Sunday, January 14, 2007

Message to foster children: Don't wet the bed - or you die

One week before her death, six-year-old Katherine Frances was taken to a hospital by her foster mother, where police and doctors found "severe bruising to her forehead, both cheeks, neck, shoulders, arms, back and chest. There were severe bruises and abrasions to her pelvis, below her waist and on her buttocks."

What did they do? The state sent her right back to the foster home. How stupid is that?

Eight days later, Katherine was dead. The home where she had been staying was orginally licensed by Mesa Family Services, and that license was taken over by Therapeutic Family Life.

According to the state child protection services, the private foster care agency knew that the foster parents frequently left Katherine and her three siblings alone with their biological teenage son while they worked multiple jobs - and that this 14-year-old boy had been previously accused of harming foster children.

The teenager has been formally charged with murder. He will be tried as an adult. Katherine's older sister reported that he was angry at Katherine for wetting the bed, so he picked her up and body slammed her head-first repeatedly onto the floor.

Both the state and private agency should be held accountable for their lack of oversight. The private agency didn't screen the foster family suffiently, nor did they follow-up on child care issues. The state sent a six-year-old foster child back into an abusive placement that led to her death. The bruises that Katherine had suffered should have been a 'red light' to them.

So should the fact that Katherine's foster parents had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy since June 2005. The state doesn't require its child-placing contractors to check court records and obtain tax returns of prospective foster parents. New minimum standards that take effect this month require foster parents' incomes to be verified.

Police believe that foster mother Joyce Luvern Burks could have taken Katherine to the hospital hours before she actually did. That delay in medical care might have cost Katherine her life.

Meanwhile, Katherine's biological mother has filed a $15 million lawsuit. Did I mention that Katherine and her siblings entered foster care due to reports that they were frequently locked in the house alone, without food or electricity?

Where are Katherine's siblings? Staying with their grandfather. The state had considered sending them to their grandfather earlier, but ruled it out because there were people living in the home with criminal records or a history with CPS. So, what has changed? Are Katherine's siblings safe with their grandfather?

Action being taken by the state:
1.) On Dec. 7, 2006, CPS caseworkers began making face-to face visits with all children in foster homes formerly licensed by Mesa Family Services. These visits are to check the safety of the children and condition of the home.

2.) They will make a list of all standards violations and child safety experts will conduct a secondary review of the findings.

3.) Children will be immediately removed from any home where unacceptable risks are identified.

4.) Until this investigation is over, no children will be placed in foster homes overseen by Therapeutic Family Life (TFL), including homes that TFL took over after Mesa relinquished its contract and license.

5.) National criminal background checks will be conducted on all persons 14 years and older who live in former Mesa foster homes. Those checks will be ongoing, not just one-time.

6.) Interviews with adults who have regular contact with foster children, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, child care providers, will be conducted to ensure they are receiving proper care and to identify potential problems.

DeSoto teen charged of beating foster child to death, mother charged as well. Pegasus Newswire, Jan. 13, 2007.
Fink, Jack. Girl dies in foster home, teenage boy accused. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 6, 2006.
Fink, Jack. Girl visited hospital week before death: Group says DFPS bruising should have been red flag. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 8, 2006.
Fink, Jack. Mother files lawsuit in foster care death case. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 12, 2006.
Fink, Jack. State blames private agency for foster child death. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Jan. 12, 2007.
Garrett, Robert T. State faults foster-care contractor in girl's death: Officials cite 'gross failure;' firm's lawyer denies allegations. Texas Cable News, Jan. 11, 2007.
Gillet, Bud. Bedwetting may have prompted fatal attack. CBS 11: Dallas/Fort Worth, Dec. 8, 2006.
Yan, Holly, Robert T. Garrett and Michael Grabel. Foster brother held in death: Girl 3rd to die in home selected by agency under state scrutiny. Dallas Morning News, Dec. 6, 2006.

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Was this in Texas? Why did they let someone who had filed bankruptcy be foster parents? I thought you had to be financially stable.
Yes, Danielle, it was in Texas.

According to Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the state Department of Family and Protective Services, the state of Texas doesn't require its child-placing contractors to check court records and obtain tax returns of prospective foster parents.

He said new minimum standards that took effect this month (January 2007) require foster parents' incomes to be verified.

From this source:
Garrett, Robert T. State faults foster-care contractor in girl's death: Officials cite 'gross failure;' firm's lawyer denies allegations. Texas Cable News, Jan. 11, 2007
Really. When we (very briefly) looked into foster parenting, one of the main things was that they check your financial statements to make sure you were financially stable. I would assume your income would be part of that, so it surprises me that this only went into effect this month.
That is easily one of the saddest things I have ever heard. I hope the other children are ok.
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