Spotlight on foster agency linked to missing boy found dead in lake


By Ron Fonger |
on July 13, 2015

MISSING 9-YEAR-OLD BOY

•           Search for missing autistic boy speaks volumes about our community
•           Davison women raising money to sponsor memorial for Omarion Humphrey at Lake Callis
•           Massive search for Omarion Humphrey gripped Michigan town, ended in tragedy
•           Omarion Humphrey was in lake the entire time he was missing, police say
•           Lake Callis set to reopen after search for 9-year-old boy

BURTON, MI -- The state is investigating the Burton agency that oversaw the foster home where Omarion Humphrey was placed, trying to determine if the 9-year-old autistic boy was properly cared for and supervised before his disappearance at Lake Callis Recreation Complex in Davison Township.
Omarion's body was found in the lake Friday, July 10, after having been brought to the park by his foster mother, who lost track of the boy during the outing.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services wants to know whether Burton-based Alternatives for Children & Families did its job investigating the foster home where Omarion had been placed before he vanished Saturday, July 4, from Lake Callis.
Investigators are also checking whether Alternatives followed licensing rules, including the development of training plans to help Omarion's foster family deal with Omarion's special needs, DHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton said.
"We are conducting an investigation right now, and we can't comment on any ongoing investigation," Wheaton said of the case. "(When there is) an incident as serious as a child being missing, we would look into the licensing agency."
The Flint Journal-MLive could not reach Alternatives for Children & Families Chief Executive Officer Yvwania Richardson for comment Thursday, July 9, or Friday, July 10, but state records show her agency has been no stranger to special investigations.
Since 2008, the state has carried out 10 investigations of Alternatives, records show, including a 2014 case in which the agency was found to have placed a child with relatives for more than six months without completing a home study or documenting that the home was safe and an appropriate placement for the child.
The agency's license as a child welfare agency is in good standing despite the investigations and a license renewal report in January that required a corrective action plan because of multiple violations, including no documentation that Alternatives made required unscheduled visits of foster parents or caregivers in three of 14 cases that were reviewed.
Foster care workers must make an unannounced home visit to licensed homes every quarter, according to MDHH rules.
Alternatives, which state records show was incorporated in 1988, has been under some scrutiny since Humphrey was reported missing on Independence Day as thousands of police, volunteers and tracking groups have searched for the boy, last seen barefoot and wearing only swim trunks.
Geneva Harvey, who represented Alternatives at an emergency court hearing last week, told an Oakland County Probate Court judge Tuesday, July 7, that police told her Humphrey's foster mother had been warned by park employees to keep a closer eye on him just hours before he vanished.
Harvey also said the foster family where Humphrey was placed had been the subject of another complaint of improper supervision of another child in the past.
Probate Judge Lisa Langton has ordered Alternatives to submit a report detailing what type of training members of the foster home where Humphrey was placed had for supervising autistic children by July 24.
Attorneys for Humphrey's biological mother and father each questioned Harvey about the foster home at the same hearing.
The Flint foster home has not been named in court or by police.
Harvey said in response to questions in court that the Humphrey case is not the first time the same foster family has faced an allegation of improper supervision.
Richard Taylor, an attorney for Humphrey's mother, said someone has to answer for why Omarion wasn't properly supervised.
"It baffles me that this family did not take more heed to watch him," Taylor said.

The Journal could not reach Parnes or Taylor for additional comment.