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Failing Kalab | Chapter 5 – Dealing with the fallout

 

Kalab Lay’s death has sparked dialogue, but is it enough?

 

Kalab Lay
Kalab Lay

 

By Kate Braser, Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 12:08 a.m.

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/jun/14/dealing-with-the-fallout/

EVANSVILLE — He was just a little boy, an innocent with no agenda, who inadvertently became a symbol of flaws within the system responsible for keeping children safe.

His parents’ choices and circumstances, with consequences both painful and enduring, marked Kalab Lay before he was born, an unheeded warning of the marks his 3-year-old body would take to the grave.

Addiction, crime, violence, poverty, neglect and harsh punishment were Kalab’s unfortunate inheritance, one for which he paid a dear and devastating price.

“I don’t think there’s been a child that’s died in our community that’s touched a nerve more than this child,” said Rep. Dennis Avery, D-Evansville, a longtime champion of children’s issues and transparency in the system designed to prevent maltreatment of the state’s youngest citizens.

Dysfunction simmering for decades in Kalab’s family finally erupted within a system that had numerous opportunities, but ultimately failed, to keep him safe from harm.

“Kalab opened many doors to possibilities so that children do not have to endure what he had to endure. The question is how many people are willing to walk through the doors that he has opened,” said Melanie Doty of the WE CARE (Wholeness, Empowerment, Community, Awareness, Recognition and Education) project that supported the victims’ rights bill, authored by Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, and signed into law in May.

“It’s just a matter of when are people going to walk through those doors and do what needs to be done to protect our children,” said Doty.

Amanda Brooks, Kalab’s mother, was abused and neglected as a child. Kalab’s father, Terry Lay, was a juvenile delinquent who matured into a felon with a lengthy criminal history including episodes of violence.

The volatile combination of Brooks, 34, and Lay, 41, ultimately proved deadly. Three months into a court-ordered visit with his parents in the family’s home at Eastbrook Mobile Home Park, Kalab died of blunt-force trauma. Both he and his twin sister, Kayla, had been brutally beaten, reportedly by their parents, over a period of days.

“I think it is absolutely clear that the biggest problem was the judge ignored recommendations from the people close to the case,” Avery said.

Embracing the memory of a boy they never knew, outraged individuals in the community came together, crying out for justice, holding vigil, raising funds for Kalab’s headstone, promoting awareness of abuse and neglect and calling for legislative change.

“There were a number of incidences where children suffered unfortunate tragedies as a result of abuse and neglect,” said Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville, who co-authored the bill known as Kalab’s Law with Riecken.

The bill was referred to but did not receive reading in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill calls for a registry of those convicted of child-selling, neglect of a dependent or battery upon a child.

Indiana has not released its 2008 data, but in 2007, 36 Hoosier children died as a result of maltreatment by caregivers. In Illinois fiscal year 2008, 88 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. The most recent data available from Kentucky is from 2005, when abuse or neglect took the lives of 41 children.

“It’s all the Kalab Lays throughout the state that cause legislation like this to be drafted …” Crouch said.

Although 14 months have passed since Kalab was killed, his legacy — including demand for transparency and accountability in child protective services — has endured even as new tragedies have moved into the headlines.

At best, Kalab’s story will promote successful outcomes within the system that failed in its duty to protect him and keep him safe.

“In my opinion, it brought to light to everyone, especially in this community, how important it is to report any child abuse and neglect,” said Suzanne Draper, executive director of Vanderburgh County CASA (the Court Appointed Special Advocate program).

The amount of information released about Kalab’s life and death has fueled the community’s passion, Doty said.

The Courier & Press obtained a copy of Kalab’s Indiana Department of Child Services death investigation file through legislation championed by Avery in 2004. The law requires disclosure of DCS investigations into the death or near-death of a child as a result of abuse, abandonment or neglect.

In the first three months of this year alone, three children ages 16 months and younger have died, reportedly as a result of action or inaction by parents or stepparents.

“I just don’t think it’s right using him as a poster child,” said Kalab’s uncle and Brooks’ brother, Patrick Lawrence. Ongoing media coverage and the community’s focus on Kalab have been difficult on Kalab’s surviving half brothers, who are in their teens, said Lawrence.

Still, it is Kalab who wears the mantle of child welfare reform.

Kalab was just a little boy who liked jelly beans and Spider-Man, according to his obituary; a little boy who enjoyed cartoons and playing with his twin, according to the Indiana DCS investigation; a little boy described as holding “big secrets” by former baby sitter Heidi Frazure; and a little boy who died of traumatic brain injuries from repeated blows to the head, according to Vanderburgh County Coroner Annie Groves.

He was a little boy who never had the chance to blow out candles on his fourth birthday cake or pick out school supplies for the first day of kindergarten.

He was just a little boy, beaten, neglected and allowed to die by the people who were supposed to love him most.

In December, Brooks pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent resulting in death in connection with Kalab’s death and felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than 14 years of age related to the physical abuse Kayla suffered.

The plea agreement includes a sentencing recommendation of 20 years on the battery count and 35 years on the count of neglect to be served concurrently in the Indiana Department of Correction.

It also stipulates Brooks must testify “completely and truthfully” against Lay if called upon to do so. Vanderburgh Superior Court Judge Robert Pigman is waiting to impose a sentence until Brooks has cooperated fully with law enforcement and testified against the man she filed for divorce from in February.

If the judge accepts the plea agreement, charges of murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury and battery resulting in bodily injury will be dismissed.

Authorities believe Brooks and Lay physically abused the twins, but Lay is responsible for Kalab’s fatal injuries.

Lay is charged with murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in death and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury and is scheduled to stand trial in September in Jeffersonville, Ind.

If convicted in Clark County Circuit Court, where the case was moved because of pretrial publicity, the jury also could deem Lay to be a habitual offender, which could add as many as 30 years to his sentence.

According to Brooks’ public defender, she was sexually, physically and mentally abused by men for more than 20 years. Speaking on the day of her plea, Evansville attorney Russ Woodson said evidence shows abuse continued after Brooks married Lay.

As a result of her background, Woodson said he did not think Brooks was capable of being a good mother. Avery concurs, saying child abuse is a learned behavior passed from one generation to the next.

That doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“Being a product of generational abuse is no excuse, because you are a grown-up,” Doty said. “You know you have choices and it is up to you to make the choices that are best for your child and yourself.”

Information in Kalab’s file indicating Brooks faced a 1997 charge of child neglect in Delaware County, Ind., is incorrect, Lawrence said. The Delaware County Clerk’s Office could not confirm the charge.

Lay, however, pleaded guilty in 1996 to felony charges of resisting law enforcement and neglect of a dependent after being accused of fleeing Evansville police while “driving at an excessively high rate of speed, running stop signs and weaving in and out of traffic” with his 2-year-old and a 3-year-old in the car, according to court records.

He was sentenced to three years in the Indiana Department of Correction. The children’s mother, Roselyn Stanton, was facing jail time on a separate matter and there reportedly was no one to care for the children, Lay told Illinois Department of Children and Family Services during a 2007 assessment. The couple relinquished their parental rights, and the boy and girl were adopted.

Lay has said there was “no doubt in his mind” Brooks caused Kalab’s injuries, and told investigators he had no knowledge of the injuries Kayla suffered.

Lawrence said his sister told him Lay delivered the fatal beating four days before Kalab’s hospitalization on March 31, 2008.

“My theory is that Amanda knew something had happened, OK? Something serious had happened. I think Amanda was scared. I think Amanda knew that once she took that baby to the hospital, here it goes all over again. They’re going to come yank up all the kids. Here we go all over again, domino effect,” Lawrence said.

“I believe Amanda was hoping everything was going to be all right and that (Kalab) would pull through. The worst-case scenario happened, you know what I mean? He died.”

Kalab was seen last by an Illinois caseworker March 18, when Reagan Nelson of Lutheran Social Services informed the family she would be out of the office until March 31.

On April 1, Brooks’ mother, Patricia Bivens, called Nelson at 8:45 a.m.: “(Bivens) was crying and screaming and telling (Nelson) how sorry she was. She did not know what was going on in the home,” according to the caseworker’s notes.

Bivens said Brooks had told her Kalab was brain dead, at which point Nelson became “speechless.”

Both Brooks and Lay already were incarcerated at the Vanderburgh County Jail as Kalab remained on life support in preparation for organ procurement April 2.

His heart went to a 23-month-old girl in Wisconsin; his liver to a 1-year-old girl in Ohio; and both kidneys to a 75-year-old Ohio woman, according to Rick Posson, Indiana Organ Procurement spokesman.

When Kalab was hospitalized, one of Brooks’ sons from her first marriage was living with the family at 2415 Long Point Drive. His father picked him up. Indiana DCS took custody of Kayla; Brooks’ nearly 2-year-old daughter, whom Lay had not fathered; and the couple’s 1-month-old son.

Bivens sought custody of the surviving Lay children: the older two, still in their Illinois foster home; Kayla, who was returned to her Illinois foster home; and the two younger children, who were placed in Vanderburgh County foster care.

Her effort was unsuccessful, turned down because of a “significant history” with child welfare services that began with allegations of abuse and neglect of her own children in the mid-1970s, according to an Indiana DCS report.

Lawrence said he believes Brooks has relinquished her parental rights to the five surviving children she had during her relationship with Lay. He does not know if Lay has relinquished his parental rights.

However, Lawrence said no one in Brooks’ family, including her two oldest sons, is being allowed to visit any of the children who are wards of Indiana or Illinois.

“I sit back and cry sometimes about that. I really do,” Lawrence said. “I loved them all.”

Illinois DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said when children are in the system, sibling visitation is a high priority. Maintaining sibling contact is of critical importance to children, he said, and DCFS operates under a mandate requiring good faith efforts to facilitate visitation for siblings and half siblings not placed together or not in the system.

“Once a child is adopted, the adoptive parents have sole legal authority to make decisions about who a child sees and when, just like any other legal parent,” Marlowe said.

In Indiana, sibling visitation occurs at the discretion of the presiding juvenile judge, said Indiana DCS spokeswoman Ann Houseworth.

The last official word on the status of the three children in Illinois came from Saline County (Ill.) State’s Attorney Mike Henshaw, who said the process for termination of parental rights is on hold.

Although Saline County Circuit Court Judge Todd Lambert was voted out of office by a narrow margin in November, he was appointed in January to serve as an associate judge. Henshaw said Lambert has recused himself from the Lay children’s proceedings.

In the weeks after Kalab’s death, Vanderburgh Juvenile Court Judge Brett Niemeier attempted to provide insight into the workings of the court and DCS by granting media access to the proceedings of the two youngest children in the Brooks-Lay case, who were — and still may be — in local foster care.

Niemeier also cited specific Indiana Code stating a juvenile judge may grant “any person having a legitimate interest in the work of the court or in a particular case access to the court’s legal records.”

In June 2008, the Indiana Court of Appeals granted a motion for a temporary stay filed by Brooks’ attorney, effectively barring the media from attending the custody proceedings. The court later ruled Niemeier erred in releasing CHINS (children-in-need of services) records related to Kalab’s siblings.

“Openness and transparency better serve children,” said Amy Harfeld, executive director of First Star, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that focuses on improving the lives of children victimized by abuse and neglect.

Both Harfeld and Avery said Indiana law gives juvenile court judges the authority to open or close proceedings.

“More often than not, when decisions are made to try to keep proceedings a secret, the state is more interested in protecting the identity of their employees who may have erred than they are other children that may be at risk after a fatality like this,” Harfeld said.

In April 2008, First Star and the University of San Diego School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Institute released a report showing only a handful of states were in compliance with federal requirements for public disclosure of the deaths and near-deaths of abused and neglected children.

According to the report, a majority of states have policies giving confidentiality priority over children’s welfare while preventing scrutiny that could lead to systemic reform.

The report also issued each state a letter grade based on its laws and policies related to disclosure of child death and near-death information. Only two states, Nevada and New Hampshire, earned an “A.” Indiana was among four states to receive an “A-” grade.

Twenty-eight states got a “C+” or lower, and 10 flunked. Illinois earned a “B+” and Kentucky a “C-” grade.

In this year’s general assembly, Avery said he worked to clarify Indiana’s disclosure laws to advance the state’s grade to an “A.” The bill, which passed, provides more specificity in terms of what information should be released.

According to Kalab’s file, the Lay twins and their two older siblings all had developmental delays, and the two living with foster parent Pam Sullens were described as having behaviors that pointed toward abuse. Kalab and Kayla were exposed to methamphetamine, alcohol and cigarette smoke while in the womb.

After Kalab was pronounced brain dead, the twins’ LSSI caseworker arrived in Evansville to return Kayla to Illinois, according to notes written by Nelson and included in Kalab’s file. During the drive, Nelson tried to reassure Kayla that nothing that had happened was her fault.

Standing in a McDonald’s parking lot at 8 p.m., Kayla began crying. She did not want to go with the new foster parent and did not want Nelson to leave her side.

In an effort to comfort her, Nelson gave her a stuffed hippo to keep her company, a kiss and a promise to see her the next day.

Eventually, Kayla was returned to foster parents Michele and Gerald Mitchell, who had cared for Kalab and Kayla since they were removed from their parents’ care at 2 months of age.

The transition from the Brooks-Lay home also proved difficult for the twins’ younger sister, who was placed with the same foster parent as their 1-month-old brother.

“She still wakes up at night screaming and has to be reassured and put back to bed,” the foster mother told Indiana DCS family case manager Amy Brandsasse about one week after the children arrived in her home. “(She) follows her from room to room, and they have to be in the same room.”

As Indiana repeatedly denied Illinois’ request to place the children across the state line in Illinois, Avery said the welfare of the younger children should have been given greater consideration.

“I wonder if those smaller children were abused …” he said. “If those 3-year-olds were at risk, I believe those younger children were at risk.”

Houseworth said statutory requirements for the interstate compact are more rigorous than those of an investigation stemming from a report of abuse or neglect.

The compact, for example, requires an FBI criminal background check while a reported allegation does not.

While the twins still were in Illinois foster care, LSSI called the Indiana child abuse hot line to report that Brooks repeatedly had lied about being pregnant. After her daughter was born in April 2006, Brooks told LSSI the child was her sister-in-law’s and refused to provide access to records regarding the pregnancy and the baby’s medical care.

“LSSI believes it is vital to assess her safety and well-being considering Amanda’s past history,” according to an Illinois DCFS report signed by LSSI caseworker Angela Nalley.

In the hot line call, Nalley reported Brooks, a prior meth user, had four children in Illinois foster care, all of whom were malnourished and in poor physical condition when they entered the system.

When Vanderburgh County DCS investigator Matt Murphy checked on Brooks, she admitted the child was hers. She said she had planned to put the baby up for adoption but changed her mind.

Murphy informed Nalley he was not concerned about the child’s health because Brooks and the baby were living with Brooks’ mother and had appropriate food, according to Illinois DCFS records.

In August 2006, Nalley saw Brooks and Lay after a court date they missed by arriving 30 minutes late. Nalley told the couple the case had passed legal screening, a first step in the adoption process, and Illinois DCFS would be preparing a petition to terminate their parental rights to the four children in state foster care.

One of the primary reasons for Indiana’s repeated denial of interstate compact requests for the twins’ placement was Lay’s extensive criminal history.

“That’s something we should look into. That might be something that would be valuable information for the (Indiana) DCS caseworker that’s doing the investigation,” Avery said. “It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have that information.”

While Kalab and Kayla were in Illinois foster care, three LSSI child welfare specialists working on behalf of Illinois DCFS recommended the court change its goal from returning them home to substitute care pending termination of parental rights.

The foster parents the four Lay children were placed with had indicated interest in adoption. Eight records from Kalab’s file show from July 2005 to November 2007 LSSI/DCFS recommendations to the court almost were split equally among returning the children to their biological parents, terminating parental rights and preparing the case for legal screening, a step in the adoption process.

“The whole system in itself is very complex and there’s a lot that goes into these types of cases and the end result is horrific …” said Draper, executive director of Vanderburgh County’s CASA. “It’s a more complex issue with two states involved.”

The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children has been in place for decades, said Anita Light, director of Children and Family Services at the American Public Human Services Association in Washington, D.C. The Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is an affiliate of that association.

Under the ICPC, the association of administrators has the authority to advance regulations related to more effective application of the compact’s terms as well as to mediate disputes potentially arising between states.

When 35 states have ratified a new version of the ICPC, it will take effect. So far, nine states — including Indiana — have ratified. ICPC program manager in the Children and Family Services Department Carla Fults said Kentucky has introduced the legislation, and Illinois has attempted to move toward ratification but the legislation has not passed.

Both Light and Fults declined to discuss the specifics of the Brooks-Lay case. However, Fults did say the existing ICPC includes language outlining violations, but the determination of whether a violation of the compact has occurred is left to individual states.

Enforcement authority, data collection, electronic usage, constitutionality, judicial authority and private versus independent adoption were among the issues evaluated in preparing the new ICPC, Fults said.

Providing more guidance to help states better understand what’s expected and what can be resolved from one state to another are among the reasons for the development of the new ICPC, Light said.

The new compact would provide greater uniformity in application but not complete uniformity.

“States are very much in the business of accountability and examining what it is they’re doing, where improvements need to be made and a real objective analysis of the kinds of resources that are needed to provide those services to children and families,” Light said.

Indiana denied Illinois’ third request for an interstate compact in March 2008 after the twins were placed with their parents.

“The interstate compact as currently written requires cooperation between states toward the protection of children and has achieved that goal in thousands of cases over the years,” Marlowe said.

“The compact only succeeds … when agencies, courts and attorneys fully understand and implement its requirements.”

Illinois and Indiana authorities began exploring another agreement in support of the compact and to better coordinate the work of agencies, courts and attorneys in both states after Kalab’s death, Marlowe said.

“In our day-to-day practice, we have increased scrutiny and follow-up on cases that were denied under the compact to ensure that they are handled properly,” Marlowe said.

In addition to Lay’s criminal history, an interstate compact was denied because of both parents’ convictions on methamphetamine-related charges and lack of bonding between the twins and their parents.

Vanderburgh County DCS informed Illinois DCFS the twins should be removed from the Evansville home in a letter dated March 14, 2008 — 18 days before Kalab died.

“Due to the fact it was a judicial order that sent the children here, we were unable to take any action,” Houseworth said.

If the same situation were to arise today, with a “sending” state ignoring denial by Indiana as the “receiving” state, Avery said changes in state law would allow Indiana to take the sending state to court.

Indiana DCS officials have said they still were waiting for Illinois to remove the children from the home when Kalab died.

If Indiana can be faulted for anything in the case, Avery said, it would be an unwillingness to get involved.

“Our unwillingness was based on sound reasoning,” he said. “The children shouldn’t have been in that family. … This judge pretty much ignored the law.”

Initially, Brooks and Lay indicated they would like the surviving children to be placed with Brooks’ mother. However, in the divorce documents Brooks filed, she declined the opportunity to recommend someone to assume custody of the children.

Susan Tielking, former Indiana DCS spokeswoman, said the case caused state officials to reconsider policies for supervision of children who are placed in a home where an interstate compact was denied.

“Every year it seems like we do a little bit more but the only way we can know about those problems is if someone brings them to our attention,” Avery said. “It seems like children keep dying and it should be of concern to us all. Is there something else we could be doing?”

 

 

Failing Kalab | Reunification

 

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/jun/14/failing-kalab-reunification/

By Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 11:24 p.m.

June 2005

Brooks released from Lincoln Correctional Facility, where she had completed a parenting program and drug counseling through the Gateway program.

November 2005

Brooks completed a Southwestern Indiana Mental Health Center mental health assessment. No recommendation for counseling.

January 2006

Brooks completed 10 relapse-prevention groups.

Brooks completed substance abuse evaluation; recommended completion of 10 relapse-prevention groups.

February 2006

Brooks completed a Southwestern Indiana Mental Health Center substance abuse treatment program.

July 2006

Lay released from Jacksonville Correctional Facility, where he completed Gateway substance abuse treatment.

September 2006

Lay received mental health assessment; recommendation to continue random drug testing and follow up with parole officer.

Lay completed substance abuse assessment at Deaconess Cross Pointe with recommendation for continued urine screening.

November 2006

Brooks attended appointment with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.; second session scheduled.

December 2006

Brooks, because of illness, canceled second appointment with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

January 2007

Lay was scheduled to begin parenting classes at Lampion Center.

February 2007

Brooks completed psychological evaluation by psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

March 2007

Lay completed parenting and behavior management programs.

July 2007

Lay missed an appointment for evaluation with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

October 2007

Lay attended appointment for evaluation with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

Lay completed psychological evaluation by psychologist Marilyn Marks-Frey at Paris Community Hospital in Paris, Ill.

January 2008

Brooks appointment for family counseling at the Lampion Center rescheduled because of weather.

Sources: Indiana Department of Child Services investigation of Kalab Lay’s death, court documents, court proceedings, law enforcement records

 

OTHER LINKS TO THIS STORY:

 

Failing Kalab | Family history

 

By Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 11:22 p.m.

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/jun/14/failing-kalab-family-history/

 

Failing Kalab | Court proceedings

 

By Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 11:19 p.m.

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/jun/14/failing-kalab-court-proceedings/

 

THE FULL SERIES:

KALAB LAY: YOU COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED

FAILING KALAB

FAILING KALAB-CHAPTER 2

FAILING KALAB-CHAPTER 3

FAILING KALAB-CHAPTER 4

Failing Kalab | Chapter 4 |

 

Death of an Innocent

 

 http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/jun/07/death-of-an-innocent/

By Kate Braser, Libby Keeling

Posted June 7, 2009 at midnight

DENNY SIMMONS / Courier & Press Kalab Lay's grave marker at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in Evansville is adorned with a firetruck, organ donor emblem and the image of a child praying.

DENNY SIMMONS / Courier & Press Kalab Lay's grave marker at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in Evansville is adorned with a firetruck, organ donor emblem and the image of a child praying.

EVANSVILLE — Thin and frail, the unresponsive little boy lay near a bedroom door in the mobile home at 2415 Long Point Drive.

“It was a nightmare,” said Dale Naylor, assistant chief of the Knight Township Fire Department, who was among the first to respond and attempt to resuscitate 3-year-old Kalab Lay.

“His lifeless little body was just there,” Naylor said. “It was just heartbreaking.”

Naylor said it felt as if he were moving in slow motion as he made his way through Kalab’s parents’ trailer in Eastbrook Mobile Home Park to reach the little boy in the early afternoon of March 31, 2008.

Although many of the details are foggy, Naylor said he believes Amanda Brooks, Kalab’s mother, was sitting on a couch in the living room and Terry Lay, Kalab’s father, was standing in the hallway when Naylor and then-Knight Township Division Chief Tim Hanisch arrived.

What Naylor does clearly remember is a heightened sense of urgency as he and Hanisch relieved Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Deputy Stuart Mosby, who already was administering CPR.

Additional deputies joined the effort. Emergency services arrived. The room was small and crowded, but the group remained focused and calm.

“We were just all: ‘Come on, little guy! We were just looking for any signs of life,'” Naylor said.

The first responders were able to establish a good airway and administer effective CPR. Naylor recalled thinking,”Come on! You can do it … .

“We just never got any real positive sign.”

Kalab did not open his eyes or make a sound, Naylor said.

Responding to calls in Eastbrook Mobile Home Park is always hard for Knight Township firefighters, who were among the first on the scene after the 2005 tornado ripped families apart. The F3 storm killed 19 people in the complex.

“I don’t know if you ever get over it,” Naylor said. “You learn how to deal with it, and you learn how to go on. If you ever get to the point where it doesn’t bother you, then it’s time to get out.”

Responding to calls involving children also is inherently difficult. Then, Naylor said, as the details of Kalab’s death came out, its “senseless” nature magnified already intense emotion.

“That’s probably the biggest thing we have to get over, is that adults allegedly did this to a helpless 3-year-old,” he said.

“On a scale of one to 10, it’s probably a 10. It ranks right up there with the tornado. The tornado was on a larger scale, but it ranks right up there.”

Neither of Kalab’s parents accompanied him in the ambulance to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit in critical condition shortly before 1:30 p.m.

No one was immediately available in the emergency department to provide a medical history for their son.

Kalab arrived at the medical center in cardiac arrest. He wasn’t breathing. His pupils were fully fixed and dilated, and he exhibited no response to light or pain.

A physician’s progress note dictated by Dr. Taveepong Terayanont at 2:10 p.m. read: “(Patient) is brain dead from massive brain injury.”

Although emergency measures restored a pulse, Kalab never exhibited signs of neurological function or brain stem activity. The brain stem is responsible for basic bodily functions, including breathing and blood pressure.

He remained on life support. Physicians described Kalab as “extremely” dehydrated and noted multiple scrapes and abrasions across his face; a “very large” area of bruising over his right thigh “somewhat resembling a handprint;” bruising and abrasions around his scrotum; swelling, discoloration and broken tissue in the area of his rectum; and dried blood on his scrotum and the shaft of his penis.

As 4 p.m. approached, a registered nurse sealed the sexual assault kit that passed into the custody of Sheriff’s Detective Joe Beckwith, who also was given a brown paper bag containing the T-shirt, pants and boxer shorts cut from Kalab’s body.

As first responders were battling to resuscitate Kalab before he was transported to St. Mary’s, Naylor said, he didn’t have time to contemplate the possibility of child abuse, but the whole scene had a “weird” feeling.

Occasionally, a little girl, whose clothing was in disarray, would appear in the bedroom doorway, he said. About Kalab’s size, she likely was his twin, Kayla.

“She just kept popping her head in. She wasn’t crying. She had kind of a blank stare,” Naylor said.

Lay reportedly followed Kalab as he was moved from the bedroom to the ambulance. Brooks remained on the couch, “not really saying or doing much,” Naylor said, to the best of his recollection.

“I didn’t notice any hysteria. … They were not freaking out like you’d expect.”

When Sgt. Doug Daza, supervisor of detectives for the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office, arrived on the scene, he was preparing himself for a death investigation.

According to records in Kalab’s Indiana Department of Child Services file, after finding the child blue and unresponsive, Brooks called her husband at work about 11:30 a.m. Lay told a colleague at H&S Counter Tops that his son had stopped breathing; he then left for home.

He reportedly arrived about 10 minutes later and attempted to awaken Kalab for about 10 minutes before calling 911. First responders arrived within about five minutes of the call.

Kalab appears to have been without oxygen for 20 to 25 minutes. According to the National Institutes of Health, brain cells begin to die within five minutes of oxygen deprivation.

“At the time, I had a 4-year-old daughter and all I could see was her little face laying there,” Naylor said. “It affected me for days. I could just see his little body laying on that floor.”

As Kalab was loaded into the ambulance, Daza began calling in other detectives and gathering information from those on the scene. He described Brooks and Lay as exhibiting little emotion.

“To be honest, I thought she was acting more like she was worried about something else than her child …” he said. “He seemed relatively calm. He wasn’t hysterical or anything like that.”

Eventually, Daza said, Brooks and Lay worked out who was going to the hospital, how they were going to get there and what to do with the other children in the home.

Brooks’ first husband picked up their 12-year-old son. When Sgt. Darren Baumberger located Kalab’s twin, Kayla, a 2-year-old half sister and 1-month-old brother outside their grandmother’s nearby trailer, he yelled for Daza to join him.

The person holding Kayla turned around as Daza approached.

“It took my breath away. She was a very beaten child, a very battered child,” Daza said. “I can’t imagine anybody ever seeing her in the state she was in and not being horrified and doing something about it.”

Kayla’s face and much of her body were covered in bruises in various stages of healing, he said. She also had an area of thick scabbing under one eye.

“Obviously, it was not one beating,” Daza said. “It was multiple.”

Indiana DCS took custody of the children. Kayla was taken to Deaconess Hospital for examination.

“It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve ever seen,” Daza said. “I have young children. It’s hard for me to imagine how you could do this to a child, much less your own. It’s something I’m still dealing with.”

Indiana family case manager Jillian Andrews went to St. Mary’s at 5:45 p.m. to inform Brooks and Lay their children were being detained by the Vanderburgh County DCS.

Brooks agreed to submit to a drug screen, and permission was obtained to screen both Brooks and Lay at the hospital.

At 7 p.m., however, the on-call case manager was notified Brooks had refused the screen, and Lay had left.

In the emergency department at Deaconess, Dr. Mike Kelley examined Kayla. He reported her injuries included contusions and bruises on her thighs, back, buttocks and legs, as well as an extensive abrasion to her left eye.

Kelley described Kayla as “savagely beaten,” and said anyone who had contact with her during the last several days could not have been oblivious to the injuries she had sustained.

One of Brooks’ four brothers, Matthew Lawrence, baby-sat the children for several hours before Kalab’s hospitalization. Brooks was attending a court hearing in connection with an 11-year-old check deception charge in Warrick County.

“Kalab was sick and in his bedroom, and unless he called out needing something from him to just leave him alone,” Brooks instructed her brother, according to records from the investigation.

Lawrence later told authorities he heard Kalab wheezing but did not see him nor did he see any bruises on Kayla. He also denied seeing any type of abuse in the home.

Another of Brooks’ brothers, Chris Lawrence, gave a formal statement to authorities in which he recalled seeing Kayla’s injured eye and bruised back March 30, 2008.

“Instead of intervening at that point, he and his girlfriend went home to talk about it,” according to the report.

Kalab was hospitalized the next day.

“The family is being uncooperative with CPS and LEA (law enforcement agencies),” according to a notation in the Indiana DCS investigation of Kalab’s death.

Repeated attempts to contact Brooks’ and Lay’s families were unsuccessful, although one of Brooks’ brothers, Patrick Lawrence, contacted the newspaper in response to this series.

Lay’s court-appointed criminal attorney, Tim Dodd, and Brooks’, Russ Woodson, categorically have denied requests to interview their clients. Calls to Vanderburgh County DCS staff have been referred to the Indiana DCS spokeswoman.

The children’s foster parents could not be located or declined to comment. Numerous calls to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois have not been returned.

Through public records and court appearances, Brooks and Lay have blamed each other. On the night of Kalab’s hospitalization, both separately and voluntarily went to the Sheriff’s Command Post.

During interviews, a reportedly unemotional Brooks acknowledged spanking the twins with her hand and a belt, causing bruises. However, she denied shaking Kalab or causing any injury that would be considered life-threatening.

She reported Kalab was “very, very” scared of something on the night of March 29, 2008, and asked to go to bed without dinner. Lay took him to bed, she said, and did something to Kalab in the bedroom.

Brooks said she did not know what Lay was doing, but she heard Kalab crying, asking him to stop.

She refused to provide any details of what she heard and said Lay told her not to seek medical treatment for Kalab. Brooks said Lay told her the children would be taken away because of the bruises.

Brooks accepted responsibility for some of Kayla’s injuries but said the scabbing near her eye occurred when the child “rubbed her eye” with a washcloth after accidentally getting soap in it while bathing.

Brooks said she could not explain to detectives how Kayla sustained other areas of bruising and contusions on her body. Brooks did say Kayla had fallen out of the bathtub and off the bunk bed.

As a tearful Lay was interviewed by authorities, he said Brooks had been taking Adderall, a stimulant prescribed for attention deficit disorder, all weekend and had been “out of control” for quite a while. Her urine tested positive for amphetamines.

Lay, whose urine screen was negative, claimed Brooks’ brothers supplied the pills and Lay paid for them. Lay also said he knew Brooks had been abusing the children for some time, and they had been having an ongoing argument about her treatment of the children.

Lay claimed he told two co-workers about the abuse a few weeks earlier because he did not know how to persuade her to stop. The co-workers, however, failed to corroborate his story.

Brooks disciplined the children only behind closed doors, Lay said. When he entered the room, she would stop whatever she was doing.

“Terry reports there is no doubt in his mind that his wife caused the injuries to Kalab,” according to the Indiana DCS investigation.

Lay also denied any knowledge of Kayla’s injuries, reporting Brooks was responsible for bathing and changing her clothes. He also said by the time he got home from work, his wife already had punished the children by sending them to their rooms.

Lay’s assertion he was unaware of Kayla’s injuries was determined by deputies to lack credibility.

From the admissions made during interviews at the Command Post, it became apparent both Brooks and Lay were responsible for injuries to the children, Daza said. They were arrested the night Kalab was hospitalized.

Kalab was pronounced brain dead at 2 p.m. on April 1, 2008. As he remained on life support prior to organ donation, his parents were held in the Vanderburgh County Jail charged in connection with Kayla’s injuries.

Brooks, on $100,000 bond, faced a preliminary charge of battery of a child younger than 14. Lay, on preliminary charges of neglect of a dependent, was being held on an initial bond of $50,000.

Kalab’s heart, liver, gallbladder, kidneys and adrenal glands were donated.

While in a holding cell in the Vanderburgh Superior Court Juvenile Division the day Kalab underwent organ procurement, Brooks told Indiana DCS caseworker Amy Brandsasse “she has done everything she is supposed to to get her children back from foster care.”

She also told investigators she was very frustrated with Kayla for “smarting off” and saying “she didn’t have to listen.”

The twins both were having problems with potty training, Brooks said. Kayla would urinate on the floor in front of the toilet. She also reported having problems with Kalab getting into the cabinets and eating food.

“She was very vague about the information she was giving when trying to accuse Terry of committing the acts that ultimately resulted in his death.” Brandsasse wrote.

Brooks had no answer when Brandsasse asked her why she would allow her son to be killed by a man she was married to and not call authorities or contact her case manager if her son was at risk of harm.

“One of the things that has always struck me about the case is when we were talking about both parents, as well as family members, one of the things that they would say was Kalab was always the good kid and that Kayla was always in trouble,” Daza said. “It always struck me as odd.”

After an autopsy, Kalab’s death was ruled a homicide as the result of nine blunt-force traumas to the head from beatings delivered over a period of days.

The trauma to his head resulted in bruising, swelling and bleeding in his brain, which created enough pressure to damage the brain stem.

The autopsy report also noted Kalab suffered widespread bruising and abrasions at different stages of healing and retinal hemorrhage. He also had pneumonia and thin, sparse and missing hair.

“I’d love to say I’m outraged and depressed, but unfortunately I see too much of this,” Dr. Roland Kohr, Vigo County coroner and pathologist at Terre Haute Regional Hospital, said after reviewing portions of the autopsy conducted in Evansville. “I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen lesser.”

Kohr, a member of the State Fatality Review Team, said yanking a child’s hair can cause hemorrhaging under the skin, and posterial retinal hemorrhage is a classic sign of “shaken-type” scenarios.

Kalab’s death first was reported as a result of shaken baby syndrome. Closed-head trauma causes that type of hemorrhaging in a child. Not much else will, said Kohr, who was not involved directly in Kalab’s case.

Closed-head trauma causing hemorrhaging can result from impact, but impact is not required, Kohr explained.

“This kid’s got very small abrasions on his head,” Kohr said. Consequently, he could have been “slammed” into something relatively soft, not hard enough to cause a skull fracture, but entirely within the realm of abusive behavior.

“Kids don’t get this from falling off a couch or bed,” he said. “Any adult can pick up a 27-pound child and fling them around.”

Kalab’s height, 3 feet 7 inches tall, was normal for a nearly 4-year-old, Kohr said, but his weight was below the fifth percentile, making him a “very skinny” little boy.

His parents were charged April 4, 2008, in connection with Kayla’s beating.

Lay was charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, a class B felony, and his bond was increased from $50,000 to $100,000.

Brooks faced counts of battery resulting in serious bodily injury, a class B felony; battery resulting in serious bodily injury, a class D felony; and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, also a class B felony.

Her bond remained $100,000 cash only. Both parents were forbidden to have contact with their children.

Kalab was buried April 7, 2008, in Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery just hours after his parents were charged with murder.

The services were private, and Kalab’s former foster parents were escorted from the funeral home by police at the request of the family.

Authorities said neither Brooks nor Lay requested permission to leave the jail to attend their son’s funeral.

Listening to Brooks talk about Kalab’s death was like hearing someone talk about baseball, said Stephanie Morrison, who lived across the street from the Brooks-Lay family in Eastbrook Mobile Home Park for several years.

“She’s just unconcerned. I mean, if my child died they’d have to put me in the state hospital, regardless of whether I did it or not. She’s more worried about what kind of deal she’s going to get than that her child is no longer alive.”

An accidental overdose and arrest for child neglect in November brought Morrison and Brooks together again.

“It’s kind of embarrassing, but I was in jail with her,” Morrison said. “She’s saying neither one of them did it,” but said she would testify against Lay in court.

“She acted like she was sticking by him. The next thing I know she’s divorcing him and turning state’s evidence on him to get the murder charge dropped,” Morrison said.

After Brooks told her she didn’t know what happened to Kalab, Morrison said she confronted her.

“I asked her point blank: Then how did your little boy die of shaken baby syndrome?”

“I think he fell and hit his head,” Morrison said Brooks replied.

“They can tell the difference. … But I didn’t say that,” Morrison said later.

Brooks dropped out of high school after her freshman year and married Robert Brooks when she was 18. The marriage lasted nine years and produced two sons, according to court records.

“Robert reports he has always thought Amanda to be a good mother,” according to statements he made at the Sheriff’s Command Post on April 1, 2008, the day Kalab was declared brain dead.

Although he has custody of their children, Robert Brooks said he had allowed the younger boy to live with his mother for the previous six or eight months.

While they were married, he never saw her spank the children, Robert Brooks said. He always saw her use timeout, and she responded appropriately when bed-wetting occurred.

The Brooks’ younger son and Kayla both gave statements to the authorities.

The twins’ half brother — head down without making eye contact — initially said neither Brooks nor Lay ever used corporal punishment.

He saw his mother crying the previous morning and saw her crying again when she called Lay to tell him Kalab’s lips were blue.

The interview was stopped when the detective left the room and the boy began banging his head on the table.

Later, however, he told another detective he had seen both Brooks and Lay spank Kalab and Kayla with a belt.

In her interview, Kayla told Brandsasse and Detective Patty McDowell “Mommy does everything with the belt.”

She reportedly said her mommy also spanked with a fly swatter and both her mommy and daddy spank with a belt or hand on their bare bottoms.

Kalab was spanked with his pants off and “peed his pants” three times, Kayla said. He was “bad” and got into trouble so their mother put “girl clothes” on him.

Kayla said Kalab was “sick today” and “puked on the floor.” She said Kalab got into the cabinets and ate a whole bag of sugar and jelly beans.

Daddy hits Kalab on his butt with his hands, she said.

“I’m piss (sic) off at Kalab. … If Kalab would (not) of gotten into the candy jar this would of never happened,” she later told Lutheran Social Services of Illinois caseworker Reagan Nelson during the drive back to Illinois.

Before leaving the Command Post, however, Kayla also explained her mommy put dish soap in her eye because she “peed” in her pants. She described how the twins did “their time” in “jail.”

She demonstrated being “sent to jail,” when the children would squat in the corner with their arms straight out holding a heavy object, such as a pan.

Sitting down or standing straight up in jail was not tolerated, Kayla said. The punishment was a heavier object to hold.

Kayla said Kalab peed in his pants, bit her and said cuss words so he had to stand in the corner.

He was picking his nails, she said, so their mother put tape on them and spanked him with a white-and-black belt.

Authorities observed Kayla had contusions and bruising on her legs, back and buttocks in layers of color, including yellow, black, blue and purple.

Asked what happened to her bottom, Kayla said she got a spanking.

“But,” she reported, “it didn’t hurt right now.”

 

 

Caseworker logs show uneven final 3 months

 

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/jun/06/caseworker-logs-show-uneven-final-3-months/

By Staff Report

Posted June 6, 2009 at 11 p.m.

EVANSVILLE — After an Illinois judge sent Kalab and Kayla Lay to visit their parents in Evansville, Amanda Brooks and Terry Lay, a Lutheran Social Services of Illinois caseworker was to conduct weekly home visits.

Also, case aids were to supervise sibling visits, alternating between Evansville and Illinois. The twins were reunited with their parents Jan. 3, 2008.

Of 21 planned visits documented in case notes included in the investigation of Kalab’s death, only one in three occurred as scheduled and when the twins were awake. During five visits, Kalab and Kayla were asleep. Four visits were canceled by a parent. Four appear not to have occurred without further explanation and one was canceled by a caseworker.

Visit information from the file includes (all dates 2008):

n Jan. 5: Visit appears not to have occurred.

n Jan. 10: Caseworker finds Kalab asleep in his bed; Kayla is asleep in her room; home clean and free from safety concerns.

n Jan. 12: Visit appears not to have occurred.

n Jan. 15: Caseworker finds the twins happy, clean and wearing new clothes; home clean and free from safety concerns.

n Jan. 19: Visit canceled by Brooks, who called Jan. 18 to report two of the children were ill.

n Jan. 23: Kalab and Kayla asleep in their rooms; home clean and free from safety concerns.

n Jan. 29: Visit appears not to have occurred.

n Feb. 2: Kayla did not come for the Illinois sibling visit because she was attending a birthday party. The caseworker observed Kalab and his younger sister were properly secured in the van’s child seats.

n Feb. 4: Caseworker spoke with Kalab and Kayla, who were in their rooms for naps but were awake; home clean and free of safety concerns.

n Feb. 6: Kalab and Kayla asleep; home clean and free of safety concerns.

n Feb. 13: Unable to reach Brooks, caseworker calls maternal grandmother to cancel the visit due to bad weather.

n Feb. 16: Lay calls Feb. 15 to cancel scheduled visit because the twins were sick.

n Feb. 20: Brooks’ brother Matthew Lawrence baby-sitting; Brooks with another child at doctor. Kayla eating. Kalab at maternal grandmother’s; caseworker spoke to him by phone; home clean and free from safety concerns.

n March 1: Brooks cancels visit due to imminent delivery of her eighth child.

n March 4: Caseworker looked in at Kalab and Kayla, who were in their rooms for naps but awake. Both said things were going “good;” saw the twins’ new brother; home clean and free from safety concerns.

n March 12: Kalab and Kayla asleep in their rooms; Brooks said everything was going “good;” home clean and free from safety concerns.

n March 15: Caseworker observes Kalab and infant brother arrive in family van at the LSSI office at Illinois DCFS in Harrisburg, Ill., and then at the mall; Brooks said Kayla and her younger sister were having girls’ day with maternal grandmother.

n March 18: Twins eating lunch; home clean and free from safety concerns. Caseworker tells Brooks she will be out of the office March 21-31. This was the last contact the twins had with LSSI prior to Kalab’s death.

n March 22: Case aid was told the twins were napping and did not see the children.

n March 28: Visit appears not to have occurred.

n March 29: Lay canceled home visit because the twins were sick.

n March 31: Kalab, unresponsive and not breathing, taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Source: The file of Kalab Lay’s death investigation

 

VANDERBURGH COUNTY ABUSE AND NEGLECT RECORDS

 

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/jun/06/no-headline—07a0kalab-childdeaths/

By Staff Report

Posted June 6, 2009 at 11 p.m.

EVANSVILLE — VANDERBURGH County abuse and neglect deaths

Since 2001, there have been eight children whose deaths have resulted in the prosecution of one or more of their parents or caregivers. Since January, there have been three child deaths that have resulted in charges. Here is a profile of two of those eight children. Next week, more victims will be profiled.

Kyle Howell

Died Feb. 20, 2004

Kyle Howell, a 7-week-old, was found dead Feb. 20, 2004, at his home after his mother, Misty Howell, 21, gave him what proved to be lethal dose of Dimetapp, a cold and allergy medication.

Police originally thought Kyle was suffocated to death because his body was face down in a pillow, but the coroner’s office later found evidence of the overdose.

Misty Howell was indicted on charges of reckless homicide and neglect of a dependent. Kyle’s father, Albert Love, was not charged.

Three years ago, she pleaded guilty to reckless homicide, leaving the sentencing decision up to Superior Court Judge Robert Pigman, who sentenced her to the maximum of eight years on May 12, 2006.

In December 2006, the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with Howell in her appeal, reversed the sentence and sent the case back to Pigman for resentencing.

Howell was sentenced to six years in prison on May 14, 2007, but including time served, the judge ordered an additional six months at the Vanderburgh County Jail, followed by 18 months of probation.

Xander Ross

Died May 17, 2005

Xander Ross died May 17, 2005, 13 months after his mother’s live-in companion, Andrew Weede, left the 6-month-old severely disabled from a skull fracture and brain injury.

Prosecutors originally charged Weede, then 24, with attempted murder and neglect of a dependent.

He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of battery causing serious bodily injury to a child younger than age 14.

Weede was sentenced to 15 years in prison. One year after the conviction, Xander died.

After St. Mary’s Medical Center doctors said nothing further could be done for the child, his mother, Natalie Fonner, requested Xander be allowed to die at home.

Because Weede already pleaded guilty in connection with the crime, he cannot face new charges. With time served and good behavior, Weede will be eligible for parole in 2011.

Sources: Court records, Courier & Press archives

Failing Kalab | Chapter 2 – A life tainted by meth

From the moment he was born, Kalab Lay was thrust into a life of chaos and insecurity

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/may/23/a-life-tainted-by-meth/

By Kate Braser, Libby Keeling

— Kalab Lay entered the Illinois foster care system after authorities opened the door to his family’s small Eldorado, Ill., apartment.

In the early morning hours of July 9, 2004, police found Kalab, three siblings and three adults sleeping in the presence of what appeared to be a methamphetamine lab.

For the rest of this story visit the link above…make sure you read the side bar as well…

Man charged with beating disabled foster child

 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-il-fosterchildkilled,0,4306108.story

Associated Press

8:20 AM CDT, May 15, 2009

CRETE, Ill. – A south suburban Chicago man has been charged with tying up and beating a mentally disabled foster child who later died.

The Will County state’s attorney’s office says Fred D. Johnson II of Crete was arrested early Thursday on charges of aggravated battery of a child and unlawful restraint. Officials allege he tied 12-year-old Kevin Johnson to a bed frame with straps.

Prosecutors say 43-year-old Fred Johnson caused Kevin’s death by striking him on the head and body.

They say Kevin Johnson and eight other minors he was related to were living with Fred Johnson. The others have been removed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Johnson is also charged with failing to seek medical attention for one of Kevin’s siblings.

——

Information from: Southtown Star, http://www.southtownstar.com

12-year-old charged in death of baby

 

By MIKE GLENN HOUSTON CHRONICLE
April 21, 2009, 10:36PM

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6384880.html

Prosecutors have charged a 12-year-old boy with capital murder in the death of a 10-month-old baby who had been left unattended by adults at a home in southeast Houston. (and the parents have been charged with????)

The 12-year-old, who has not been identified, remains in the custody of Harris County juvenile authorities after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office filed the charge on Tuesday.

The baby, Deandre Washington, suffered blunt force trauma to the head on March 12 at the home where he lived with his mother and siblings. Deandre was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital, where he died two days later, officials said.

Houston police and Children’s Protective Services have begun investigations into the circumstances leading to Deandre’s death.

CPS officials said Deandre’s mother and the mother of the accused boy left at least five children alone at the duplex in the 3700 block of Lehall, near Scott.

“It appears they just told them, ‘We’re going to run out and we’re going to be back,’ ” said Gwen Carter, a CPS spokeswoman. “When they came back, the infant was unconscious.”

It wasn’t clear whether the 12-year-old was supposed to be watching out for the children or if another person had been given that responsibility, Carter said.

“We talked to everybody,” Carter said. “We were unsure as to what had occurred.”

CPS investigators asked Deandre’s mother to place her other children with relatives until their investigation has been completed, Carter said.

Carter said that about one year ago, the agency had looked into an issue involving one of Deandre’s siblings.

“We had tried to visit with her (the mother) but we couldn’t locate her,” Carter said. “We weren’t able to complete our investigation.” (So you just gave up???  I have to wonder what the outcome would have been if you hadn’t….because something very wrong was obviously going on in this home, children left alone, a 10 month old dead, and a 12 year old charged with murder.  Great way to investigate a report people…”sarcasm intended”…)

She wasn’t aware of any CPS dealings with the mother of the 12-year-old. Neither parent could be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Tawanna Scott, the mother of the 12-year-old, told KHOU (Channel 11) that police investigators told her that her son confessed to the crime. She said her son has denied responsibility for the death.

Deandre’s mother moved out of the duplex on Lehall days after the incident, said neighbors, including Keisha Brown.

“After it happened, I didn’t see them again,” Brown said.

In Texas criminal cases, 14 is the youngest age that a child can be certified as an adult. However, a child as young as 10 can be charged with capital murder, said JoAnne Musick, a lawyer who specializes in juvenile law.

The intentional killing of a child younger than 6 is one of the provisions that can result in a capital murder charge for a juvenile, Musick said.

If he is convicted, the boy could face 40 years behind bars, prosecutors said.

Staff reporter Brian Rogers contributed to this story.

mike.glenn@chron.com

Greatest tragedy: You could have been saved

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/mar/31/greatest-tragedy-you-could-have-been-saved/

Dear Kalab,

One year ago today, the brutality that took your life away took our breath away.

Your parents remain jailed two miles from your grave, charged with beating you and your twin sister, Kayla.

Your surviving siblings and half siblings are scattered in three family or foster homes in two states.

I wish I could tell you why child protective services didn’t intervene in time to save you or why an Illinois judge sent you to live with your parents in Evansville after you had been with the same foster family for 41 of your 43 months.

I wish I could tell you someone, some agency, some entity had taken responsibility for, or even accepted accountability for, some of the events in the chain inexorably leading to your death from blunt force trauma to the head.

I’m sorry. I can’t.

And, Kalab, I am so sorry you died after days of torture in the place where you should have been cherished and safe. No child deserves to live in the hell that was your home.

You need to know it wasn’t your fault. No matter what you were told, you didn’t do anything wrong. You were completely innocent, pure and worthy of love and protection simply because you were unique to this world and, therefore, precious.

Sometimes, the truth is, monsters wear clever disguises and lurk in familiar places. Sometimes monsters fool the children who love them. Sometimes they trick adults who might be able to help.

You probably won’t believe this, but I met Kayla – once and briefly – when chance brought us together.

Without introduction, she clamored up my legs like a little monkey, wrapped her arms around my shoulders and nestled her beautiful face in my neck.

I buried mine in her shiny dark hair, rocking her gently from side to side, from side to side, from side to side.

That moment will never fade. I barely made it to my car before bursting into tears. I cried for you, for Kayla, for your brothers and sisters, for those who loved you, for those who never met you but will always remember you and for the estimated 1,500 children who die of abuse or neglect in this country every year.

For months, my colleague Kate Braser – I wish you had a chance to know Kate; you would have liked her – and I have been trying to ask the right questions of the right people in the hopes of finding someone who can make sense of your death.

Although Kate no longer works here, she has continued to participate in the effort to tell your story from her hometown near Chicago. Unfortunately, the laws designed to protect the privacy of your family also empower those who might have answers to withhold them.

When someone does provide an answer, inevitably that answer comes hand-in-hand with a host of additional questions.

Your life, in and out of the child welfare systems in two states, and your tragic death cry out for scrutiny. I hear that cry at night, in the dark, where the monsters sometimes hide.

After reviewing thousands of documents related to the investigation of your death, I cannot point to any one individual involved in your case who exhibited either thoughtlessness or intention.

However, the number of warning signs in your file screamed for extra attention.

Father’s criminal history. Red flag. Mother’s childhood abuse. Red flag. Both parents’ use of methamphetamine. Red flag. Increased negative behaviors of children following parental visits. Red flag. Red flag. Red flag. Red flag.

Lack of communication and flexibility within child welfare guidelines also appear to be contributing factors.

Collectively, the system failed.

In the coming months, this newspaper will take an in-depth look at the actions of those responsible for your care within a framework of laws designed to reunite families.

Your life, though short, has mattered more than you could possibly imagine. You united the community, inspired proposed legislation and encouraged a new group to form in an effort to increase awareness about and prevention of child abuse.

Kalab, you have done so much for so many, it is a great tragedy to realize your life actually improved when it was taken away.

The greatest tragedy is that you could have been saved.

- Libby Keeling
(812) 464-7450 or keelingl@courierpress.com

VIGIL TONIGHT
A candlelight vigil remembering Kalab Lay is planned for 7 p.m. today at the Children’s Angel Monument at the Vanderburgh 4-H Center. The gathering will move to Shelter No. 1 if it rains.
Those attending are asked to bring their own candles and royal blue balloons. The balloons will be released simultaneously. Everyone is welcome.
For more information, call (812) 664-8033.

Fulton doc says warnings of suspected child abuse were ignored by Oswego County DSS

 I want to send a thank you to justiceforerin.webs.com who provided me this link in a comment on this blog.

Saturday March 21, 2009, 11:11 PM

 

by John Oâ€TMBrien / The Post-Standard

 

 

David Lassman / The Post-Standard

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/03/fulton_doc_says_warnings_of_su.html

dr-dennis-mullaney

Dr. Dennis Mullaney has accused Oswego County child protective workers of brushing off reports of suspected child abuse.

An emergency room doctor who treated 11-year-old Erin Maxwell just before she died last year says Oswego County’s child protective workers have for years been unresponsive to reports of child abuse.

 Dr. Dennis Mullaney, a former ER physician at A.L. Lee Memorial Hospital in Fulton, says his worst fears of that complacency were realized with the deaths of Maxwell and 15-month-old Nick Taylor two weeks earlier.

The county’s Department of Social Services routinely ignored reports of suspected child abuse called in by doctors and nurses in the emergency room at Lee Memorial, Mullaney said in an interview last week. The medical staff talked frequently among themselves about DSS’s complacency, he said.

Mullaney, an ER doctor for more than 30 years in three states, said he’s never seen child protective workers as unresponsive as in Oswego County.

In one case, he transferred a child to a hospital in Onondaga County so caseworkers there would get involved. The problem in Oswego County became so pervasive a year before Maxwell’s death that he called for a meeting between DSS and hospital officials.

“I know it’s hard to believe, but you’d call and they’d say, ‘Why are you bothering us with this,'” he said. (It isn’t hard for me to believe, because this is how the Wilkes County Department of Social Services acted when we made our report.)

 

Mullaney saw Maxwell in the ER on Aug. 29 and she died the next morning. Her stepbrother, Alan Jones, is charged with strangling her in their Palermo home. DSS received complaints in 2003, 2005 and 2006 about her living conditions, and workers had visited the home but did not remove her. State officials last week issued a report criticizing DSS’s handling of the case.

Two weeks before Maxwell’s death, Taylor died from severe trauma to the head. His mother’s boyfriend, Jay John Barboni, was charged with murder. The night Taylor arrived in the ER, Mullaney got the boy’s medical records from Crouse Hospital. They showed that two weeks earlier, the case had been referred to child protective workers, Mullaney said. He doesn’t know what the agency did. (Now I have read the mother’s statement and she is claming, “Dawn Taylor said she had dated Barboni for the last three months, and he never hurt her or her two children until Monday.” (see story below) Obviously something was concerning for the Crouse Hospital to contact CPS, by all accounts this is two children dead that CPS had received previous reports on.)

 Mullaney, who left Lee Memorial in September, said he and other medical professionals there had become so frustrated with DSS that they requested a meeting with agency officials in the summer of 2007. He feared some children might die, he said.

“I was at the end of my rope,” Mullaney said. “I knew what was coming down the road.”

About 10 people attended the meeting — four from DSS, he said. Mullaney told them child protective workers were brushing off calls from the ER of suspected child abuse.

Mullaney said he reported about 12 cases of suspected child abuse in his four years at A.L. Lee. Only once or twice did a child protective worker go to the hospital to investigate, he said. They would usually tell him they’d interview the child’s parents the next day, he said. He said he laid out his concerns to DSS officials at the meeting.

Their response was that they were professionals and knew what they were doing, Mullaney said.

DSS Commissioner Frances Lanigan did not return phone requests for an interview. In an email response, she said she was not at the meeting. She said confidentiality laws prevented her from discussing cases publicly. (While, confidentiality laws  may prevent her from discussing actual case, they do not prevent her from discussing concerns about her departments job performance!)

She wrote in her email that DSS officials sometimes meet with “community stakeholders” such as hospital workers about promoting child safety.

“There are times we cannot agree,” she wrote. “However, our approach is always one where we are open to hearing concerns and responding in a professional manner.” (and then ignoring those concerns)

Tammy Brown, the former nursing director of the ER at Lee Memorial, confirmed that the meeting took place with the Oswego County DSS leaders, but declined to comment further.

After the meeting in a board room at the hospital, Mullaney told the hospital’s administrator, Dennis Casey, that he feared the county’s apathy could have devastating results, Mullaney said.

“I told him, ‘We’ll have dead kids upstairs,'” referring to the ER, Mullaney said. Casey did not return phone requests for an interview.

A week after the meeting, Mullaney contacted the Syracuse office of the state Office of Children and Family Services and complained about Oswego County’s lack of interest in suspected child abuse cases, he said. A spokeswoman for the office confirmed that Mullaney made the complaint, but was unable to say what became of it.

Mullaney’s meeting with DSS officials was prompted by the case of an 18-month-old who’d suffered a spiral fracture to his leg, Mullaney said. It’s the kind of injury in a child that’s almost always caused by abuse — usually an adult twisting the child’s leg, Mullaney said. He called the state child abuse hotline that night, but got a cold response from the Oswego County DSS worker who called back, Mullaney said. The worker refused to come to the hospital, he said.“She said, ‘Why are you bothering us with this? You decide which parent did it and send him home with the other one,” Mullaney said. As in other cases, the worker told Mullaney an investigator would look into the allegations the next day, he said.

Fearing more harm to the child, Mullaney kept the child overnight in the emergency room, then had him transported to a Syracuse hospital, he said.

 There, Onondaga County caseworkers were called in and referred the case to Oswego County for investigation, Mullaney said. He doesn’t know what became of the child or the case, and does not remember the boy’s name.

Telling a doctor to decide who abused the child is an inappropriate response, according to Karen Schimke, president of the Albany-based Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy.

“That’s why we have child protection,” she said. “How’s the doctor supposed to know?”

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said a toddler with a spiral fracture is a case that clearly should be investigated.

“I would argue that if they didn’t investigate, they screwed up,” he said.

But child protective workers shouldn’t necessarily go to the hospital just because it’s an ER doctor reporting abuse, Wexler said. The caseworkers should evaluate the evidence independently because some doctors report suspected child abuse just to cover themselves, he said. Innocent families can be needlessly torn apart by false accusations, he said. (Wexler is right about doctor’s covering up their mistakes by blaming child abuse.  I know of a case where the doctor missed a bowel obstruction in a child, that could have resulted in the child’s death if the mother had not taken her to another doctor.  Instead of admitting his oversite, the doctor called DSS and made a report that the mother had munchausen by proxy, something he wasn’t even qualified to diagnois.  DSS would not even listen to the mother, not even when she showed them the medical records from the other doctor!)

Lanigan wrote in an email that caseworkers who get a call from the state hotline consider the information and determine whether the child is in imminent danger. They have 24 hours under the law to contact the alleged victim, she said.

“When a child is in the hospital and there is no plan for release within 24 hours, a reasonable assumption made by the department would be that the child is in a safe place,” Lanigan said. The caseworker might have more pressing issues than getting to the hospital immediately, such as the safety of other children in the home, she said.

“If the hospital staff says release is imminent and they have concerns about the release, a child protective investigator would be sent immediately, no matter what time of day,” Lanigan wrote. (but that isn’t what is happening)

Oswego County DSS child protective workers have been under scrutiny since Maxwell’s death last year. The state’s investigation found that DSS did inadequate long-term monitoring of the deplorable conditions in her home, even though it smelled of animal urine, animals were kept in the kitchen and there were more than 120 cats in the house. The report said Maxwell’s death likely would not have been prevented had DSS acted differently. (If they had removed Erin from that home, her death may have  have been prevented!  Although with all the children dying in foster care and adopted homes, who knows if she would have been safe in the uncapable hands of DSS.)

Mullaney disagrees, and questions the thoroughness of the state’s investigation. He was on duty in the ER when Maxwell was brought in, and gave state police a written statement about his medical findings.

And he’d complained to the state a year earlier about Oswego County’s caseworkers, he said. But he was never contacted by the state investigators who did the report, he said.

State investigators didn’t interview Mullaney because they were focused on reviewing the work of Oswego County’s caseworkers, not on the police investigation, said spokeswoman Susan Steele. ( Iwould think that the police investigation into Erin’s death would be required reading when reviewing the work of the Oswego County Caseworkers.  In order to investigate anything properly, you need to have all the information..not just part of it.)

Mullaney, who heads the ER at Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport, said he blames himself for not going public sooner with his concerns. He said he can’t shake the children’s deaths. ( I cannot shake these children’s deaths either, they haunt me.  I read their stories and I am filled with a conviction to do whatever it takes to make their stories public, to draw attention to this corruption.  I am daily filled with frustration because these children’s deaths are handled so callously by DSS, they do not show one iota of regret for their actions or inactions in the deaths of these children.  They do not show remorse, most of the time they do not even offer condolences to the surviving family members…they just immediately begin covering their ass!   I do not understand how other people cannot see what is going on with the child protective services system.)

“When you finish resuscitating them and they’re lying there dead on a gurney and you’re waiting for the police,” he said, “that is burned into your mind. It never goes away.”

John O’Brien can be reached at jobrien@syracuse.com or 470-2187.

 

Unfortunately, when you research cases like Erin’s, where a child has died and DSS was involved… when you look closer, you always find more dead children.  In the above story Dr.  Mullaney mentions Nick’s case and the news reporter supplies a link to the following story.

Fulton mother: Baby wasn’t breathing, covered in bruises

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2008/08/arrest_made_in_toddlers_death.html

by Catie O’Toole

Thursday August 21, 2008, 9:00 PM

dawn-taylor-with-her-son-nick

MySpace photo of Dawn Taylor, 29, of Fulton, with her son, Nick.

MySpace photo of Dawn Taylor, 29, of Fulton, with her son, Nick.

Fulton, NY — When Jay John Barboni picked up his girlfriends 15-month-old son from a baby sitters house Monday afternoon in Fulton, the boy was healthy, said his mother.

About three hours later, the child was dead.

On Thursday, Fulton police charged Barboni, 30, of Falcon Drive, Clay, with second degree murder.

Barboni is accused of killing Nick Taylor at the Gilbert Grove Apartments at 1100 Emery Street, Apt. 123, Fulton.

Submitted photoJay Barboni

“He was the last one and the only one with my son,” Dawn Taylor said Thursday night at her parents house in Baldwinsville. “We’re all thankful the killer is in jail now.”

Taylor said Barboni called her at work about 8 p.m. Monday to say her son wasn’t breathing.

“I went right to my apartment and found Nick not breathing. He was blue. He had a good amount of bruises on him, all over,” she said. “I was bawling. Jay disappeared. I don’t know where he went. He went outside somewhere. I was trying to find a pulse, but I couldnt find one.”

Police have not released details, including what Barboni is accused of doing that caused the boys death.

Barboni, wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, cried as he was arraigned in Fulton City Court.

Shannon Provost, the mother of Barboni’s two children, said she doesn’t think he would intentionally hurt a child.

“I honestly dont believe in my heart he did wrong. I dont at all,” said Provost, 31, of Phoenix. “He was never physical with the kids. I just cant believe this is happening.”

“He (Barboni) sometimes he had a temper and thats honest — but never against his kids,” Provost said.

Dawn Taylor said she had dated Barboni for the last three months, and he never hurt her or her two children until Monday. (In the above story Dr. Mullaney states that, “The night Taylor arrived in the ER, Mullaney got the boy’s medical records from Crouse Hospital. They showed that two weeks earlier, the case had been referred to child protective workers, Mullaney said. He doesn’t know what the agency did.”  Now I don’t know what was exactly in this report, but I do have to wonder if abuse was reported and suspected two weeks before this child died.)“He hurt us just by taking Nick away,” Taylor said. “He (Nick) was happy-go-lucky, always in a good mood, full of energy and joy.”

Besides his mother, Nick Taylor is survived by his 9-year-old sister, Paige Kohler, of Fulton; his grandparents, Scott and Sheryle Taylor, of Baldwinsville; his aunt and uncle, Betty and Dave Wendt, of Baldwinsville; his aunt and uncle Merri and Scott Taylor, of Rome; and his great-grandfather, William McArdell, of Phoenix.

Barboni remains in the Oswego County jail without bail.

He is scheduled to reappear at 11 a.m. Aug. 26 in city court for a preliminary hearing.

I will not be posting a new story today, I would like for everyone who visits this site to focus on the Wilkes County DA’s office dismissal of valid charges against Allison Baker, when they had enough evidence to prove their case!!!!

Thank you all for visiting and helping my spread the word about the corruption in Wilkes County.

http://www.dailysentinel.com/news/content/news/stories/2009/02/18/misc_CPS_history_021809.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=10 

CPS investigated mom before toddler’s death

Documents show long string of abuse allegations began in 2005

 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The mother of a Nacogdoches child who was fatally beaten last week has a long history of investigations by Child Protective Services, according to court documents secured by The Daily Sentinel.

Anthony Tyrone Roberts, 37, has been charged with capital murder and first-degree bodily injury to a child in connection with the death of Kaylan Broumley, 3, who died Feb. 12 in a Louisiana hospital. An autopsy report concluded Kaylan died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, which resulted in a severe brain injury.

Roberts and the girl’s mother, Joy Simmons, 22, brought the girl to Nacogdoches Memorial hospital Monday, Feb. 9, and reported to deputies and medical staff that Kaylan had fallen off a horse. She was treated for traumatic brain injury, burns on her feet and toes, and bruises in various stages of healing on her face, neck, ribs, back, leg and thighs, according to a CPS affidavit. Simmons (who is also referred to by a last name of Yates in the CPS document) later recanted her original story and said she left Kaylan in the care of Roberts. When she returned home, Simmons said she was informed by her 4-year-old daughter that Roberts hit Kaylan, the report states.

Roberts later told investigators that Kaylan had not fallen off a horse, and he said he may have caused the injuries when trying to revive her after Simmons called him stating she found Kaylan unresponsive.

Roberts later told investigators that he shook the child and held his hands over her mouth to keep her from crying, according to his arrest affidavit.

CPS first investigated Simmons in 2005 following allegations that Simmons physically abused her former boyfriend’s children. The allegations were later ruled out, according to CPS documents.

Two more CPS reports surfaced the following year, alleging Simmons neglected two of her own children, but those claims were also dismissed. In 2007, Simmons was briefly investigated by CPS after her daughter died, though the case was dismissed after it was determined that the child died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrom, according to the CPS reports.

In April 2007, Simmons and her boyfriend were investigated regarding alleged sexual abuse of Kaylan, though those allegations were also dismissed due to lack of evidence. Simmons’ boyfriend submitted to a polygraph test and passed, according to CPS records.

In October 2008, CPS received another report alleging Simmons was neglecting her children, and the report also contains allegations of drug use by Simmons. A CPS document states Simmons admitted to using marijuana and Vicodin without a prescription. During that investigation, CPS received another report that Simmons physically abused Kaylan.

“Kaylan Broumley was observed with bruising to her buttocks,” the CPS report states. “Ms. Simmons said she had spanked her with her hand … she appeared remorseful in that she left bruising on the child.”

During a home visit as part of the investigation, a CPS worker saw bruising to Kaylan’s cheek and temple. At that time, Simmons told the case worker that the child was injured while visiting her aunt, though the investigator contacted the aunt who said she had not seen the child recently. The investigator then spoke with Simmons again, who said Kaylan fell down the front porch steps while Roberts was watching her, according to the CPS case history.

“(Simmons) has a limited positive support system. All of her sisters have had CPS involvement and two have had children removed by CPS,” the CPS report states.

Since Kaylan’s death, CPS has taken custody of two of Simmons’ children.

“(Simmons) has demonstrated an inability to protect her children … She did not seek immediate medical treatment for her child who had severe injuries.

It is recommended that the children be taken into protective custody and placed into foster care to ensure their safety,” the CPS report states.

Chelesea Wilbanks, the mother of two of Kaylan’s half sisters, contacted The Daily Sentinel and said she reported suspected abuse and neglect to CPS on multiple occasions. She said she has contacted the sheriff’s office with more information about prior alleged abuse by Simmons. Wilbanks is a former spouse of Kaylan’s father, Rocky.

“I want the real truth to be heard,” she said. “I believe there’s a lot more to it.”

Sunday, Feb. 08, 2009

Judge’s ruling may force DCFS into changes

http://www.bnd.com/news/local/story/647780.html

BY GEORGE PAWLACZYK AND BETH HUNDSDORFER – News-Democrate

Open records advocates say that an unusual decision by a Madison County judge to release a closed juvenile court file in the death of 3-year-old Joseph Schoolfield may push the Department of Children and Family Services to make its files public in cases where children die.

“Anything that allows a little bit more sunshine into this process is a step in the right direction. I think the door has now opened a crack,” said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform in Alexandria, Va.

“What needs to happen is that the door needs to be shoved wide open,” said Wexler, who contends that the agency’s files should be open to allow the public to learn of poor judgment and mistakes by caseworkers that can lead to harm to children.

While an Illinois law that took effect in June allows the DCFS to release records when a child is killed or seriously injured and someone is charged with a crime, the agency refused the first request made by the News-Democrat in November involving the death of 3-year-old Bianca Starr. She died at her family’s home in Herrin of asphyxiation and her mother is charged with murder.

The law resulted from the newspaper’s 2006 series “Lethal Lapses,” which reported that the deaths of 53 children under state care occurred after state child protection workers erred or failed to follow their own regulations.

DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe, citing a provision of the new law that records may be withheld if a criminal investigation might be compromised, said his bosses told him nothing could be released in the Starr case. Marlowe said the local prosecutor was first contacted.

Indiana and Missouri have laws that allow the case files to be opened irrespective of criminal investigations.

Marlowe was asked to open DCFS files in the Joseph Schoolfield case. He said he will provide an answer in several days.

Springfield attorney Don Craven, a specialist in open records law and counsel to the Illinois Press Association, said DCFS may have a difficult time justifying keeping the Schoolfield case records closed after Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis opened the boy’s juvenile court records Thursday at the request of the News-Democrat, and after first checking with prosecutors.

“Callis talked to both prosecutors prior to opening the record and neither of them objected,” Craven said. “If the prosecutors say it is not going to interfere with an ongoing investigation, I can only assume they would have told Judge Callis that if it were so. … Is DCFS going to tell you they talked to the same people and the same people told them to keep them (files) shut? You’ve already got a judge saying she talked to two prosecutors and they say release the record.”

In the juvenile court case involving Joseph, a DCFS caseworker at a Dec. 2 court hearing contradicted an earlier finding by the agency and testified that the boy’s injuries were accidental. Joseph’s mother, Valerie Schoolfield, was allowed to keep her son.

Valerie Schoolfield, of Keyesport, was charged Thursday along with her boyfriend, Scott Endicott, also of Keysport, with first-degree murder in the child’s beating death. Joseph died Jan. 24 after three days in the intensive care unit of a St. Louis hospital. The two were charged in Clinton County Circuit Court in Carlyle, and both remain in custody at the Clinton County Jail.

In another unusual move, Madison County State’s Attorney William Mudge issued a news release Tuesday challenging an assertion by DCFS in a news story that the agency had always acted to protect Joseph.

Mudge said that the caseworker’s claim on Dec. 2 that the injuries were accidental, “made it impossible” for prosecutors to get a judge to agree to place him back into protective custody.

The newspaper’s 2006 investigation showed that caseworkers and supervisors commonly made basic errors, such as failing to check the criminal record of a boyfriend or even making a proper search to find a family after receiving a hotline report that a child was being abused. In one case, a caseworker finally located an abused child after he got a call saying the little girl was in the morgue.

In another case, a child protection worker refused to properly investigate a scalding case because the state didn’t provide batteries for a digital thermometer. In other cases where children died, accounts from parents that children were injured accidentally were taken as fact without investigation.

The new law also provided for the formation of “error reduction teams” from the DCFS Inspector General. They have held retraining for most of the state’s child protection investigators.

Wexler, the head of the national child protection group, said, “DCFS has no interest in secrecy except to protect itself … opening records makes it less likely that DCFS can mislead anyone about who said what and when.”

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 239-2625. Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570.

Lethal Lapses Series

http://www.bnd.com/lethal_lapses/index.html

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