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Tag Archives: Texas Child Protective Services

Grapevine mom leaves kids outside school in freezing weather

 

http://www.star-telegram.com/local/story/1880227.html

By BILL MILLER

wmiller@star-telegram.com

GRAPEVINE — Police are considering whether to pursue charges against a mother who left two children, ages 5 and 7, outside a closed Grapevine elementary school Thursday morning in freezing weather, a police spokesman said Friday.

It was 24 degrees with a wind chill in the single digits when a nurse on her way to her job at a nearby hospital spotted the children alone in the parking lot of Cannon Elementary School, 1300 W. College St.

The mother did not realize that Grapevine-Colleyville administrators had delayed the opening of school because of icy roads, said Lt. Todd Dearing, a police spokesman.

The nurse called 911 at 7:14 a.m., and officers went to get the children, Dearing said. Meanwhile, the mother heard on her car radio that the school was closed and returned to get her children, he said.

By the time she arrived, police were there, Dearing said.

“She made a mistake, she knows she made a mistake, and now we’re investigating to see if we’ll be filing criminal charges,” Dearing said.

The possible charge is abandoning or endangering a child, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Child Protective Services was notified, Dearing said. CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said the children were not in the agency’s custody and thus she could not say whether CPS was involved.

This was an honest mistake, what is the phase that CPS uses to encourage people to adopt a child from foster care, “You don’t have to be perfect, to be a perfect parent.” “After all, kids don’t need perfection; they need you!”

This mom made a mistake and as soon as she realized it, she immediately turned around and went to get her children. They obviously were not outside that long before she did, since she was still in the car when she heard about the delay on the radio!!!!

Leave this mom alone and go focus on the Texas CPS workers who are failing to do their jobs. So many children have died in Texas after CPS involvement and now the police and CPS want to waste time investigating this mom.

What is amazing to me is that the police are even considering charges against this mom for her one mistake, yet absolutely no charges have been pressed against the Texas CPS workers who “Investigation shows family history of abuse missed in half of cases”

“Caseworkers for Texas Child Protective Services have regularly missed warning signs that Houston-area children were in danger, including failing to thoroughly investigate a family’s previous history of abuse or neglect, according to a report released on Monday.”

Why don’t you go press charges against these people instead, they are the ones who acutally deserve to be prosecuted!

Review: CPS Inconsistent with Policies

 

http://www.myfoxhouston.com/dpp/news/texas/091214-child-protective-services

Updated: Monday, 14 Dec 2009, 9:30 PM CST

Published : Monday, 14 Dec 2009, 1:18 PM CST

HOUSTON – Approximately 200 children die of abuse or neglect in Texas each year; a growing number of those children who die had a prior history with Child Protective Services.

There has been outrage that prior visits were failing to detect warning signs in order to protect children.

A review of the Houston CPS region was ordered in July by the state, after several deaths of children who had a history with CPS. The results from that review were released on Monday.

A team of people with the Department of Family and Protective Services were deployed to Houston for the review. They researched records and cases and did extensive interviews with staff.

The review team concluded that CPS caseworkers are not spending enough time with families and that is partly due to extensive workloads.

Caseworkers missed some risk and safety issues when conducting home visits during investigations, according to the review. In almost half the cases, risk and safety were evaluated appropriately.

Review team members also said that investigative caseworkers are only reviewing and using CPS history in approximately half the cases and need more training in mental health issues.

Reviewers found that cases were transferred out of investigations before all steps had been taken to to fully assess risk and safety, which has left regular caseworkers at a disadvantage and the child potentially unsafe.

Decisions made in case reviews lacked sufficient follow-up by caseworkers and supervisors, according to the review.

Reviewers added that in the Family Based Safety Services program, newly reported incidents of alleged abuse or neglect were addressed with families only half the time.

One recommendation made by reviewers is for CPS to hire all the 116 family-based safety service program caseworkers allocated in the previous legislative session and also reviewing whether more employees need to be shifted to this area.

Reviewers also recommended strengthen practices to keep children safe when parents voluntarily place them outside of the home with relatives or family friends.

Gaps in the transfer of cases from investigations to the Family Based Safety Service program need to be eliminated, reviewers said.

The review team also recommended that investigators be given more immediate access to critical case history and information.

On the Web: Child Protective Services Region 6 Operational and Management Review (.pdf) –

http://media2.myfoxhouston.com/news/2009-12-14/region6report.pdf

 

Review: CPS missed warning signs

 

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6769390.html

Investigation shows family history of abuse missed in half of cases

Caseworkers for Texas Child Protective Services have regularly missed warning signs that Houston-area children were in danger, including failing to thoroughly investigate a family’s previous history of abuse or neglect, according to a report released on Monday.

“In only half the cases, risk and safety were evaluated appropriately,” the report’s investigators — a review team from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in Austin — concluded. “Investigative caseworkers are reviewing and utilizing CPS history in only about half of the cases.”

The team’s report is based on a review of 95 randomly selected child abuse investigations, a fraction of the 16,107 investigations completed between February and July in Harris and 12 surrounding counties.

The review was part of several regional reviews scheduled this year. However, the review here was expedited following the deaths of three Houston-area children who died of child abuse: 4-year-old Emma Thompson, of Spring, David Tijerina, 3, of Conroe and Katy infant Amber Maccurdy.

All three died either during or shortly after CPS investigated complaints of abuse involving their care and the children were allowed to remain in their homes. In the Maccurdy and Tijerina cases, there had been several visits to their families regarding abuse or neglect.

The caseworker in the Amber Maccurdy case walked away after the girl’s mother refused to let her examine the child. Amber died of a staph infection shortly after that visit.

In David Tijerina’s case, CPS workers had visited his home at least four times. He died of a beating.

Passing cases

In Emma Thompson’s case, the girl’s doctor called CPS after finding what appeared to be a genital herpes outbreak on her. Three weeks later, she was dead. An autopsy determined she had been sexually abused and suffered a skull fracture and more than 80 bruises.

The report also noted that child abuse cases in this region were passed too quickly from investigators to Family-Based Safety Services caseworkers — those assigned to help the family eliminate risk of abuse — leaving “the child potentially unsafe.”

With the exception of the removal of 439 children from their polygamist parents in 2008, CPS officials have strived to remove children from abusive households only when there is immediate risk to the child.

“We’ve always tried to keep children safely in their own homes or with their extended family, if possible,” CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.

But at least one children’s advocate says this latest report shows once again that CPS’s goal of keeping families together often runs counter to keeping the child safe, which is the agency’s ultimate mission.

“Investigative and (Family Based Safety) have different focuses,” said Randy Burton, executive director of Justice for Children. “And these coordination challenges of keeping families together has led to the deaths of these children.”

No surprises

CPS insists the issue is not that clear-cut.

“Whether a child is removed from the home, whether or not there is a voluntary placement with family members or not, those are decisions made to ensure a child’s safety, not decisions made solely to keep families together,” Crimmins said.

Monday’s review offered several remedies, from reallocating workers from investigations to the family caseworker unit to using more of the agency’s “special investigators,” those workers with a law enforcement background, to help locate families more quickly, thereby getting the child help more quickly.

Burton said none of the findings were a surprise.

“These are things we have known for a long time,” he said.

terri.langford@chron.com

 

CPS review of Houston cases targets caseworkers

 

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/6770712.html

AUSTIN, Texas — Risk and safety were properly evaluated in only about half of the Child Protective Services cases in the Houston region during an internal review.

Details are from a review of 95 randomly selected caseworkers conducted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The report, released Monday in Austin, found caseworkers regularly missed warning signs that children were in danger.

CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins says workers always tried to keep children safely in their own homes or with their extended family, if possible.

Suggestions for improvement included using more of the agency’s “special investigators,” those workers with a law enforcement background. Another recommendation is to enroll parents more quickly in parenting classes and substance abuse treatment.

Reports on other CPS regions of Texas are expected next year.

A tiny boy’s fight for survival

 

http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/local/78126302.html

By HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Posted: November 30, 2009, 7:13 AM CST

 

His mother is in jail, and his protector is the state. His home is a hospital, and his health is nearly as fragile as the day he landed in the ER at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital.

Weighing just 17 pounds, 3-year-old Kayvon Lewis arrived in the emergency room last month extremely malnourished, dehydrated and at risk of heart failure and liver damage. He can neither walk nor talk. He is blind and suffers seizures, sometimes five a day.

His mother, authorities say, was starving him to death, a form of child abuse so rare that doctors almost never see it.

About 200 children each year die from abuse and neglect in Texas. Kayvon escaped death by a thread.

And as is often the case, a lengthy list of people knew about the boy’s eroding condition, but failed to intervene.

“The care Kayvon was given was pathetic,” said Gary Polland, the attorney appointed to represent Kayvon at court after ER physicians had the boy taken into temporary custody by Texas Child Protective Services.

His mother, Marcia Holliday, 30, has been charged with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury by omission, a first-degree felony.

For more than a month now, doctors slowly have introduced the boy to what’s been missing much of his short life: food.

On the night of Oct. 15, according to records, Holliday brought Kayvon to Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital, telling the staff that her son was not eating or drinking and had not wet his diaper all day.

She seemed not to mention, records show, that he was half the size of a normal toddler, or had the head of a boy and the body of an infant — or that he could do none of the things children of his age are supposed to do.

Underlying problems

“He cannot walk, crawl, sit unsupported, pass objects between hands, reach, say ‘mama’ or ‘dada,’ wave ‘bye-bye,’ does not orient to voice,” reads a medical report after his ER exam.

Texas Child Protective Services caseworker Sandra Moy stated the case in more startling clinical terms: “Kayvon T. Lewis’ nutritional level was 9.2 when a normal level is 45 and a low level is 18.”

On the same day, pediatrician Dr. William Risser referred Kayvon’s case to the Child Abuse Resource and Education Center team, an inpatient consultation service for suspected child abuse and neglect cases.

University of Texas-Houston Medical School’s Dr. Oscar G. Larrazolo performed Kayvon’s exam, and the findings were verified by CARE team director Dr. Rebecca Giradet, an associate professor at the medical school and staff physician at Memorial Hermann.

Kayvon, the doctors’ report noted, was first diagnosed at 9 months of age with “failure to thrive” — a catch-all phrase used to describe a child’s condition, not the underlying reason why a child cannot gain weight or develop. Doctors found he had seizures, scoliosis and asthma, underlying health problems. But they told CPS those conditions could not be responsible for his starved state.

“The only reasonable explanation for his starvation is physical neglect,” their report stated.

But as is all too often in the case of abused children, there was no shortage of people who knew about the boy’s eroding condition but for one reason or another failed to intervene.

Weight loss a ‘red flag’

CPS investigated its first complaint about the boy’s care in January 2008. They found Kayvon’s mother was “intoxicated on drugs” and the child appeared to be a “failure to thrive child.” Services were ordered, including sessions with a state dietitian and physical therapist. Nothing about the boy’s small size or condition alerted workers that Kayvon was in enough danger that he should be removed from his home, according to court documents.

On March 27, 2008, while the investigation was still open, Holliday tested positive for marijuana. Still, the boy was left in the home after Holliday promised to enroll in a series of early childhood intervention classes. The case was closed on April 1, 2008.

The following month, he was taken to his pediatrician, Dr. Niala Siddiqi. Kayvon, who was just shy of his second birthday, weighed 18 pounds, 6 ounces. Sixteen months later, on Aug. 28, 2009, his weight had dropped by more than a pound.

Siddiqi did not return calls for comment to the Houston Chronicle.

Giradet, one of the team of doctors who examined Kayvon last month in the emergency room, would not comment specifically on Kayvon’s case. However, she did say that any young child who maintained such a low weight over more than half his life was a “red flag” that starvation was occurring.

Children, particularly those in poorer circumstances, can be found to be malnourished. But starvation abuse of a child is so rare that Giradet has seen it only three times, counting Kayvon, in her decades-long career.

In interviews, Kayvon’s relatives admitted to officials that they had told Holliday to take Kayvon to the hospital on other occasions. But when she didn’t, they did not call his doctors or CPS

“Maternal grandmother and maternal aunt stated that they encouraged Kayvon’s mother, Marcia Holliday to take Kayvon to the hospital for his condition but that she failed to act,” Moy wrote.

There was a second CPS investigation in November 2008. The agency was notified the boy may not have access to his anti-seizure medication. The case, too, was closed quickly after a check found that he did have his medication.

Denies starving her son

Holliday, who was released from the Harris County Jail this past week, denies she systematically starved her son.

“Everything they say (CPS) is a lie. He wasn’t eating or drinking,” she said during a recent interview at the jail. “He has a lot of problems going on.”

Now, two months later, Kayvon’s intake of liquid formula is monitored constantly. Too much food at this stage can overwhelm the underdeveloped organs of his tiny 17-pound body. A white mesh glove has been placed over his left hand to keep him from sucking it. Kayvon was starved for so long, he had sucked his thumb raw and a sore developed.

“Since their bodies have not been seeing normal quantities of fats and carbohydrates, their bodily functions kind of shut down,” explained Giradet. “It’s very dangerous to suddenly feed a starved child normal food. They can go into liver failure, heart arrhythmia. Their pancreas does not make insulin anymore. All of those functions are not working.”

Explanation elusive

Why Kayvon was starved is hard to say.

“Typically these children come from very stressed families,” Giradet said. “It may be one child is singled out and the other ones are getting adequately fed.”

Neither Kayvon’s 6-year-old brother nor his 5-year-old sister showed signs of starvation or other abuse.

Until recently, the children lived with their mother in the Forest Pointe apartments, one of a string of low-income complexes that snake along Northborough Drive in the Greenspoint area of Houston. Both siblings are in foster care.

While Kayvon is out of intensive care, he has yet to try solid food, not even Cheerios or crackers, according to CPS.

Giradet could not say how long it will take a child like Kayvon to recover.

Emma suspect now accused of raping her

 

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/hotstories/6703970.html

 

By TERRI LANGFORD

Lucas Coe, the 27-year-old Magnolia man accused of injury to a child in the death of 4-year-old Emma Thompson, now faces a new charge: that he also raped the young girl before her death in June.

Coe and Emma’s mother, registered nurse Abigail Young, were arrested and charged with serious bodily injury to a child after the girl’s June 27 death. At the time, Emma had a skull fracture, vaginal tearing and more than 80 bruises covering her body. She died two weeks after Texas Child Protective Services discovered the girl had tested positive for genital herpes.

On Oct. 29, Harris County grand jurors returned an indictment against Coe, accusing him of Emma’s sexual assault. If convicted, he would face a minimum of 25 years in prison because the victim was under the age of 6.

The indictment comes about a month after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office secured a sample of Coe’s blood. It is not known if DNA from the blood ties Coe to the girl or whether prosecutors are using other evidence to support the indictment.

Emma was one of 91 children who died of abuse in Texas this year whose families had been previously investigated by CPS, according to a Houston Chronicle review. Roughly half of those children also were living with families known to CPS as having potential problems.

Coe’s attorney says there is no evidence that connects his client to the sexual assault.

“I saw nothing in the file that would indicate how he could have perpetuated the crime he was indicted for,” said Bert Steinmann, Coe’s attorney. “I am clueless as to how they are connecting him with committing the sexual assault.”

Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, declined to comment on the case.

Young, Coe’s girlfriend, also has genital herpes, according to the 33-year-old’s attorney, Colin Amann.

“She does not know where she got it,” he said. “She may have gotten it from Emma.”

Neither Amann nor Coe’s attorney would say whether Coe also has genital herpes, though Steinmann said “medical records from previous doctors” don’t indicate that he does.

Coe is in the Harris County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail. No trial date in this case has been set.

Steinmann has asked that state District Judge Mary Lou Keel remove herself from the trial because the defense team believes there is a perception of bias in the case. A hearing on that motion is tentatively set for Nov. 12.

On Wednesday, state District Judge Suzanne Stovall in Montgomery County set a Feb. 1 trial date for Coe in an unrelated 2007 case involving a child related to a previous relationship.

In that matter, Coe is charged with injuring another child.

Young, free on $50,000 bail, has said that before she left her three girls with Coe so she could go shopping at a supermarket, Emma was fine. Young said when she returned, Coe met her at the door with Emma in his arms. He said that Emma was sick, Young said.

She has said she took the girl, put her in the car and began driving to the hospital. When Emma became unresponsive, Young said she called 911 and an ambulance met her car, down the street from her house.

As soon as Young and Emma left for the hospital, Coe took Young’s other two children and his daughter to the next-door neighbor, where he left them and then left the family’s Spring home.

terri.langford@chron.com

Many child deaths come despite CPS visits

 

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6679660.html

By TERRI LANGFORD Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

Oct. 21, 2009, 11:12PM

Nearly half of all Texas children killed by abuse belonged to families previously investigated by Texas Child Protective Services — a statistic that has shown no improvement since 2004, despite efforts to save more children, records show.

Each year, about 200 children die of abuse or neglect in Texas — at least1,227 since 2004, according to records obtained by the Houston Chronicle. That’s 516 children who died who came from families with CPS histories.

They include Kati Earnest, 5, dead on July 4, from a beating.

Darrell “Tre” Singleton III, 1, left unattended for hours in a car on Sept. 3. Dead from exposure to 95 degree heat.

Emma Thompson, 4, sexually abused. Dead on June 27 from a beating.

In these child deaths, just three among the hundreds, prior visits to their families and homes by CPS investigators failed to detect potentially fatal warning signs.

“They are worrisome to me,” state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, and member of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, said of the increase in child deaths among families with a CPS history. “They should be worrisome to anybody.”

On their face, the numbers of these troubled families with deadly outcomes seem to point to a worsening problem for CPS, one that the agency hopes to get a handle on with a better realignment of its work force in four regions of the state.

About 700 caseworkers and support staff in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley will be reassigned to more critical jobs within CPS’ investigative force and Family Based Safety Services, the department charged with monitoring families once they come to the agency’s attention. It is this department that works with families where a CPS investigation indicates potential problems but doesn’t merit removing children from the home.

“Obviously, our goal is to bring those numbers down,” said Anne Heiligenstein, commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which includes CPS. “That has to be our goal.”

Study: Texas tops U.S.

The national advocacy group Every Child Matters released a study Wednesday showing Texas leads the nation in child abuse deaths from 2001 to 2007.

The deaths among repeat CPS complaints represent less than 1 percent of the 165,000 child abuse investigations completed by the agency each year. However, the growing incidence of child deaths coming from families with prior CPS histories, particularly in Houston, has prompted a review here and in Dallas of child abuse investigations.

Lawmakers are also looking for more answers about why certain families can’t be located more quickly before a child dies.

Such deaths continue to occur despite a $248 million infusion to CPS in 2005, which brought in 2,500 additional caseworkers and support staff, along with better equipment like digital cameras and more laptop computers, so workers could enter information about a child more quickly.

The additional money, equipment and staff did reduce the $1 billion-a-year agency’s crippling investigation caseload. The number of investigations per worker fell from 43 in 2004 to 22 cases today.

But the reforms, aimed at improving child abuse investigations, have done little to break chronic households from a cycle of abuse.

“The fact CPS had previous contact with the family doesn’t automatically mean that CPS could have prevented that death,” said Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for CPS.

Ultimately the person who killed the child — and in 77 percent of Texas cases, that’s a parent — is responsible for these deaths.

“I think we’re all accountable and CPS as well,” Sen. Uresti said. “(But) we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that someone killed these children, and they should be held accountable.”

The recent cases

In several cases among the 189 children who died by fiscal year’s end on Aug. 31, there are stories of missed chances that continue to nag at the agency charged with protecting children while the public asks what it would take to stop missing the signs that something is amiss.

In the case of Kati Earnest, the Vernon girl died after two previous investigations failed to verify the callers’ complaints that she was neglected and possibly abused. Fifteen months after the second complaint, she was dead. Her mother said the girl drowned, but she was covered in bruises. Authorities say the mother finally admitted to beating her five times with a closed fist. She’s now charged with capital murder.

Emma Thompson, 4, died after suffering a fractured skull and more than 80 bruises. The Spring girl was also sexually assaulted. Her mother tried to say her child had fallen. CPS was in the middle of an investigation into possible sexual assault of the girl after she tested positive for genital herpes. Because it can be transmitted in a nonsexual manner in rare cases, CPS let the girl stay with her mother. Three weeks later, Emma was dead.

And in Arlington, CPS workers considered the mother of 1-year-old Darrell Singleton “a pathological liar” and mentally ill from their prior visits, which included the removal of an older sibling because of abuse. But he remained in his mother’s care. He died when he was left in a car all day while she worked in a nearby office.

Reaching more children?

According to Scott McCown, executive director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the number of chronic CPS families could indicate the agency’s investigations may finally be zeroing in on the most troubled families in their system.

“More of the children are being reached by CPS,” he said.

While the loss of a single child is unacceptable, McCown said, he reasons that “the fact that more of the murders this year than last year had some kind of involvement with CPS could be evidence of a good thing. It means the system is more vigorous.”

Just last week, Kayvon Lewis, 3, turned up in a Houston emergency room. He could not walk or talk and weighed just 17 pounds, about half of what a child his age should. On two previous visits to Kayvon’s home, neither of the two CPS investigators, who were both with the agency less than a year, detected anything wrong with the child. A third call came from the hospital staff when his mother brought him to the ER.

Admitted in critical condition, he is still alive.

terri.langford@chron.com

CPS investigating case of 17-pound toddler

 

http://www.khou.com/news/local/stories/khou091020_mp_cps-starving-boy.2379f740a.html

By Shern-Min Chow / 11 News

HOUSTON — Child Protective Services is investigating the case of a 3-year-old boy who weighs just 17 pounds, which is about the size of a typical 6-month-old. But while CPS is looking into his family, the agency may have to answer some questions itself.

At last word, the little boy was in critical condition at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital. His mother, 30-year-old Marcia Holliday, has been charged with felony injury to child. Her bail was set at $20,000.

Officials say his mother brought the boy to the hospital Friday, October 16, and told them “he wasn’t right.” Holliday’s neighbor believes the boy’s mother didn’t intentionally starve him.

“He wouldn’t eat. She tried, she tried. He wouldn’t eat,” said Kathy Scott, Holliday’s neighbor.

Scott has known the family for two months. They live in the same northwest side apartment complex.

“She did all she could for him. The reason I know is I watched the other kids while she took care of them,” said Scott.

Holliday’s son suffers from seizures and other health problems, but doctors say that’s unrelated to his body’s starvation.

“There really is no medical reason why he’s not eating or gaining weight. He does have some issues but nothing that would make him malnourished,” Child Protective Services spokesperson Estella Olguin said.

CPS has investigated the family twice before.

In January and November of 2008, CPS looked into allegations of neglect with the Holliday family but found no signs of problems. Now, with the boy sick and in the hospital, officials are looking into the organization.

This is because the toddler’s hospitalization comes after the deaths of three children this year. All died after CPS investigated the families. Now state CPS officials are investigating CPS in Southeast Texas, an area called Region 6.

“(A review team) randomly pulled 200 cases to look at patterns and trends of some areas that we feel workers need maybe additional training in,” said Olguin.

The result of that state investigation should be in by the end of October.

“We know this is an issue we’re struggling with in these cases where there’s been previous history with CPS. What is it we’re not capturing?” said Olguin.

Holliday’s 6-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter were also living with her. Both children have been placed into foster care. CPS indicated a grandmother and aunt live nearby and knew of the youngest brother’s severe malnutrition but did not actively intervene.

The boy’s siblings will also undergo full medical exams to determine their health. Both are considered small for their age.

“They might be kind of small for their age, but she cooked for them,” said Scott.

They, too, have developmental problems. None of the children has attended school.

Team to review CPS

 

http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=6999436

VIDEO LINK: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=6999804

HOUSTON (KTRK) — The state responds to mounting criticism aimed at Child Protective Services following the deaths of three young children. The state has sent a team to Houston to find out what, if anything could have been done differently to save those young lives. The families of each of those three cases had a history with Child Protective Services.

Officials say the team will be coming to Houston to take a tough look at the way things are done in the Houston office. They are fully aware of the criticism that has come following the most recent deaths.

CPS first came under fire after four-year-old Emma Thompson. CPS had failed to remove the child from the family’s home, even though she had been diagnosed with an STD prior to her death. There was more criticism when it was learned two-month-old Amber MacCurdy died of a staph infection after CPS investigated her family. And recently, a three-year-old Montgomery County boy died from blunt trauma days after CPS workers had been to his home.

As a result of those deaths, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner, who oversees CPS, ordered a team to come to Houston and investigate. Those members will be pulling in a random sample of cases to examine, conducting structured interviews with staff, and gathering and studying child death reports to see how they were handled.

However, critics say these measures have been done before, in fact, since the late 1980s, under similar circumstances to little or no change within the agency.

Randy Burton of Justice for Children said, “What I’m afraid of is that this is nothing but a dog and pony show, that they’re going to talk to a few people, then they get some input from the public. But we’ve done this countless times.”

“We want to improve the system,” explained CPS spokesperson Estella Olguin. “We encourage and we look forward to what are some of the improvements, because case workers, it’s really a difficult job that they do. (I get so tired of hearing from this woman…all she does is make excuses for these failures!)

Every day they’re going out and trying to make decisions and trying to predict human behavior. There are tough decisions and we welcome any help we can get.”

One of the areas of improvement CPS says they have already recognized is getting law enforcement partners out on serious cases from the beginning. It’s something critics say they have been asking for for years.

 

Child Protective Services Investigates Itself

 

(I love how this is worded…Allowing CPS to investigate themselves is like allowing a murder to be the judge and jury in their own trial, of course they are going to find themselves innocent!)

 

Death of Three Children Prompt Probe

 

http://www.39online.com/news/local/kiah-cps-story,0,5742936.story

Dennis Spellman

HOUSTON – Child Protective Services is investigating itself. The investigation was prompted by three recent deaths of children that CPS had files on, but did not take action to remove them from their living situation.

Four-year-old Emma Thompson of Montgomery County was beaten to death in June. Child Protective Services is investigating whether it could have stepped in earlier and saved the girl’s life.

On Friday three people were arraigned in the connection with the death of three-year-old David Lee Tijerina. The boy’s family had been investigated four times by child protective services, yet the child died anyway.

CPS had also investigated a Katy girl’s home. She died of a staph infection less than a month later.

“Our commissioner has sent a team down here to the Houston office to begin doing a comprehensive review of two programs to see if we can recognize any gaps,” said CPS Spokesperson Estella Olguin.

The CPS team arrived yesterday. More investigators come next week. The whole process will take a couple of months.

“It is unusual for the state to take this level of action to track down why children are dying, even though CPS has been investigating their treatment,” said Olguin.

There is much work ahead for the team to investigate.

“They are going to be analyzing data, gathering information, looking at these cases to see if there are trends or problems in certain areas. They will make recommendations on what can be improved,” Olguin said.

Olguin says one of the solutions will likely be better equipping caseworkers.

“Getting case workers information and putting it at their finger tips. A summery of previous history with a family so they have this before they even go out on cases,” Olguin said.

 

3 Deaths in 5 Months

 

Prompts CPS Review

 

http://www.myfoxhouston.com/dpp/news/local/090904_cps_cases_under_state_review

Updated: Friday, 04 Sep 2009, 9:45 PM CDT

Published : Friday, 04 Sep 2009, 2:13 PM CDT

SALLY MACDONALD

HOUSTON – The recent deaths of three Houston area children known to be at risk have prompted a serious review of Child Protective Services. CPS has been under intense scrutiny this summer.

Now, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner has sent a review team to Houston to investigate what could have been done differently to save the three children. Critics, though, aren’t convinced the team will do any good.

When Emma Thompson died in June, she had 80 bruises and trauma to her abdomen. CPS knew she also had genital herpes. In April, two month old Amber Maccurdy died of an untreated staph infection. CPS had visited her family less than four weeks earlier. Then on Monday David Tijerina was found with bruises and broken bones at his home in Montgomery County, which a caseworker randomly checked just six days before his death.

“With each child who dies from abuse and neglect, we try to learn from that. It’s a tragedy, but we try to learn what we could have done differently,” said Estella Olguin, spokeswoman for CPS.

For the next month the review team will examine a random sample of 200 open cases in response to the three deaths. There will also be interviews with staff members at all levels. Reviews of the agency are routinely done but Olguin says this one is different.

“It’s different in that the commissioner asked this to be done now in the Houston area so we can address this problem immediately and try to come up with solutions to help the staff,” said Olguin.

Critics have been pushing for changes within CPS for years.

“It’s the same old thing over again. I mean they’ve (CPS) done this before with similar results. Kids still continue to die,” said Bobby Parnell.

Parnell used to work for CPS. He’s now part of the non profit Justice for Children and one of CPS’s harshest critics.

“There needs to be systematic, sweeping changes that will allow law enforcement to take a bigger role in investigating child abuse,” said Parnell.

Olguin says two big changes are already taking place. Former police officers employed by CPS will be sent out with social workers on the most serious of cases to act as an extra set of eyes and ears with investigative skills. Plus, case workers will be given immediate access to a summary of a family’s history with CPS before initiating contact with them.

“The whole issue of child abuse is not a simple solution, and people want a simple solution to a very complex problem,” said Olguin.

The review will be completed in October. The information will be shared with the commissioner who will then pass it on to Governor Perry and other lawmakers.

State launches review of CPS

 

3 children’s deaths prompt look at area unit’s policies, staffing

 

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6602885.html

By TERRI LANGFORD

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

A state review team is looking at a possible breakdown in the way Texas Child Protective Services follows up on its own abuse investigations after three Houston-area children died despite the agency’s intervention.

“I wanted to take a good look at investigations,” Anne Heiligenstein, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner, said Friday of her decision to send a review team to Houston.

Three children — Katy infant Amber Maccurdy, 3-year-old David Tijerina of Conroe and 4-year-old Emma Thompson of Spring — have died of abuse since April despite the fact that all three had been reported to CPS as possible child abuse victims. Emma and Amber died even though both were seen within weeks of their deaths by CPS investigators.

David, who died on Monday from blunt trauma to his abdomen, was seen by a CPS worker just six days before he died. On Friday, a man considered the boy’s “uncle,” Noah Herrera, 30, was charged with capital murder in the child’s death. Three others, including David’s grandmother, aunt and a family friend, have been charged with injury to a child.

The Austin team will review a random sample of nearly 200 open cases being handled in the Houston CPS district, which includes Harris and 12 surrounding counties.

The state team, which arrived in Houston late Thursday and will be here until October, will also take a look at how CPS investigators hand off their cases to its Family-Based Safety Services staff once the investigation is completed, and how their caseworkers follow up with those families.

Safety services workers monitor troubled families to make sure they are participating in parenting classes, counseling or other services.

In 2005, lawmakers approved the hiring of 1,828 more CPS workers, including 848 more investigators. The additions, coupled with the agency’s resolve to take fewer children out of their homes, have resulted in a rising case-load for safety services staff.

“I’ve been concerned about (Family-Based Safety Services) and the need for more information about cases,” Heiligenstein said.

This past legislative session, lawmakers approved 116 more safety services workers statewide. On Friday, the commissioner announced that all 116 would be hired immediately.

In addition, Heiligenstein’s team will conduct random, 90-minute interviews of some of the 1,748 CPS workers in the region to get a sense of how people are doing their jobs.

Summary of cases

Estella Olguin, CPS spokeswoman in Houston, said one thing singled out so far is how to get better information to investigators when they are looking at a complaint filed against a family the agency has dealt with before.

Some caseworkers don’t have time to read a family’s case file before knocking on their door, she said.

“They’re going to develop a process that puts a summary of the family’s case history at the fingertips of the caseworker before they initiate the investigation,” Olguin said.

Currently, investigators are sent out with an abbreviated summary of a family’s case history that may not include important details investigators need to know before questioning the abuse victim and parents.

CPS officials announced other initial fixes as the team continues its inquiry into the Houston district’s cases.

First, if a new abuse complaint is filed against a family with a prior CPS history, the caseworker investigating the new complaint will be accompanied by a “special investigator,” someone at CPS who typically has law-enforcement experience, Olguin said.

Also, $1 million has been approved across the state for more drug testing of parents. Olguin said about 80 percent of the child abuse cases handled by workers occur in families with a substance abuse problem.

The Houston-area district is the largest among CPS regions. According to agency records, 21,547 abuse and neglect investigations, involving 35,388 possible victims, were completed during the year that ended Aug. 31, 2008. Of those, the agency was able to confirm neglect or abuse involving 6,365 children.

terri.langford@chron.com

3 Charged in Young Boy’s Death

 

http://www.myfoxhouston.com/dpp/news/local/090901_montgomery_county_boy_dead

SALLY MACDONALD

CONROE, Texas – Three adults are behind bars accused of beating a 3-year-old Montgomery County boy to death.

The boy was living with at least four adults and five other children at a home on Edgefield Lane.

Child Protective Services has investigated the family several times. CPS made its first visit to the family on the day the child was born and the last visit just six days before he died.

Monday evening the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office was called because the three-year-old boy wasn’t breathing.

“When patrol deputies arrived they found EMS had arrived and begun CPR,” said Lt. Dan Norris.

The boy died an hour later at a hospital. Justice of the Peace Edie Connely says the cause of death was blunt abdominal trauma.

An autopsy showed he had broken bones and bruises on his body. Tuesday evening three adults in the home were charged with injury to a child. They include Crystal Tijerina, 26, the boy’s aunt and primary caretaker, her boyfriend, Noah Herrera, 30, and another man who lived there, Steven Paul Chauvin.

The boy’s grandmother, Cristina Tijerina, was booked on an unrelated charge.

“The aunt, the uncle and the grandmother were in a position to protect the child. They never indicated to our staff there was a problem,” said Gwen Carter, spokeswoman Child Protective Services.

CPS says the boy lived with his extended family almost all his life because of complaints his biological mother used drugs and neglected him.

In January 2008, the mother died of an accidental drug overdose. That same year investigators made a visit to investigate neglect complaints involving the aunt’s five children. Then on Aug. 25, CPS did a random check of the home and found everything was fine.

“We had no indication there was a concern of physical abuse with this family,” said Carter.

CPS is reviewing the case to find out what, if anything, changed within the family in the days leading up to the boy’s death and whether caseworkers could have done anything to prevent it.

CPS has removed the aunt’s five children from the home, ranging in age from 2 to 12 years old.

Charges against the three adults could be upgraded.

Three charged in girl’s death

 

http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=6994096

KATY, TX (KTRK) — The parents and grandmother of a baby girl who died months ago now face criminal charges, accused of neglecting serious injuries that eventually took her life. Now some children’s rights advocates are criticizing Child Protective Services for not intervening before it was too late.

Two-year-old Amber MacCurdy died back in April. It’s a death that authorities say could have been prevented. CPS officials paid numerous visits to the girl’s Katy home before her death.

Authorities say the autopsy revealed Amber died from an untreated staph infection. The medical examiner also found she had broken ribs and a fractured arm.

When Amber’s parents and grandmother were arrested and charged with injury to a child, Randy Burton’s first thoughts were “that the case was preventable, that we could have saved this little girl’s life,” he said.

The former prosecutor and child advocate with Justice for Children doesn’t argue charges needed to be filed, but he also wonders why CPS isn’t taking some blame.(Why don’t the Prosecutor make them take the blame and file charges against them…this is 3 dead children with DSS involvement!!!)

Burton said, “To me what’s unforgiveable is that the system we put in place to protect these children when we know that they’re at risk, has failed to do anything to keep them safe.”

That criticism comes in light of the fact CPS visited MacCurdy’s home four times prior to her death. In 2003, when Amber’s then three- year-old brother had wandered from the home, CPS recommended a change of locks.

In 2006, when that same brother was found dirty and unsupervised, the case was investigated, but later closed. In 2007, when Amber’s other brother, a one-year-old, had a fractured arm, a doctor ruled it was not abuse. And in March of this year, when Amber’s older brother was the focus of a child abuse case, a CPS caseworker ruled the allegation unfounded, although Amber’s mother prevented the caseworker from fully inspecting her daughter.

Gwen Carter with Child Protective Services said, “There was no indication from our visit to the home that the other children were in danger.”

The MacCurdy case comes in the wake of the death of four-year-old Emma Thompson, who just weeks before she died with bruises covering her body and a skull fracture, tested positive for herpes. A caseworker decided not to remove her from her home because she didn’t have any other signs of sexual abuse. Then just this week, a three-year-old Montgomery County boy died from blunt force injuries. CPS had visited his guardians three times before his death.

“We are taking a hard look at the work that we do and we are making no excuses, if there is something we could have done,” Carter said.

CPS says it will be reviewing these cases with oversight from Austin, fully aware that people like Randy Burton will be watching, hoping this time things will change.

“We expect and we assume that when we call CPS they are the white knight that charges to the child’s safety,” Burton said. “It’s not what happens.”

All three of the defendants in the MacCurdy case have plead not guilty. The case is moving forward and the defendants are due in court later this week.

Video Link: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/video?id=6994095

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