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May 20, 2008 permalink
Child protectors who remove children from parents for the most trifling reasons give short shrift to reports of abuse within their own ranks. New York rebuffed three complaints of abuse against foster mother Joanne Alvarez, and a fourth was still under investigation Monday when six-year-old Taylor Webster died in her care.
Foster Mother Investigated For Abuse Before Child, 6, Died
By Melissa Russo, Government Reporter
POSTED: 1:14 pm EDT May 20, 2008
UPDATED: 1:25 pm EDT May 20, 2008
NEW YORK -- News 4 has learned that East Harlem foster mother charged in the death of a 6-year-old girl was the subject of four separate investigations by the Administration of Children’s Services regarding the treatment of the children in her care.
The most recent probe was still ongoing when the Taylor Webster died Monday of an apparent overdose after her foster mother administered an adult pain medication patch -- allegedly to treat the child's complaints of neck pain.
Sources familiar with the case tell News 4 New York the most recent complaint about foster mother Joanne Alvarez was filed last month, April, 2008, when a tipster reported that Alvarez was using "excessive corporal punishment."
A source inside the system tells News 4 New York that officials from the ACS Office of Special Investigations (OSI) found no evidence of abuse when they visited the child at school and checked up on two other children, ages 7 and 8, who had been adopted by Alvarez. OSI investigates allegations of abuse and neglect involving children in the foster care system.
Caseworkers also learned that Taylor's foster mother had made regular visits to the pediatrician, including one visit this month, on May 8th, and that the pediatrician had found "nothing unusual."
Insiders tell News 4 - despite several complaints about Alvarez's care - they believe the cause of her death was an "unintentional, stupid mistake."
In fact, News 4 has learned that Alvarez was in the process of trying to adopt little Taylor.
Sources tell News 4 that two prior complaints filed within the last 18 months were declared "unfounded" by ACS, meaning that ACS could not or did not substantiate the complaints. Did these workers miss warning signs that could have prevented Taylor's death?
Taylor had been in Alvarez's care for five of her six years, since May of 2003. Alvarez had adopted two other children, meaning she had to complete many necessary background checks and prove to the Family Court that she was a fit parent.
Good Shepherd Services, the foster care agency most recently supervising Taylor's case, is one of New York's better performing agencies, according to a city government source.
ACS has declined to comment on the case, saying "it's under investigation"
News 4 New York has learned that Taylor ended up in foster care as a toddler after her biological mother left her in the care of an unrelated man who died of a seizure while caring for her. Her biological mother was extradited to Pennsylvania to face felony charges. We're told the biological mother also had four children in foster care in Pennsylvania.
Source: WNBC TV New York