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

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DoCS attacking families in Queensland – The Turmoil Goes On and on and on and never stops with DoCS Queensland

Australian-Institute-of-Family-Studies-Do-some-proper-research-on-child-protection-in-Australia1DoCS attacking families in Queensland
The Turmoil Goes On and on and on and never stops with DoCS Queensland 

I was 19 when I had my first son. I had no idea on how to raise a child. I had no support nothing. I was with someone who abused me daily and I stayed thinking it was the right thing to do. Then I fell pregnant with my second son while still in the same relationship. I never received any help and was still getting abuse, until he tried to kill me. I took my son and I finally left.

I met someone new and within a few months I fell pregnant again.

I was left standing on my own and I moved back home after I had my baby girl thinking it was the best thing to do. I was wrong, it wasn't. In the mix of all this, my ex took my boys while he was on drugs, he drinks and smokes.

For 5 months, I missed their lives cause of the court system. Not just that.

I called DoCS on my ex cause he keep my babies lock up in a house and they end up with school sores. DoCS told me I had no right as a Mum.

Then I did get them back and move to my mums.

In September 2013, I got with my new man, he is so good to me and my kids. He has raise my baby girl and my two boys as his own. The day before Christmas my son broke his leg by playing around.

DoCS got called on me. They come out and could find anything and closed the case. I keep ring them every time my kids hurt themselves and got told by DoCS to stop calling other wise I was going to be charge for harassment.

Four weeks later my son had his cast off and we move in to a new house. He was playing with some other kids riding bikes and re-broke his leg by accident. At the same time my oldest boy got a boil on his tummy.

The boil left a hole in is tummy, so I took him up to the hospital and he got an infection from the hospital. The hospital blamed me for it. My kids got taken away again.

I am fighting for them back we already have done a parenting program and doing counseling and this was done before they ask us to.

I'm now pregnant with my 4th child and got told from DoCS, if I went to every appointment and look after myself I would get to keep him but now they told us he is going into care without giving us a chance.

I don't smoke or do drugs or even drink nor does my current partner.

All DoCS have done is lie to us and won't help in anyway. We ring them all the time to get stuff done. As a result of all the stress I am under, I have been admitted to hospital


By Anonymous in Queensland, as told to Luke's Army

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DCF caseworker still on the job after baby’s death, investigation underway

img-Governor-launches-investigation-into-child-s-death-DCF-case-worker-still-on-the-jobGovernor launches investigation into child's death, DCF case worker still on the job

Gov. Peter Shumlin launched another investigation into the Department for Children and Families after two toddlers died within two months of each other.

Fourteen-month-old Peighton Geraw’s death was ruled a homicide just last week.  This week, Shumlin is calling for an investigation into his death on top of the one already underway to look into 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon’s death.  She died in February.

Peighton’s death means a new round of questions for DCF, the state agency designed to protect our children.

Perhaps what’s most about Peighton’s death is that a DCF investigator visited the bruised and sleeping baby about an hour before his death.

Still no one removed the child from the home, and that investigator continues to work with Vermont’s children.  Now those who knew the young victim are demanding better.

“It’s hard to think about what happened to him,” Stephanie Bilodeau said.

Bilodeau got to see Peighton grow up. He was in her son’s day care class for the past year.  But when she looks through old pictures, she’s left with more questions than answers.

”I just want justice for him. I think that that's extremely important right now and I think that somebody needs to speak out on his behalf,” Bilodeau said.

According to court records, the 14-month-old was brought to Fletcher Allen Health Care at the beginning of April. He was throwing up and had a fever.  Hospital staff noticed bruising on Peighton’s neck, and when they asked the boy’s mother, Nytosha Laforce, and her boyfriend, Tyler Chicoine, about the bruises, neither could explain them.

The toddler was sent home and died two days later - a little over an hour after a DCF worker visited the sleeping baby.  His death was eventually ruled a homicide.

“He was standing right over him. I think that he could have been a lifesaver,” Bilodeau said.

State policy prevents a DCF caseworker from immediately removing a child from a home, but police could have been called in.

“Sometimes, a caseworker may be accompanied by a police officer. Police officers do have that authority. And oftentimes they may be there alone and it's a judgement call, and depending on the whole situation, it would dictate how they would act,” DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone said.

Peighton's death is not the first one the governor has ordered lawmakers to look into in the past couple of months. DCF practices came into question in February when 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon died. Her stepfather is now charged with her murder.

“Whenever we lose a vulnerable child we're all responsible and it is absolutely heartbreaking,” Shumlin said.

And while Shumlin waits for the findings of investigations by lawmakers and an independent group into Peighton’s death, the caseworker who visited the little boy shortly before he died is still working at DCF.

Shumlin said, “I can assure that we should be very careful about casting blame or suggesting that we have answers when we probably don't yet.”

“I mean there's nothing we can do for Peighton, but we can step up to the plate for the other children that are out there that are being abused and hurt that way so it doesn't result in a death of another child. It's just not fair,” Bilodeau said.

Police have not charged anyone in connection to Peighton’s death. Although, they do say Laforce and Chicoine are both in custody on parole violations.

There is no timeline for when the independent investigation into Peighton’s death will be completed.  The governor has urged the panel to speed up their efforts, but says he can’t force results.


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Reports: Another Child Under DCF Watch Dies

Another child under the state Department of Children and Families watch has died, according to media reports.

A 2-month-old who was living in a Weymouth hotel room with her family stopped breathing on Thursday, the Boston Herald first reported. According to the newspaper, the baby girl was rushed to the hospital at 8 a.m. on Thursday, but did not survive.

The Department of Children and Families confirmed to the Herald that the agency was involved with the family.

"The department is deeply saddened by this news," DCF spokeswoman Cayenne Isaaksen told the newspaper. "DCF had recently opened a case with this family when this tragic incident occurred. We received a report and the investigation is ongoing in coordination with law enforcement."

The incident is the most recent in a string of deaths of children affiliated with the Department of Children and Families.

The body of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver from Fitchburg was found dead off a highway in Sterling last month.

Two-week-old Bailey Irish from Fitchburg died April 26 when her parents said she stopped breathing.

Four-week-old Aliana Lavigne of Grafton died April 11 after DCF workers misplaced a fax from the Grafton Police Department.

Each family was under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families. Amid the controversy, Olga Roche resigned as commissioner of the agency last week.

An initial investigation by the Norfolk District Attorney’s office into the death of the Weymouth infant does not suggest foul play, NECN reports.

The Weymouth hotel manager said the family had been living there for about a year and that the “baby looked like she was well cared for,” WCVB reported.

Read More at: Reports: Another Child Under DCF Watch Dies

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Phantom Caseworkers On DSS County Roster

1399669025000-Phantom-WorkersColumbia, SC (WLTX) - Fifty days before 5 month old baby Bryson Webb died in Richland County, a medical professional called The South Carolina Department of Social Services to warn them the baby was in trouble.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department charged Webb's mother, Jennifer Coles, with neglect after they found a heart monitor Bryson needed to wear in a pile of clothes in the trunk of her car.

"When you ask 'where are our problem areas?' We will say 'top of the list: Richland,'" said DSS State Director Lillian Koller to a Senate Subcommittee investigating the agency.

Last year, 4 year old Robert Guinyard Jr. died after DSS returned him from foster care to his parents.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department charged his mom and dad with Homicide By Child Abuse. They are still awaiting trial.

Koller said 8 employees were fired or retired as a result of his death but told the Senate subcommittee she's got plans to keep county offices staffed.

"We need more people there," Koller said. "No question about it."

The Senate budget office says Koller has asked for 50 new caseworker positions be allocated to DSS.

In a copy of the request we obtained, she says the agency already has the money to pay those 50 employees. The request says with the new employees, "DSS will have an appropriate number of Child Protective Services caseworkers."

Senator Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, alongside fellow senators investigating DSS, Tom Young, R-Aiken, and Joel Lourie, D-Richland, say there's turnover trouble inside the agency because workers have too many cases.

In a Richland County Office Summary document, we found workers who were once employed by DSS but no longer there with cases next to their names.

At least 3 workers were still on the roster showing a caseload weeks, sometimes months, after they left DSS.

If the list is up to date, there's a problem says child welfare attorney Jay Elliott whose worked on child abuse issues for the past four decades.

"Well obviously, if a kids in danger, you can't just let that kid sit there and be exposed," Elliott said.

We showed Elliott the confidential roster we obtained from March 30th of this year, showing at least 3 employees who left the agency or were fired weeks, sometimes months, before.

"You don't want to lose kids. I mean you don't want to lost kids in the system," Elliott said.

Take former employee Rita Morris as an example. When the March 30th report was generated Rita wasn't working for DSS but was listed on the roster.

Morris' resignation letter shows she resigned on December 20, 2013 saying, "the workload has become too much for any one person to handle and I am only one person."

A second employee who asked to remain anonymous had a few cases next to their name on the report. They were terminated for 'unsatisfactory supervisory performance' in August, 2013 more than half a year before the report.

A third employee who doesn't want to be named had more than 30 cases the report said. Their last day at DSS was in February.

"If you are giving out statistics about case loads, and you include these imaginary workers, these phantom workers in your count, it makes case loads look much smaller," said Linda Martin, a former DSS State Deputy Director.

Martin has testified before the Senate Subcommittee looking into DSS right now.

Read More at: Phantom Caseworkers On DSS County Roster

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