solander home in March 2013 were removed from the Solander home by Child Protective Services in late February.
According to the police report, CPS made a September, 2013 home visit and took photos showing an orange bucket with a toilet seat on top and a flat, rectangular board on the floor. Danielle Hinton told police that the girls were forced to sit on the bucket for hours as punishment and to use it as a toilet. The girls were forced to sleep on the board.
When the agency returned in February, a CPS worker asked where the adopted girls were. Janet Solander told her they were in Nebraska, and “it is none of your business.”
The CPS worker contacted Las Vegas police, who learned from Dwight Solander that the girls were in fact at Marvelous Girls Grace Academy, a private school in Pace, Fla.
ALLEGED PUNISHMENT
After being notified by Clark County Child Protective Services, Florida caseworkers found the three girls, who said they feared returning home and believed their adoptive mother would end up killing them, police reports show.
The alleged abuse began in January 2011 — the same month they were adopted — and lasted into November 2013. The girls ranged in age from about 9 to 12 years old at the time of the abuse, court records show.
The girls told Florida caseworkers that the three defendants hit them with a paint stick on their legs and buttocks until they bled if they had an accident or answered homework problems wrong, police said. Medical exams found scarring.
Janet Solander had a timer and prevented the girls from using the bathroom until it went off, the police report said. The girls were in pain from being forced to wait, police said. One of the daughters told investigators that if they had bathroom accidents, Janet Solander would force the girls to put their soiled underwear in their mouths.
Janet Solander also punished them with cold showers, pouring a pitcher of ice water over them and forcing them to dry off with a large fan, according to the police report.
The girls slept in their underwear on boards with no blankets or sheets, the report said. The home had surveillance cameras, and their adoptive mother monitored them with a cellphone, the police report said.
The girls also told investigators that Janet Solander would catheterize them, then beat them if urine came out, the police report said.
In a statement, Family Services spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said the Solanders have been licensed foster parents since 2010. The department has suspended their license and intends to revoke it. She declined to comment on specifics of the ongoing investigation, citing confidentiality requirements.
SOLANDER’S BOOK
After the foster children were removed from the Solander home, a Department of Family Services nurse told CPS staff about a 2013 book self-published by Janet Solander, “Foster Care: How to Fix This Corrupted System,” the police report said. The book details her criticisms of the foster care system, and offers advice on how to deal with children.
“The easiest and most defiant way for a child to vent is by urinating or defecating in his or her pants, on the bed, or on another object …,” she wrote. “This is where the rage could start for foster parents.”
Solander, who identified herself as a nurse in her book biography, wrote that the family has fostered more than 20 children. She also defends installation of cameras in the house as helpful, given that one child, due to a psychological disorder, mutilated herself.
“…Video provides indisputable evidence of anything that happens in the house,” she wrote.
If Solander’s book is factual, CPS has investigated the family before. Solander wrote that one of her adopted daughters had a mark on her face that caught the attention of a caseworker. The daughter, whom Solander described as “manipulative,” told the caseworker that the mother had pushed her, according to the book’s account.
“Needless to say, CPS came out to our home the very next day to investigate our daughter’s claims,” Solander wrote. “After talking with all the family members living in the home, they found no evidence that our daughter had been abused or neglected, something we already knew.”
Family Services declined comment on the book.
CHARGES DETAILED
In the 23-count indictment, Dwight Solander is charged with three counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm; both parents are charged with 12 counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment; and Danielle Hinton is charged with three counts of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment with substantial bodily harm. Janet Solander is also charged with four counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm and one count of sexual assault of a minor.
Bail is set at $250,000 for Dwight Solander. No bail was listed for Janet Solander. Both are being held at the Clark County Detention Center. Hinton also remained in jail Thursday, with bail set at $50,000.

A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for April 8.