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February 17, 2014 permalink
Lucas Braman, age 23 months, died in a Massachusetts foster home on February 13. He had been taken from his parents after a domestic dispute, a clue that often means social services have been engaged in forcibly separating the parents, a shotgun divorce.
The second enclosed article was published while Massachusetts DCF was still trying the keep the boy's name out of the press. It contains some items from the foster death script with embellishments. DCF blames the family for everything possible. The boy was born addicted, he was delayed and had emotional problems. A judge overrode DCF wishes and took the boy from a foster home to place him with distant relatives. Sorry, 23 months is too young to diagnose emotional problems and the actions of the judge cannot alter the fact that it was DCF that took the boy from mom and dad. A later news item reports the boy's "addiction" was from the mother's prescription pain-killers late in pregnancy.
In the newer article the custodial family was a same-sex couple in which one partner kept a service dog to cope with her emotional problems. Mother Jennifer Cronin has applied for custody of her surviving daughter Layla. "I just want answers," she said. She won't get any. Two and a half years after the fact Jamie Sullivan still does not know the circumstances of the death of her baby just six days after seizure without cause. In later news, a judge has denied Cronin's custody request, instead placing the girl in a new foster home.
More questions than answers in death of South Yarmouth boy
Lucas Braman lived his short life in a tangled world complicated by drug abuse and custody battles.
That continued even the day after the 23-month-old was found unresponsive in his crib at the home of the two women caring for him and his 3-year-old sister. He was later pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital.
By Friday morning, his biological mother, who had lost custody of the children in the fall, was in Barnstable Juvenile Court trying to obtain an emergency order to get back her little girl.
"I just want answers," Jennifer Cronin, 27, of South Yarmouth, said in an interview later in the day.
Lucas and his sister, Layla, were in the care of Cronin's cousin, Sheryl Erb, 24, and her partner, Elizabeth Cavallini, 21, at their home on Winslow Gray Road in South Yarmouth.
Erb and Cavallini had been caring for them since November after the state Department of Children and Families removed the children from the custody of Cronin and their father, Michael Braman, following a domestic dispute. While it was unclear Friday if there was any court decision on Cronin's request, Layla was removed from the home of Erb and Cavallini by the DCF on Thursday and was in foster care Friday, according to several sources.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe said in a statement Thursday that authorities are investigating the toddler's death, as they do with all unattended deaths. But he said there was no suspicion of criminal activity.
The child had "a number of pre-existing medical conditions," O'Keefe said. He said the DCF has been involved with the family since Lucas' birth because of the parents' substance abuse issues.
Lucas was being seen by a social service agency that deals with developmental delays, O'Keefe said. The toddler was checked out Monday and reported to be "well," he said.
Lucas also was seen by an agency that counsels children with emotional issues, O'Keefe said.
He did not identify the agencies, and he did not respond Friday to messages about the schedule for an autopsy or the status of the investigation.
Cronin said she was devastated to learn Friday that, when he was found, Lucas was wearing a helmet and a weighted blanket often used to calm autistic children. Helmets are sometimes used to prevent children from head-banging.
"You're not supposed to put a weighted blanket on a baby and walk out of the room," she said. "You don't put a heavy blanket on a 2-year-old."
"My son would still be here if (the children) were still with me," she said, sobbing. "DCF had no right to take the kids from me."
She said Lucas "banged his head a little bit, but his pediatrician said a lot of kids might do that for attention. He told me his own son used to bang his head a lot."
Cronin said her son was healthy and "had no issues."
Cronin and Braman sometimes left the two children with Erb and Cavallini for extended periods of time, according to a report Cavallini made to Yarmouth police in October.
Police called the DCF in October after arresting Cronin on a domestic abuse charge and observing that Braman appeared impaired by drugs or alcohol, with red and watery eyes.
The two children briefly were in foster care before being formally placed by a judge's order with Cavallini and Erb, who is marketing director for a real estate office, according to her profile on the online professional networking site LinkedIn.
On Thursday, DCF spokesman Alec Loftus issued a statement saying the agency had favored keeping Lucas and Layla in a foster care placement last fall but was overruled by a judge who placed them with relatives.
In a statement released Friday, Erb and Cavallini said the DCF expressed no problems with their care arrangements on Tuesday when they returned to court on a custody matter.
The DCF "originally took issue with our home only due to our use of a service dog," they said in their statement. As of Tuesday "all parties involved were satisfied and happy with the results of the placement of the children, and no change was warranted."
Cavallini said she relies on the service dog "for a psychiatric disability."
DCF spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen said Friday the agency had no comment. "We cannot provide any further detail about the department's involvement with the family," she said in an email.
Cronin said Lucas was a bright-eyed little boy beloved by everybody who met him. "Oh my God, he was so happy," she said.
Erb and Cavallini said they also were devastated by his loss.
"Lucas was a happy, bright, loving little boy," they wrote in their statement. "He loved the (C)eltics, music, animals and, of course, his sister. He was our star."
Source: Cape Cod Times
Cops probe death of child, 2, in West Yarmouth
Prosecutors are investigating the death of a toddler under the watch of child welfare officials.
The 23-month-old male child was found unresponsive in his crib in a Yarmouth home and was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital this morning, according to Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe.
The young boy, who had been born to parents with substance abuse and had a number of pre-existing medical conditions, had been involved with the Department of Children and Families since birth, O'Keefe said.
The child, who was being cared for by a couple, was last visited on Monday by a Cape Cod-based social services agency for delayed developmental progress and reported to be “well,” according to O'Keefe. He said the child was also being seen by another agency dealing with emotional issues.
The preliminary investigation did not disclose any significant trauma to the child, O'Keefe said.
Yarmouth Police and Fire Departments reported they responded to the West Yarmouth at 8:20 a.m. for a unresponsive child.
“Despite all efforts the child was unable to be revived,” said the fire and police departments in a joint statement.
DCF spokesman Alec Loftus said the child had briefly been in a DCF foster home but was removed from that home by a judge last year – a move the agency opposed.
“The judge instead placed the child in the custody of relatives. DCF continued to provide supportive services to the family after the relatives took custody,” said Loftus in a released statement.
Loftus and DCF officials have not responded to questions about whether the Yarmouth residence was a licensed foster home.
The landlord told the Herald his tenants had been caring for foster children in the home since at least 2012.
Dave Withers, 42, who lives across the street from where the child who died lived, said he heard an ambulance siren this morning, which was shortly followed by Yarmouth cruisers with their lights and sirens on. Withers looked out his living room window and saw a male paramedic holding a child that was wrapped in a blanket.
"The EMT carried out a limp body," Withers said.
The child was put into the back of the ambulance where several EMTs attended to him for about 15 minutes before it drove away, Withers said.
He added he didn't know who lived at the home, but would sometimes wave to a woman at the home who appeared to be in her 20s.
Withers said news of the boy's death brought on a painful memory.
"I lost a child myself. ... It's not good." He said he didn't want to elaborate.
Other neighbors said residents at the home were reclusive, and had moved in within the past 18 months.
"Nobody ever comes in or out of there," said 7-year-resident Marie Jones. "It's always empty."
Margie McGrath, who has moved nearby four months ago, said news of a young boy dying was disconcerting. "It's sad when anybody dies, but a child. ... It's even worse," she said.
If you know of a case of abuse in the foster care system, email your confidential tip to ChildrenInDanger@bostonherald.com and we’ll check it out. All tips will be sent only to the journalists covering the case. Confidentiality is guaranteed. We want to hear your story about the state’s embattled foster care system. If you’re not near a computer, call the newsroom at 617-619-6493 and leave a message.
Source: Boston Herald