By Attorney David Engler
Another toddler was killed in a foster home, this time in Maryland.
The two year old girl was beaten to death by the 12 year old son of the foster parents.
Public child welfare agencies are the only ones who don’t see that our delivery system of child protection services is largely broken. They hide from scrutiny by cloaking themselves in rules of confidentiality.
Of the families I have represented the thread is common. They are usually poor, uneducated and unable to ask questions. Perhaps that is why their children end up in children services care.
But once government gets involved, then it becomes our business and the death of one child who was given to an agency that was meant to protect should cause an immediate and open review and call for changing the bureaucratically bloated child protection system.
Below is today’s editorial from the Washington Post. It could have been written in all but a handful of states like Virginia, Kansas and Florida that have overhauled children protective services.
WHEN WELFARE authorities remove a child from the home, it is supposed to be for the child’s safety. It is simply unthinkable that a 2-year-old girl in Prince George’s County who was taken from her mother’s custody was beaten to death while in the care of a foster family. Not only must there be a thorough review by county and state authorities, but it’s important that circumstances of the case — including a determination of whether the tragedy could have been prevented — be made public.
Aniyah Batchelor, who turned 2 in March, died Tuesday of “blunt force trauma,” according to Prince George’s police, who said she was beaten inside her foster parents’ home in Fort Washington. A 12-year-old boy, son of the unnamed foster parents, was charged with second-degree murder. Police allege that the boy had “beaten the child repeatedly’’ in a single attack; no weapon was used. It appears that the parents were away and their 15-year-old daughter was sleeping.
When a foster child is killed confidentiality is no excuse for concealing what happened and why.
The toddler had been in foster care since November. “Our hearts go out to the families involved. Both families and the staff that worked with them will need our support in the coming days,” read a statement issued by the Maryland Department of Human Resources, parent agency for the Prince George’s County Social Services Department, which handled the child’s placement. There is no doubting the need for sympathy, but officials also must provide a better explanation of the actions taken in this case.
Predictably, they have chosen to hide behind a supposed need for confidentiality and privacy even as state spokesman Pat Hines acknowledged that the state can discuss some details about a child in foster care if there is “an allegation of abuse and neglect” resulting in a death. Incredibly, state legal authorities concluded that that exemption doesn’t apply to Aniyah’s case.
Perhaps this was a tragedy that could not be foreseen; maybe it occurred despite best and correct efforts. But there are unanswered questions. Was the foster home properly screened? Were the parents trained? Had there been any signs of trouble? Were there alternatives that would have allowed Aniyah to avoid foster care? The public, the 6,859 Maryland families with children in foster care and, above all, this little girl’s mother need more than expressions of sorrow. They deserve answers.
Also published on Attorney David Engler’s Law Blog http://davidengler.wordpress.com