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Escape from Foster Care
August 28, 2009 permalink
Four brothers ages 3 to 9 had enough of their Pennsylvania foster home and escaped. They were picked up by police while attempting to hitchhike back to their dad.
Young Foster Kids Found Hitchhiking In 'Escape' Attempt
Jeannette Kids Tell Police They're Trying To Get Away From Abuse
POSTED: 2:36 pm EDT August 27, 2009, UPDATED: 12:54 pm EDT August 28, 2009
JEANNETTE, Pa. -- Police in Westmoreland County are investigating after four foster children -- all under the age of 9 -- were found hitchhiking to escape an allegedly abusive home.
Drivers in Jeannette alerted police to the boys -- ages 9, 7, 5 and 3 -- trying to catch a ride on Route 130. Police said the kids had apparently climbed a chain-link fence to get out.
"The 9-year-old explained that they were trying to hitch back to Pittsburgh to be with their dad, and that all of them were tired of being abused at their foster home," Jeannette Police Officer Justin Scalzo said.
The children had been placed with two sisters, Sharon and Shirley Baker, on Harrison Avenue in Jeannette.
Channel 4 Action News' Jennifer Miele reported the children told police they were being abused and had to leave the home.
When police found the children, they said that the 3-year-old was wearing a soiled diaper and no shoes, and that all four children were dehydrated and hungry.
Police shared photos with Channel 4 Action News that show marks found on the 3-year-old's back.
"The 9-year-old said he wanted to show me his brother's back, and when he lifted up his shirt, there was definitely signs of abuse," Scalzo said. "To me, it looked like he was beaten with some kind of object."
The children told police they were locked out of the home daily and ordered to stay in the yard, only coming inside at meal time. Although the yard is fenced in, neighbors told police the kids easily climbed in and out, Miele reported.
"Where are the parents at? How do you not know four kids are missing from your house?" Scalzo said. "Even if they are playing in a fenced-in back yard, how do you not have supervision out there? How do you not hear them playing?"
According to the criminal affidavit, a neighbor told police that she saw the boys climb the fence and go onto the road. The witness said she told Sharon Baker that the boys can get over the fence and said Baker just looked at her and went back inside, the affidavit said.
The boys were taken to the police station, where firefighters gave them something to drink and Scalzo's wife fed them dinner.
Nearly six hours went by with no phone calls from the foster parents and no help from the child services agencies in Westmoreland or Allegheny counties or the council of the Three Rivers American Indian Center, which placed the boys with the Baker sisters.
"I didn't get any help until 11 o'clock that night, and the boys didn't get out of here until near midnight," Scalzo said. "I want to say I'm disappointed with all three agencies. I was in the middle of conducting the investigation, and now I have to switch roles and care for these kids."
The Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families said it's investigating why Three Rivers, a subcontractor, took so long to get there.
Three Rivers did not return calls for comment from Channel 4 Action News.
The Westmoreland County Children's Bureau had no comment.
The boys -- as well as their 1-year-old sister, whom they had to leave behind when they decided to hitchhike -- have all been removed from the Bakers' custody and placed in new foster homes.
"I'm really not surprised," neighbor Courtney Wagner said. "They keep those kids out all day."
Both of the Bakers have been charged with endangering the welfare of children. Allegations of physical abuse are still being investigated.
When asked for comment at their home, one of the Bakers told Channel 4 Action News that it should be ashamed of its report and then closed the front door.
Source: Pittsburgh Channel