CPS employee accused of covering up assault
Parents coping with the sexual assault of their 6-year-old daughter are blaming a Child Protective Services employee for compounding their pain by trying to cover-up the assault.
By SHERRI ACKERMAN
Published: May 28, 2009
Updated: 05/28/2009 12:33 am
TAMPA – Foster care caseworkers were so focused on helping 17-year-old Jasmine Bedwell succeed, they overlooked her romance with an abusive man and underestimated the danger he posed to her infant son.
Early on, they even encouraged her boyfriend, a violent criminal with a history of domestic violence, to help care for her baby.
“The focus of the safety interventions appeared to be primarily focused on Ms. Bedwell’s situation, lacking a distinct and separate perspective for the welfare of her child,” officials wrote in a state report released Wednesday.
Workers neglected to run a background check on Richard McTear Jr., 21, of Tampa, when he got involved with Bedwell, who was living on her own but being supervised by the state.
Twice she told those watching out for her that McTear had beaten her. She said he had threatened to kill her son. Still, they trusted her when she agreed not to see him again and allowed her to decide whether to take her son to live elsewhere.
McTear is accused of kicking down her door May 5, hitting her, throwing 3-month-old Emanuel Murray Jr. on a concrete floor, then kidnapping the baby and tossing him from a car window along Interstate 275.
Emanuel died. McTear remains jailed on murder and kidnapping charges.
“We dropped the ball,” said Jeff Rainey, chief operating officer of Hillsborough Kids Inc., the Tampa agency that oversees local foster care programs for the state.
The 13-page Florida Department of Children & Families investigation comes three weeks after a preliminary report found Bedwell was a capable mother doing everything she could to keep her son safe.
“It would have been nice if we would have looked a lot harder at Mr. McTear as a potential threat to the child, and that was not done,” said Nick Cox, regional director for DCF’s SunCoast Region, which includes Hillsborough County.
It is unclear when the background check on McTear was completed.
DCF questions whether Bedwell should even have been enrolled in the Independent Living program, which allows responsible teenagers in foster care to live independently before they turn 18. The program provides support so the teens can learn life skills, such as paying bills, before they age out of protective custody.
In hindsight, Cox said, Bedwell wasn’t ready for such freedom.
But the teen adamantly opposed going back to a foster home, Rainey said. Her caseworkers feared she would run away. At least in the program, they could monitor her and Emanuel, though he wasn’t in state custody, and offer support.
“We felt like it was the right choice at the time,” Rainey said. “It will be something all of us struggle with for a long time.”
The report also notes that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which investigates child abuse and neglect, deemed the threat to Bedwell as “intermediate” based on the criminal histories of Bedwell and McTear.
That threat dropped to “low” after Bedwell filed an injunction to keep McTear away and said she would follow through on a court order. She didn’t.
DCF officials said the investigator “took appropriate steps … but missed an opportunity to more accurately assess the risk” by not fully considering the implications of McTear’s previous criminal charges, including kidnapping and burglary.
Caseworkers visited Bedwell more than 60 times in the past year. A supervisor and other team members documented reviews almost monthly. The workers had a “positive rapport with Ms. Bedwell and a genuine concern for the well-being of Ms. Bedwell and her baby,” investigators said.
But somewhere along the line, they got too close, especially one worker.
“She almost became like a sibling or a friend, which is fine,” Cox said. “She was working that hard to make her Bedwell succeed. But we’ve got to remember we sit in the role of the parents when a child is in our care.”
Reporters Krista Klaus, Josh Poltilove and researcher Buddy Jaudon contributed to this report. Reporter Sherri Ackerman can be reached at (813) 259-7144
By SHERRI ACKERMAN
Published: May 31, 2009
TAMPA – Jasmine Bedwell was special.
A troubled foster child who had run away more than 20 times, she was nearing 18 and about to leave the protective confines of state custody.
She also was a single mom.
Social workers struggled for a way to keep watch over Bedwell and her infant son, so they put her in a program that offered her a degree of freedom while allowing them to continue monitoring her. As long as she followed the rules, the teenager could live on her own.
But Bedwell broke the rules, and so did her caseworkers, according to a state investigation. And her baby paid the price with his life.
The Department of Children & Families is reviewing the state program for older teens, known as subsidized Independent Living, to ensure its young participants are safe and their caseworkers are toeing the line.
They also plan to review their procedures when babies are born to teenagers in foster care. The babies are not part of the foster care system, and so don’t automatically get the same level of protection given their young parents.
In a report released last week, investigators concluded that Bedwell never should have been involved in Independent Living. Officials also found that workers failed to follow protocol and neglected to focus on the safety of Emanuel Murray Jr.
The infant died last month. He had been thrown onto a concrete floor and tossed from the window of a moving car. Richard McTear Jr. of Tampa faces murder and kidnapping charges.
McTear, 21, dated Bedwell before she obtained a restraining order against him.
Florida Administrative Code requires the 16- and 17-year-olds in the program to behave responsibly – hold a job, open a savings account, earn good grades and stay out of trouble.
In return, they can live in an unlicensed facility – usually their own apartment or one they share with another teen in the program – while receiving a state subsidy of about $400 a month.
Caseworkers are expected to closely monitor participants and pull them from the program if they don’t follow rules.
“These are clear rules,” said Diane Zambito, executive director of Connected By 25, a private agency that helps teens in foster care move into adulthood.
Bedwell had been in the program for nearly a year. She was 16 when she started dating a 19-year-old man with a criminal record and became pregnant. He went to prison on a drug-related charge and she began dating McTear.
McTear had a violent history that included charges of domestic violence and burglary. Caseworkers didn’t check his background, which is required for anyone in regular contact with a foster-care teen, until he beat Bedwell and threatened her son.
She agreed to stop seeing McTear, who had been living with her – another violation. With her caseworker’s help, she filed a restraining order against him and was preparing to move.
But McTear caught up with Bedwell last month. He is accused of beating her again, then throwing Emanuel onto a concrete floor before kidnapping him and tossing him onto Interstate 275.
DCF Secretary George Sheldon said Bedwell never should have been in Independent Living, but he doesn’t want the case that has horrified a community and garnered the attention of a local state senator to mar its many successes.
The agency fought hard two years ago to give teens in foster care a more normal childhood. No longer do their prom dates have to undergo background checks. The teens can get driver’s licenses now, though obtaining car insurance remains a hurdle.
Teens in Independent Living must have frequent visitors and their dates screened. Bedwell’s caseworkers neglected to do that, the state report said.
Just last week, four teens in the local program were awarded college scholarships. One, 23-year-old Onchantho Am, just completed her sociology degree at the University of Florida and will attend Stetson Law School this fall.
“I do not believe that one bad judgment call on this case should or would jeopardize this program,” Sheldon said.
Statewide, there are 65 teens in the subsidized program, which has a $35 million budget; three are in Hillsborough County, said Nick Cox, DCF’s regional director in Tampa. He wants to look at how these teens are housed, perhaps placing them in apartment complexes connected to safety-net agencies.
“But should we get rid of this program?” Cox asked. “Absolutely not. This is critical for these kids who otherwise leave our system with no life skills.”
Researcher Buddy Jaudon contributed to this report. Reporter Sherri Ackerman can be reached at (813) 259-7144
Read the Report
By JOSH POLTILOVE | The Tampa Tribune
Published: May 26, 2009
In a letter sent from Hamilton Correctional Institution in Jasper, Murray wrote that Richard McTear Jr. should pay for slaying the 3-month-old boy. He wrote that he wants McTear to die in jail.
The infant’s mother is 17-year-old Jasmine Bedwell, who is McTear’s ex-girlfriend.
Authorities say McTear, 21, forced his way into Bedwell’s apartment May 5. They say McTear beat Bedwell, threw Murray Jr. on a concrete floor, then drove off with the child before throwing him onto the shoulder of Interstate 275 just south of Fowler Avenue.
“I know I hate Richard for what he did to my son,” Murray Sr. wrote.
Murray said he doesn’t know why McTear would kill the boy. He read in a newspaper that when a reporter questioned McTear about the death, McTear called it a “dirty game.”
“I hope he die in jail,” Murray’s letter reads. “I look at my son’s picture ever night ask why my son.”
Murray, 22, said he and his family are going through something nobody should.
He and Bedwell shouldn’t have to bury their son, he wrote in a letter dated May 18.
“This McTear dude should die much as I want it to be from my hands,” Murray’s letter reads. “I know I shouldn’t think let that but if it was your son what would you do.”
Murray wants McTear to face the death penalty. The state attorney’s office has not announced whether it will seek the death penalty against McTear, who has been held without bail since his arrest.
Murray is in the Hamilton Correctional Institution serving a three-year sentence following a conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for possession of an illegal weapon.
He was incarcerated Jan. 5. Emanuel Murray Jr. was born Jan. 25.
Murray’s prior convictions include delivery of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and delivery of marijuana.
A person who picked up a phone of Bedwell’s home today said that Bedwell was unavailable to comment.
Reporter Josh Poltilove can be reached at (813) 259-7691
Read The Letter:
CLINTON, Tenn. (WVLT) — On average, Anderson County sends four times as many children to state custody than other counties in Tennessee.
That is bad news for its budget if the Department of Children’s Services gets its way.
Child advocates say there is legislation being discussed right now that will force judges to choose between children. Choose, or pay up.
“Each of these numbers represents a child. It’s easy to talk about numbers on paper, but we’re talking about the lives of children,” said Anderson County Juvenile Court Judge April Meldrum.
“They would prefer for the cost of foster care to primarily be borne by the county,” Meldrum continued.
The judge says she’s not happy that the DCS is trying to force her hand.
Meldrum is concerned it wants to limit how many children she can remove from what she calls dangerous situations. In Anderson County, many times that’s meth labs.
Russell Morel agrees.
“I would have obviously preferred to see legislation that had this kind of potential impact long-term, across the state to come through a normal hearing process as opposed to be embedded in in some sort of a budget bill,” Morel said.
Morel is the interim executive director for CASA. A child advocate organization.
Morel says while smaller numbers may look good. It’s going to hurt the children. (NOT IF YOU STOP REMOVING THE ONES WHO DON’T NEED TO BE REMOVED AND CONCETRATE ON THE ONES THAT DO…if this becomes a law, maybe it will make them actually perform investigations to see which children are actually being abused and helping them instead of removing children just cause they don’t like the parents, or what other reason they legally kidnap children. And hey wow, this might make them actually work toward reunification, or kinship care!)
“Over time, the effect of this is, if you take the counties that have the largest numbers and you force them under the cap, what happens to the average next year? Oh it drops, so what you have is a ratcheting effect that goes down and down and down, which is saying next year fewer and fewer children can be placed into custody,” Morel explained.
Meldrum wonders if there’s not financial gain at the heart of this bill. She asked a DCS representative about stimulus money that was supposed to be earmarked to help foster children.
“He indicated that those monies had been absorbed into the state general fund and that they would no longer be used by the department of children’s services that they would be used to balance the state budget,” Meldrum told WVLT.
Regardless of how lawmakers vote, Meldrum says it’s not going to affect her job.
“My responsibility as a judge is to follow the law. Maybe higher calling than that is to protect the children,” Meldrum said.
The $27,000 fine is the cost no matter if the child is in state custody one day, or 365 days.
Which is another reason why child advocates believe this bill was crafted without the best interest of children in mind.
(Or maybe it was crafted with the best interested of children in mind……I wonder what this will do to their adoption bonuses)
Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary George H. Sheldon established a work group to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragic death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers. Gabriel died on April 16 when police indicated he apparently hanged himself in the shower of his foster parents’ Margate home. The work group has been asked to conduct a full inquiry into the facts of the case, in light of case management and judicial decisions, as well as determine the contributing effects that psychotropic drugs and sexual abuse had.
Documents related to this case and those produced by the work group can be found on this site. Media queries should be directed to the DCF Communications Office in Tallahassee at (850) 488-4855.
GABRIEL MYERS CASE INFORMATION FROM THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
QA REPORT: FinalMyers
DEAR ABBY: I have just found out that my younger brother has been placed in foster care because he was abused in my mother’s home. My family and I have been discussing who will take care of him, and everyone is saying it should be me because I am the only one of my siblings who has a job and my own apartment. I love my little brother, but I don’t feel all the responsibility should be placed on me.
I live in a two-bedroom apartment with my two children. My son is disabled. Yes, I do have a job, but I earn a low hourly wage, and I’m on a tight budget.
When I explain my concerns to my family, they say I’m being selfish. I am feeling very guilty. Please help me because I have no idea what to do. — Crying
DEAR CRYING: Dry those tears and do not allow yourself to be manipulated into something you can’t handle. As a single mother, you already have your hands full caring for two children, one with special needs.
Your family is wrong to expect you to shoulder this additional challenge alone. Because none of them is offering to help you, and your brother was abused in the care of the family, accept that he may be better off in a foster-care environment.
I cannot believe your advice on this one…how can any child be better off in the foster care system. I suggest you research foster care, and read the statistic’s. Children are more likely to be abused, neglect and killed in foster care then they are in their own homes.
My advice to you is to stop your crying, put on your big girl panties and deal with it…this is your brother, he is better off with you then he is in foster care. Call a family meeting and talk to your other siblings, tell them that you will of course take your brother in, because you love him and he is your brother. But explain to them, that you will need their assistance in ensuring that his physical and emotional needs are met. ie…they can all get jobs and help you with your bills, his care, clothing, and needs. They can also stop by on a regular occasion to help take some of the responsibility for his day to day care, so that you can focus on your diabled child.
Taking the responsibility for your brother is the right thing for you to do, and in my opinion, you will one day regret not taking him in if you don’t. Are you positive that your brother was actually abused in your mothers home, were you also abused by your mother? Ask yourself these questions. If your brother has been abused in your mothers care, he is at this moment a scared, wounded little boy…who needs his family, not strangers. If he wasn’t abused in your mothers home, then he is better off with you, then if foster care, because once they have him, no matter the findings it will be almost impossibe to get him out.
By SCOTT GUTIERREZ
Last updated February 27, 2009
A video showing a King County Sheriff’s deputy pummeling a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell was released Friday over the strenuous objections of the officer’s attorney.
The case goes beyond police misconduct, County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a prepared statement.
“It’s about criminal misconduct. And that’s why he needs to be prosecuted,” he said.
The video of the Nov. 29 incident was disclosed Friday, one day after Deputy Paul Schene, 31, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault in King County District Court.
Schene, an eight-year veteran, works out of Precinct 4, which covers SeaTac, Burien and high crime areas in White Center and Skyway.
He is the third sheriff’s deputy since 2006 to face charges on allegations of excessive force. All three are from the Burien precinct.
A detective assigned to the girl’s case discovered the video Dec. 1 and immediately forwarded it to supervisors.
The Seattle P-I requested a copy of the holding cell video and all reports from the incident under the state’s open records law. A judge on Thursday denied a request from Schene’s attorney to bar the video from public disclosure.
“We take this very seriously and we’re very concerned about this,” sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Laing said Friday. An internal investigation would begin after the criminal case is finished.
The girl was arrested after she was caught in her parents’ car, which had been reported stolen from her parents’ Tukwila home. Deputy Travis Brunner spotted the car driving without headlights about 3:45 a.m. on 32nd Avenue South in SeaTac and pulled it over.
She and another 15-yearold girl were arrested and taken to SeaTac City Hall to be fingerprinted before being transported to the youth detention center.
The P-I is not naming the girl because she is a minor.
The deputies apparently didn’t know until later that the girl, who was in the passenger seat, was related to the car’s owner.
“We had argued strenuously that the videotape released to the media this morning not be released because it does not tell the whole story of the incident,” attorney Anne Bremner said in a statement.
“As we argued to the judge, it will inflame public opinion and will severely impact the deputy’s right to a fair trial.”
The video shows Schene and Brunner as they escorted the girl into the holding cell. Schene had asked her to remove her basketball shoes, and, as she slipped out of her left shoe, she appeared to kick it at Schene.
Schene then lunged through the door and kicked her, striking either her stomach or upper thigh area, court documents say. He pushed her against a corner wall before flinging her to the floor by her hair. He then squatted down on her and made “two overhead strikes,” although it’s unclear where the blows landed.
The detective who reviewed the video said it appeared Schene and Brunner had the girl under control when Schene struck her. Schene, who is 6 feet 2 and weighs 195 pounds, did not explain his action to investigators, court documents say.
He and the girl exchanged words. Brunner said she was “real lippy” after being informed she was under arrest and called them “fat pigs.”
The Sheriff’s Office policy manual says deputies should use physical or deadly force only when “necessary to effect an arrest, to defend themselves or others from violence, or to otherwise accomplish police duties according to law.”
Schene could face up to a year in jail if convicted. He has been on administrative leave since early December.
The girl said that she couldn’t breathe after the incident, prompting the deputies to call paramedics.
Paramedics decided that she didn’t require hospitalization. Felony charges require proof of serious injury.
“If the matter were to go to trial, he could face additional charges,” said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff in the Prosecutor’s Office.
In his own report from the incident, Schene wrote that the shoe hit him in the right shin, “causing injury and pain.” He wrote that he “placed” her into handcuffs and that she needed medical attention for a “panic attack.”
He said a “blood filled pocket” formed on his shin, requiring treatment at Auburn General Hospital, according to his report. The video, however, appears to show his shin strike a metal toilet as he pushes the girl against the wall.
The girl told investigators that she didn’t intend for the shoe to hit him, court documents say.
Schene had previously been in the news in 2006 after he fatally shot Pedro Jo, a mentally ill man, during a struggle after a traffic stop on Interstate 5. It was the second officer-involved shooting of his career.
An inquest jury ruled the shooting was justified. Jo viciously attacked Schene, trying to strangle him with his own radio cord.
Jo then ran back to his car and disobeyed Schene’s orders to stop. Schene said he saw Jo reach for something in the seat, so Schene fired 11 times after Jo ran back to his car.
Shortly after the shooting while on administrative leave, Schene was stopped for driving under the influence.
He had been drinking and taking prescription medication, according to court records. He received a deferred sentence and was placed on probation, records show.
Schene works in an urban precinct with higher rates of violent crime and gang activity than other precincts. Officers assigned there more often report having to use physical force in arrest situations, Laing said.
Schene is the second officer from the precinct in three months to face charges. In addition, a third deputy, Brian Bonnar, was acquitted in January of civil rights violations during a trial in U.S. District Court. Bonnar, who patrolled in the precinct, was accused by other deputies of using excessive force on a woman who’d been restrained after a high-speed pursuit.
Legal costs for Bonnar’s private attorneys, David Allen and Todd Maybrown, as well as lawyer costs for other deputies involved, cost the county’s insurer $315,000, according to records the P-I obtained.
In December, Deputy Don Griffee was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching a handcuffed male suspect. The state Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The Oregonian Staff
HILLSBORO — The 7-year-old girl who survived Saturday’s plunge from the Sellwood Bridge into the Willamette River is running around and playing, the lawyer for the girl’s father said Wednesday.
She also said the girl might be released from the hospital anytime.
Laura Schantz, the attorney for Jason F. Smith, the girl’s father, said he and his family also have been telling the girl that she was not to blame for what happened.
“They’re trying to reassure her how much they loved her, how much they loved Eldon,” her 4-year-old brother, said Schantz, who spoke to reporters Wednesday outside her Hillsboro office on Smith’s behalf. He did not attend the gathering.
The mother, Amanda Stott-Smith, 31, is in custody facing allegations of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder. She’s accused of pushing or throwing the girl and her brother off the Sellwood Bridge, sending the children about 75 feet into the cold Willamette River about 1:20 a.m. Saturday.
David Haag, who lives in a floating home downstream from the bridge, and a companion rescued the girl after hearing loud moans in the river. They also pulled her brother, Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith, into the boat, but he had died.
Schantz said she didn’t know the extent of the girl’s injuries, but added that the girl does know about her brother’s death. She also said the family is planning a private memorial that will enable out-of-state relatives to attend.
“Yesterday, his daughter and the family cried and grieved over the loss of her brother,” Schantz said.
Jason Smith is mourning the loss of his “beautiful, innocent son,” yet is buoyed by his daughter’s strength, Schantz said.
He’s committed to protecting her as she returns with him to Eugene to resume her life. He intends to work to keep her psychologically healthy and be with her “every step of the way,” Schantz said. Yet he also is afraid of being besieged by the media.
“He’s going to dedicate his life to make sure his daughter has the most normal, happy childhood she can have,” Schantz said. “He’s drawing strength from his faith in God, his family and mostly from her. She is his strength, his life and his world.”
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the principal of Meadowlark Elementary School in Eugene, where the 7-year-old attends first grade, sent a letter to parents informing them of the tragic event and providing tips on how they can help their children cope.
The school also had teachers talk to students during class about the incident, saying that the two children “somehow fell into the Willamette River” and the girl’s brother died.
“The doctors say she’s going to fully recover, but she will not be back at school for at least a few days,” teachers were instructed to tell students.
The 4-year-old had attended Living Savior Lutheran Church and Preschool in Tualatin from September through February, said Denice Hornberger, the preschool’s director.
“We’re just heartbroken about the whole business,” she said.
Helen Jung and Phillip Swarts of The Oregonian contributed to this story. Maxine Bernstein 503-221-8212; firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The Oregonian Staff
SALEM — The Department of Human Services had received at least one report within the past year of suspected child abuse involving Amanda Jo Stott-Smith and her children.
Citing the ongoing criminal investigation and confidentiality issues, state child welfare officials would not discuss their past involvement with the family. But Human Services Director Bruce Goldberg has ordered an internal review of the agency’s contact with Stott-Smith to determine whether workers missed warning signs and where the department might need to improve.
“What I can tell you is we did not have an open case with the family prior to the incident itself,” Erinn Kelley-Siel, head of the state Children, Adults and Families Division, said Wednesday.
Stott-Smith, 31, is being held by Multnomah County on charges of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder. Authorities believe she forced her two young children off Portland’s Sellwood Bridge early Saturday morning.
Her 4-year-old son, Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith, drowned. His 7-year-old sister survived the fall and more than a half hour in the chilly Willamette River. The Oregonian is not naming the girl because she’s a juvenile victim.
The review team, which met for the first time Wednesday and includes top agency management as well as local law enforcement officials, will investigate the agency’s contacts with Stott-Smith and her children.
The goal, Kelley-Siel said, is to “learn what we now wish we had known. Or, is there something about our practice that we need to change?”
Whenever a child known to state child welfare officials dies or is seriously injured, Oregon law requires the Department of Human Services to convene a critical incident response team to comb through the agency’s files and contacts with the family.
Such reviews are somewhat unusual. The death or injury of a child has triggered 21 similar reviews since Gov. Ted Kulongoski called for more scrutiny and accountability of the child welfare system in 2004.
The state receives thousands of suspected abuse reports each year. In 2008, workers fielded 65,460 calls reporting suspected child abuse. Of those, 27,485 were investigated, and officials confirmed 10,421 Oregon children were victims of abuse or neglect.
Michelle Cole: 503-294-5143; email@example.com
Published: Wed, May 27, 2009 – 5:18 pm
Last Updated: Wed, May 27, 2009 – 5:47 pm
A Conecuh County couple is behind bars after investigators say they severely beat a 2 year old boy in their care.
Joyce Sims, 41 and her husband, Lonnell Sims, 51, were arrested last week and charged with attempted murder and aggravated child abuse.
The District Attorney’s office tells News Five earlier this month police responded to the couple’s Evergreen home where they found the child barely breathing.
The young boy suffered permanent brain damage as a result of blunt force trauma, according to District Attorney Tommy Chapman. A doctor treating the child told investigators the boy also had bruising on his body.
Joyce and Lonnell Sims are foster parents, who previously had as many as eight foster children living in their mobile home. At the time of their arrest, there were four children in their care.
Barry Spears, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Human Resources, confirmed the state agency is investigating the Conecuh County foster care program.
Spears says as a rule, only six foster children are allowed to live in one home, but he says exceptions can be made. DHR officials would not comment specifically on this case.
MILWAUKEE – A new study brings criticism to the foster care system and offers solutions for improving the way foster care is handled.
Among the key findings, the study concludes new foster parents are pushed through the screening process because there is a shortage of foster families.
It also focuses on the way relatives are not screened as thoroughly as foster parents before getting custody of children.
The report was commissioned by the Planning Council for Health and Human Services. It comes in response to several high-profile incidents in Milwaukee including the death of baby Christopher Thomas. Thomas was killed by his aunt, Crystal Keith.
The study is based on statistics and interviews with people connected to the foster care system in some way. It finds child welfare workers feel “pressure to license questionable foster homes” because of a shortage of foster care providers.
“People do sometimes feel like they have no other choice but to place kids in homes they might not place their own children in,” said Planning Council Executive Director Kathleen Pritchard.
The study also focuses on “kinship” care. Kinship care is when custody of a child is given to one of the child’s relatives.
Kinship care families face substantially less screening and regulation than foster care parents, according to the report.
Because young Christopher Thomas was killed by his aunt in kinship care, the report suggests more oversight and regulation of kinship caregivers is needed.
The report also calls for more communication between foster parents and child welfare workers.
It also suggests community efforts to positively portray foster families and encourage more people to get involved with foster children.