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Florence Nightingale Wannabe
September 28, 2006 permalink
What kind of woman becomes a foster parent and a social worker? In this case, one who leaves a fridge full of rotting food, keeps a home so filthy it requires several fumigations, never spends time with her foster children, tries to suffocate one of them, then dumps her kids and flees the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution. According to later reports, she killed another foster child by shutting off his oxygen.
Social Worker Charged With Child Abuse
Hersh Accused Of Assaulting Foster Son
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A former Kansas social worker has been charged with child abuse, KMBC's Natalie Moultrie reported Wednesday.
Beth Hersh, 28, formerly of Blue Springs, is accused of assaulting her 2-month-old foster son at Children's Mercy Hospital. Hersh is charged with first-degree assault, endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse.
Moultrie reported that Hersh worked as a contracted children's social worker for the state of Kansas.
The case began on April 11, officials said. A social worker at Children's Mercy called police to report a case of child abuse.
Investigators said Hersh attempted to smother the 2-month-old while he was in the hospital being treated for something else.
Hersh's former landlord, Melodie Chrisman, told KMBC that she isn't surprised by the charges.
"From the beginning it was just an odd situation," Chrisman said.
She said Hersh, who started renting from her in January, told her that she would have between two and four foster children.
"I asked her, 'So do you get involved with the people you work with and then fall in love with the kids and then you're their foster mom?' She kind of indicated that's what happened," Chrisman said.
She said she never saw Hersh with the children, but was surprised when she found the duplex scattered with children's clothes and broken furniture after Hersh suddenly broke her lease in July to move to Arizona. Chrisman said Hersh left a big mess behind.
"Refrigerator full of spoiled food and running down the floor. There were bugs, rats, we had to fumigate several times. Just wasn't a clean place for children to be," she said.
Chrisman said Hersh claimed to have several reasons for suddenly moving to Arizona, including a sick father, a new job and financial problems.
"I asked what would happen to children, and she said they would have to go back into the system," Chrisman said.
Moultrie reported that Hersh was hired as a child protective service case manager in Prescott, Ariz., and was going through the department's specialized training.
Officials said the alleged incident happened in April, but the charges and Hersh's arrest warrant weren't filed until this week.
Police said Hersh was arrested Wednesday in Yavapai County, Ariz. Officials told KMBC that Hersh was arrested while she was in the middle of her first training class for her new job.
Source: KMBC-TV Kansas City
Addendum: A TV station followed up to find out how the earlier boy, Juan Carlos Rodriguez Jr, really died.
KMBC Investigates Accused Foster Mother
Hersh Accused Of Trying To Harm 6-Week-Old
TheKansasCityChannel.com, POSTED: 2:43 pm CST February 5, 2007, UPDATED: 10:32 pm CST February 5, 2007
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One foster child died, another one was allegedly assaulted. The common thread was that both boys were cared for by the same woman.
"I wasn't there to help him," said Amy Nussbeck, whose son, Juan Rodriguez, died.
KMBC's Peggy Breit reported that Juan was born July 28, 2004, addicted to crack cocaine and 10-weeks premature. Three months later, he was taken away.
Beth Hersh became his foster parent. Nine days after that, Juan died, Breit reported.
"She always sounded so sweet and innocent, and you know, helpful whenever it came to kids," Nussbeck said.
But Nussbeck said that something about Hersh did not ring true. Records obtained by KMBC show that doctors and investigators believed there was a sinister side to Hersh, Breit said.
Two years later, Hersh has been charged with trying to harm another infant in her care. She's accused of attempting to smother a 6-week-old boy.
Breit reported because of that case, Juan's death came to forefront again and she requested all the files on Juan from the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services.
There were thousands of pages of documentation about Juan, including grainy copies of pictures of the inside of Hersh's home when Juan died as well as information on everything Hersh did at the time of his death.
Breit reported that she uncovered that Juan's life depended on getting extra oxygen into his lungs 24 hours a day. One of his doctors said that two hours without oxygen could have killed him. Yet on the morning of Juan's death, his oxygen machine was turned off.
In an account of events to Children's Services, Hersh wrote that she awoke to find Juan ice cold, stiff and not breathing. She also stated that she saw a reading on the sleep apnea monitor, showing that Juan had a heart and breathing rate, even though she knew he was dead.
But an examination of the machine later showed it had been turned off at 3:52 a.m. and turned back on more than five hours later at 9:08 a.m. -- the same time Hersh called 911 for help.
When confronted, Hersh said she did not remember turning the monitor or the oxygen off, Breit reported.
Breit also reported that state investigators were clearly concerned about Hersh's inconsistent statements and her inability to recall critical child care events surrounding the death of the child.
Later, Children's Services investigators found abuse or neglect occurred in Juan's death -- a decision upheld by a second investigation, Breit said.
That decision meant no more foster children for Hersh. But Hersh hired a lawyer and appealed.
In the records Breit obtained, Hersh wrote that she was sure she had the oxygen turned on, and she said there were numerous people who could have turned it off after arriving at her home that morning.
But first responders and the others at the scene said it was already off when they got there.
Hersh also claimed the sleep apnea monitor was not working appropriately. But a technician who examined the machine later told Liberty police that the monitor was functioning properly. It had simply been turned off.
Breit reported that all those things were working against Hersh. Then the autopsy report came out. The pathologist ruled Juan's death "natural" due to complications from his premature birth. That finding meant no charges were filed in Juan's death.
"How could it have been natural causes whenever the tank was turned off, from what the paramedics said?" Nussbeck asked.
The Children's Division stood by its finding of abuse or neglect, keeping other foster children away from Hersh, Breit said.
But because of Hersh's appeal, a state review board went over the case and ultimately reversed its own investigators' findings.
Hersh became a foster parent again. Within a few weeks, she was accused of assault on another foster child, Breit reported.
Nussbeck said she believes what medical staff said during the 2004 investigation -- that Juan was not supposed to die.
"I honestly don't know what to think, but I just, you know, would like some form of justice for that little boy," Nussbeck said.
Source: KMBC-TV, including a video clip