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Santa Exchanged

January 9, 2011 permalink

After charitable neighbors bought Christmas gifts for Arkansas foster children, the social workers responsible for the kids took the gifts back to their point of purchase to exchange for cash. The article does not say where the cash went, but it is a safe guess it did not go to the foster kids. Lame excuse: social workers were trying to level the playing field by getting equal gifts for all.



Investigation launched into gifts for Craighead County foster children

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There are questions surrounding Christmas presents intended for children in Craighead county foster care.

An investigation is underway by the Jonesboro Police Department to determine if there was wrong-doing by individuals whose job is to protect, care and find permanent families for children in state custody.

"They were taken back before they were ever delivered," said Dia Sawyer, a Jonesboro woman who recently sponsored, or bought presents for, three children in foster care. She bought and wrapped clothing, a comforter, digital camera--even a remote controlled helicopter. All of the items were on wish lists made out by the children.

"I delivered my gifts on the 20th," said Sawyer. That same day in fact just hours later, nearly all of the items she purchased were returned to the individual stores they came from: Wal-Mart, Kohl's and TJ Max.

"Every single item, every single store had been returned on the 20th," said Sawyer. They were returned at one store at 6pm that night and the other two stores were returned on the 22nd."

Receipts document every return made by the Department of Children and Family Services employees. Sawyer tracked the paper trail after the digital camera was returned to Wal-Mart for cash. Then, she called police.

"Nobody is denying that this actually happened," said Detective Mike Branscum of the Jones Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division. "The big question is what the motive was behind exchanging the presents."

Detective Branscum says DCFS employees working out of this office scanned price tags on gifts to see where they came from and returned them. That's not a crime, but where the money went raises some eyebrows.

"We have one situation where one of the DCFS employees used the remainder of one of the gift cards to purchase some personal property for themselves," said Det. Branscum.

Det. Branscum says there's no written documentation of where money was spent once it was received from a returned item. Branscum says DCFS employees interviewed so far about the returns say they were "leveling the playing field" and trying to make sure siblings got equal amounts of gifts. But, Sawyer says two of the children she bought for live at Consolidated Youth Services and are not related.

"There were some things that were taken back and either exchanged or refunded that I'm unclear as to why they would have done that," explained Det. Branscum. "Because they are at CYS. They don't have any siblings and didn't really have a good reason for why that stuff was taken back."

Det. Branscum isn't sure what charges, if any will be filed. The Prosecuting Attorney's office will decide.

In the meantime, he hopes to hear from anyone else who bought gifts. Sawyer says she spent $500 dollars and wonders if any of it made it to the kids.

"I don't think anyone has the power to open a gift and decide whether it should be given," said Sawyer, as she looked over pictures of gifts she had purchased for foster children this Christmas.

Source: KAIT-TV Jonesboro