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Don't React to Abuse in Foster Care

March 29, 2012 permalink

Robert Franklin writes on the irony that child injuries and deaths inflicted by parents produce calls in the press for more children to be taken to the safety of foster care. But injuries and deaths in foster care produce reports of the abuse without any calls for action. His essay is followed by copies of the two news articles he cites.



The Silence of the Press When Children Injured in Foster Care

In California, a foster mother allegedly left a four-year-old child with special needs alone and her swimming pool unattended. The boy fell in and almost drowned; he was discovered with neither pulse nor respiration. He remained in a coma for a time but has since recovered although with some brain damage. The foster mother is charged with child endangerment. Read about it here (Merced Sun Star, 3/23/12).

In Arizona, foster mother, Angelica Jimenez was sentenced to 10 years probation for her part in the severe beating of a four-month-old girl in her “care.” Her boyfriend, Steven Saldana, will be sentenced shortly. Jimenez brought the little girl to the emergency room not breathing and with 14 separate fractures. Read about the sentencing here (WAVE 3/22/12).

Those were just two of the cases that came across my screen in a single day late last week. Sadly, there are more very much like them, every day of every week. So, as devastating as they are to the children and all who love them, the two cases are not outstanding. They should be, but they aren’t.

Except in one way. I’ve commented a lot about the tendency of various news organizations to seize on every case in which a child is injured or killed by a parent to call for ever more takings of children from parents by child welfare agencies. What’s remarkable about the two cases I mentioned is that there have been no such calls by any newspaper, magazine, ezine, radio or television network. Indeed, I can’t recall ever seeing such a call when a child was injured by a foster parent. The incident is reported, the grisly details spelled out, the charges revealed. Child injury is horrific and thus, big news.

But what we don’t hear are the impassioned pleas for radical change to the system of child welfare. When a parent injures a child, we’ve heard cries of righteous indignation from the likes of the Arizona Republic and the Boston Globe. Each calls for greater intrusion into family life and parental decision-making. And who could argue when little children are terribly injured or killed?

But those very things happened to the children I mentioned earlier, and not a peep from the MSM. Why not? After all, the writers who follow child welfare agencies surely know the data on foster care; it’s far more dangerous to children than parental care, even when the parents are known to be somewhat abusive or neglectful of their children.

Into the bargain, unlike parent/child relationships, the relationship between foster parents and their children ends when the child becomes 18. Certainly some foster parents continue to care for their foster children after that time, but most of the kids “age out” of the system. That means that at age 18, ready or not, they’re on their own.

But despite all its drawbacks, the news media seem to embrace foster care at the expense of parental care. When a parent harms a child we hear only “CPS should take more children into foster care.” When a foster parent does the same, silence.

It’s true that parents injure more children than anyone else, but that’s just because they provide far more care than anyone else. It’s also true that, compared with foster care, parental care is, on average, far superior. Of course some children need to be in foster care; their parents just aren’t capable of caring for them properly.

But moves to increase the rate at which children are taken into care, based on a few egregious examples, are steps in the wrong direction. As most child welfare agencies already so, children should be kept with parents if possible. If that means providing parenting courses, so be it. If it means providing special services for special situations, so be it.

And of course, when children are taken from single mothers, child welfare agencies routinely ignore the fathers as possible placements for the children. That disgraceful, expensive practice needs to change.

Whatever the case, it is beyond disingenuous for news organizations to criticize child welfare agencies when a parent harms a child but turn a blind eye to the same misdeeds done by foster parents. Sauce for the goose.

And if those same news organizations simply prefer foster care to parental care, they need to explain why. The breakdown of the family is one of the most destructive phenomena American society faces. Promotion of that process by the press is unacceptable.

Source: Fathers and Families.

Merced woman charged in foster child's pool incident

Foster son nearly drowned; prosecutors allege inattention.

A 44-year-old woman has been charged with felony child endangerment in the April 2010 case of a 4-year-old foster child who nearly drowned in her swimming pool.

Merced County prosecutors say foster parent Wendy Ford should have been more attentive when caring for the special-needs foster child, Dexter Xavier Dixon, at her home in the 1500 block of West 20th Street. Merced police say they believe the child was riding a tricycle around the pool and fell in.

When police and paramedics responded, the boy was unconscious without a pulse and not breathing. The boy was in a coma after the accident, but survived and is recovering.

Ford was scheduled to appear in Merced County Superior Court on Feb. 27, but didn't show up for the hearing. Judge Carol Ash subsequently issued a $10,000 bench warrant for Ford's arrest. Ford was contacted by the Sun-Star on Thursday about the case, but declined comment.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll said prosecutors reviewed the case and filed the charges based on numerous factors. For example, Carroll said a gate at Ford's swimming pool wasn't secured and the child was apparently left unattended.

Witnesses also told police that children had been seen running around unsupervised at Ford's home. "We just felt she should have been watching this child better," Carroll said.

According to a police report, the child was placed in the home by Approachable Foster Family Agency -- a Merced nonprofit that provides services to Merced County Child Protective Services.

The state licenses, supervises and oversees private foster family agencies such as Approachable Foster Family Agency. Merced County Child Protective Services can place children using the services of foster family agencies like that agency.

Officials with the agency told police the home had last been inspected by their agency on May 22, 2009, more than year before the near-drowning incident, according to the Merced police report.

Civil suit also pending

Franklin Vincent, Approachable Foster Family Agency's executive director, couldn't be reached by the Sun-Star's deadline Thursday. The boy's mother has filed a civil lawsuit in Merced County Superior Court against the state, Approachable Foster Family Agency, Merced County and Ford seeking undisclosed damages for the child's injuries.

In the police report, officers said a wrought iron gate outside the kitchen door and leading to the swimming pool was standing wide open. Police said there was no lock on the gate and it didn't appear the gate could be secured.

A chain-link fence surrounded the property in the back yard, with a gate on the west side, according to the report. That gate was also standing wide open and wasn't secured by any locking mechanism, police said.

On the northwest side of the chain-link fence, there was another gate secured with a lock and chain. Still, police said there was enough slack for the gate to be pulled open enough for someone to slip through and enter the back yard.

Darmahn Dixon, the boy's father, said the child is back with his biological mother. Dixon said his son suffered brain damage from the near drowning, but is back in school.

"He's blessed. It's a miracle," Dixon said, "He's working on living a normal life."

If convicted, Ford faces a maximum of six years in prison.

Source: Merced Sun-Star

CPS caregiver sentenced in child abuse case

Angelica Jimenez
Angelica Jimenez
Steven Saldana
Steven Saldana


A caregiver for Child Protective Services has been sentenced to 10 years probation for child abuse.

A judge sentenced Angelica Jimenez Thursday morning, according to the Maricopa County Superior Court.

In January, Jimenez plead guilty to one count of Child Abuse and Hindering Prosecution.

Chandler Police arrested Jimenez in August after a baby girl she was caring for was rushed to the hospital. Jimenez initially told police she was alone when the infant stopped breathing.

Doctors found multiple bruises, abrasions and a cigarette burn on the baby's body. It was also discovered that the baby had 14 broken bones, some believed to have been caused by severe shaking.

Detectives learned later that Jimenez was with her boyfriend, Steven Saldana, when the baby was found not breathing and that he'd been staying at her home.

After a number of interviews, Jimenez admitted that she knew Saldana had been abusing the baby since the end of July, but that she never called police or CPS.

Police said Saldana is a convicted felon with a long criminal history. He faces three counts of child abuse in the case.

Source: WAVE