Wrongful-death suit filed against DSS, foster parent in Charleston infant’s death

Former DSS Director Lillian Koller

Former DSS Director Lillian Koller

By all accounts, the birth of Aiden Dean Clark was nothing short of miraculous.

His mother, wheelchair-bound from spina bifida, had miscarried three times before Aiden was born July 7, 2011.

The hopeful beginnings of new life in the family came to an abrupt end less than two weeks later after state social workers removed him from his parents' Charleston home.

They had placed Aiden with a foster mother after allegations of abuse surfaced against his father shortly after the baby's birth. Aiden died 15 days later.

Aiden's parents stood by the then-brain dead infant at Medical University Hospital as doctors turned off the machines keeping him alive. His father held Aiden's tiny foot as the baby took his final breaths.

Ellen Babb, an attorney for the family, said this didn't have to happen. A wrongful death lawsuit she filed last week in Charleston County alleges Aiden essentially suffocated after the foster mother left him alone in a sweater box instead of a crib.

The suit is the latest in a string of setbacks for the beleaguered state Department of Social Services, which has been the subject of widespread criticism regarding its practices and child deaths that have occurred on its watch.

Former DSS Director Lillian Koller and the foster mother, Jennie Downard, 71, of North Charleston, are both named as defendants in the suit. Aiden's parents weren't identified in the court documents.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said she can't say whether the baby died as a result of the foster mother's actions. A lengthy and thorough investigation conducted by her office failed to determine a manner or cause of death, she said.

"Whatever Ellen Babb alleged in her complaint is what she believes to be the case," Wooten said. "It's not necessarily based in fact."

No criminal charges were filed in the case, North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said.

"As a result of our investigation at the time, there was no evidence presented to show any intentional and harmful acts, nor was there any probable cause to lead to criminal charges in this incident," Pryor said.

DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus would not speak directly to the allegations in the suit, but she defended the decision to remove Aiden from the parents' home.

Read More at: Wrongful-death suit filed against DSS, foster parent in Charleston infant's death

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

When fostering excites venture capitalists, the number of children taken into care rises

 The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY


The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY

A Norfolk reader sends me photographs of an advertisement placed on the back of local buses by Norfolk and Suffolk county councils. “New challenge,” it reads. “Have you thought of fostering? If so you can earn £590 a week.”

Two things are interesting about this, one general, one specific. For a start, it shows what mind-boggling sums are now available to councils whose social workers take children into care. I have quoted before advertisements offering foster carers £400 a week for each child. But £590 a week means that a foster home looking after three children taken from their parents, which is not uncommon, can now earn almost £100,000 a year. In addition are the lavish fees charged by fostering agencies to make the arrangements, almost invariably run by ex-social workers.

Most people have no idea what a big business fostering has become. When one such firm, National Fostering Agency, representing 175 local authorities after being launched by two ex-social workers in 1995, was placed on the market by Rothschilds in 2012, it was sold by its “venture capital” owners Sovereign to a “private equity” firm, Graphite Capital, for a staggering £130 million.

The more specific point, however, is that, of all the councils that feature in my files as seizing children from their parents for what seem like questionable reasons, Norfolk and Suffolk are high on the list. In one of the most controversial cases I have reported, it was Norfolk’s social workers who were eventually forced to hand back a baby to its parents, after they had twice travelled to France to take the child into foster care in England. Having been thwarted in their plans, when a judge ruled that they had no legal right to do so, they seized several more children from different members of the same family who, to justify their removal, now face many charges of criminal abuse.

Yet last year the children’s department of this same council, Norfolk, received the most damning report possible from Ofsted, failing it as “inadequate” (the lowest rating) on every one of the five counts on which social workers are judged, from “quality of provision” to “leadership and management”.

Rad More at: Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

ADOPTED-Alleged abuse victim liked to ‘concentration camp survivor’

PEORIA, AZ (CBS5) - A Peoria couple face felony child abuse charges after two of their adoptive daughters outlined a pattern of ongoing physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their parents that began five years ago as an attempt, the mother said, to "train" the girls to be "loving and nurturing."

Johann Jorg admitted to spanking two of his adoptive children with a wooden paddle. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

Johann Jorg admitted to spanking two of his adoptive children with a wooden paddle. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

Johann Glenn Jorg, 61, and his wife, Kimery Lynn Jorg, 53, were arrested Thursday afternoon at their home in the area of the Loop 101 Agua Fria Freeway and Bell Road in Peoria. Each face four charges of felony intentional child abuse with intent, according to a police statement.

The Jorgs are the adoptive parents of four girls, ages 7, 8, 11 and 13 years old.

The 11- and 13-year-olds were found by police to be severely malnourished and emaciated, according to the statement.

The 13-year-old was hospitalized May 30 and in a condition likened to a "concentration camp survivor." She was severely malnourished and medical personnel were wary of re-feeding syndrome, a dangerous condition when a malnourished person begins to receive proper nutrition, according to the statement. She remained in the hospital Friday morning.

The girl also had abnormal growths on her legs, severe "leathering of the skin on her buttocks due to repeated beatings, and calloused and blistered feet consistent with running on the pavement barefoot, according to the statement.

Kimery Jorg said she doled out most of the punishment to the girls because she was home most of the time. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

Kimery Jorg said she doled out most of the punishment to the girls because she was home most of the time. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

The 13- and 11-year-old girls told police they were forced to run several hours a day, were spanked several times a day with a wooden paddle, and forced to memorize, recite and repeatedly write Bible verses without any mistakes or suffer further punishment, according to an investigating officer's statement. The oldest was also forced to live in the backyard nude with only a bucket to use as a bathroom, according to the statement.

According to Child Protective Services, all potential foster parents are required to complete 30-hours of training including lessons on appropriate and acceptable discipline techniques. CPS Spokeswoman Jennifer Bowser said these were lessons the Jorgs should have completed and understood as former foster parents.

Neither parent denied punishing the two for lying and stealing, and acknowledged that Kimery Jorg doled out most of the punishment because she was home with the children and that Johann Jorg spanked the children with the wooden paddle and recently shaved the head of the 13-year-old, according to the statement.

The parents admitted the girls were often spanked several times a day over their clothes.

Neither parent was able to describe to police actual instances of the girls stealing anything, though Kimery Jorg said a single Mentos breath mint was missing during a trip to Colorado and that 22 items from a relative's house were stolen during the trip, though she could not detail any of the items.

The parents said they often "suspected" the children were stealing, and the 13-year-old said she once was caught taking food because she was hungry.

The 13-year-old also said she was forced to eat "prison food" consisting of oatmeal for breakfast, prunes and crackers for lunch and grits with salsa for dinner, according to the report.

Read more at: Alleged abuse victim liked to 'concentration camp survivor' - WNEM TV 5:

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Foster mother arrested after 19-month-old boy found with third-degree burns on legs: prosecutors

Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault for allegedly scalding the toddler insider her Queens home.

Laurent Hamels/Getty Images

Laurent Hamels/Getty Images

Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault after the toddler was discovered with the serious injuries during a visit with his biological parents.

A Queens foster mother was arrested for scalding a 19-month-old boy with boiling water until his skin peeled off, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Shirley Verneus, 35, was charged with assault for the disturbing incident in a tub at her St. Albans home.

“The child will be permanently scarred — both physically and emotionally — by the experience,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

The alleged abuse came to light when Verneus brought little Jaurelious Green for a meeting with his biological parents at the St. Christopher Ottile Foster Agency on Jan. 17. A case worker saw bandages on the boy’s legs and asked what happened.

The foster mom replied that she had left the toddler unattended in the bathtub with a 3-year-old two days earlier, court papers said.

She heard screams, then saw him in the tub with the water running and “observed the complainant’s skin peeling off,” according to the criminal complaint.

While Verneus claimed that she took the child to a clinic, she couldn’t show any record proving that, nor did she report the injuries to the foster agency, according to prosecutors.

And a doctor told investigators the second- and third-degree burns “from the top of his thighs down to the soles of his feet on both legs” and on his buttocks were more than a week old, the complaint said.

Jaurelious had to undergo surgeries and the delayed medical care exposed him to the risk of infections and other complications.

 

A version of this column originally appeared in: