DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths: 61 children, 61 stories

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 01/20/2014, 12:01am

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The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had prior contact with the families of 61 children who died from abuse or neglect in the two-year period between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2013, with five more cases from 2013 under investigation.

That’s according to a Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ analysis of the most recent yearly reports by the state child-welfare agency’s Office of Inspector General, or OIG. What follows are the inspector general’s descriptions of each child’s death and the cases still under investigation. Note: The inspector general identifies the children in the report only by number.

Fiscal year 2013 DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths: 27, with 5 cases still under investigation
Children who died from abuse within a year of having contact with DCFS: 10
Children who died from abuse within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased: 2
Children who died from neglect within a year of having contact with DCFS: 12
Children who died from neglect within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased: 3
Cases still under investigation in which DCFS had had contact with the family within a year and children died of possible neglect or abuse: 5
Statewide abuse and neglect deaths in fiscal year 2013: 104 as of Dec. 3, 2013, with 11 cases still under investigation.

CASE SUMMARIES

Children who died from abuse within a year of having contact with DCFS (10)
watchdogs-cst-012014Child No. 2
Age: 13 months
Cause: Blunt head trauma due to child abuse

Thirteen-month-old girl was found unresponsive by her 22-year-old father’s 25-year-old girlfriend. The girlfriend reported that ten minutes after feeding the toddler chicken, she found her breathing funny and gurgling. At autopsy the toddler was found to have massive head trauma. The little girl had lived with her father and his girlfriend for 3-1/2 months prior to her death. The father last saw his daughter eight hours earlier when he left the house. The girlfriend was charged with first-degree murder. She was indicated by DCFS for death by abuse and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her 3-year-old son, who is now in foster care. She subsequently gave birth to a baby in April 2013; that child is also in foster care.

Prior history: Twenty-four days prior to her death the hotline was called by an anonymous reporter alleging that the father had left his daughter with an ex-girlfriend overnight and two days later had still not picked her up or answered his phone. The reporter said that the ex-girlfriend had contacted the mother who lived in another part of the state, who said she would come get her daughter. There was too little information and misinformation provided by the reporter to locate the toddler before her death. The father’s first name and birth date were incorrect; the mother’s last name was incorrect; the child’s first name was misspelled and her birth date was incorrect; and the one cell phone number provided (the phone number of a friend of the mother’s) continually went to a busy signal after one ring. DCFS investigators in two parts of the state attempted to locate the family by searching public aid, calling numbers in the telephone directory, and sending a letter to a woman with the same name as the reported name of the mother.

Child No. 4
Age: 6 ½ months
Cause: Blunt trauma to the head

Six-and-a-half-month-old infant became unresponsive while in the care of his 19-year-old father. The father called 911 and the infant was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was airlifted to a second hospital with massive head injuries. The infant was pronounced dead the following day. The father and 18-year-old mother had taken the infant to the emergency department the evening before he became unresponsive. They reported that the infant had fallen and cut his lip after he was propped on a couch by the father, who was watching the child while the mother was at work. The infant was observed with no neurological deficits; hospital staff recommended blood tests and x-rays, but the parents refused and left with the baby. A nurse called the hotline and a DCFS investigator went to the home the next morning. The father did not answer the door and the DCFS investigator was still on the premises when 911 responded to the father’s call. The father was indicated for death by abuse and multiple other abuse allegations. The mother was indicated for death by neglect and multiple other neglect allegations. The father was indicted by a grand jury for aggravated battery to a child and involuntary manslaughter. He is in custody awaiting trial. A second child born to the couple in March 2013 is in traditional foster care.

Prior history: The teen parents first came to the attention of DCFS in May 2012 when they brought the baby, then 3 months old, to an emergency department with bruises they could not explain and which they believed might be caused by a bleeding disorder. A nurse called the hotline and the Department initiated an investigation of cuts, bruises, welts by abuse. Following investigation, the Department indicated an “unknown perpetrator” for the infant’s bruising, recognizing that bruises on a non-mobile infant were likely inflicted. Medical professionals did not believe the parents were responsible for the injuries leading the Department to believe that another family member may have inflicted them and that no services were needed.

Child No. 5
Age: 20 months
Cause: Blunt head trauma due to abuse

Twenty-month-old toddler was found unresponsive by his 67-year-old grandmother when she returned home from volunteering. The 30-year-old mother had left the toddler in the care of her 39-year-old boyfriend while she went to school. The boyfriend was charged with first degree murder and was indicated for death by abuse. The boyfriend had previously been convicted and indicated for head injuries to a 1-year-old child. The mother was unaware of her boyfriend’s history. Neither the mother nor the grandmother had ever seen the boyfriend mistreat the boy. The boyfriend did not normally babysit the child, but it was the mother’s first day of school and the maternal grandmother was not available. An investigation of death by neglect was unfounded against the mother.

Prior history: Hospital staff called the hotline after the boy’s birth because they learned the mother had two children in foster care in another state. A third child was in the custody of his father. The mother was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect and an intact family services case was opened. The mother and infant lived with the maternal grandmother who helped care for the child. The intact family services case was closed in June 2012. The mother began dating the boyfriend in April 2012, but the worker did not know that the mother was dating anyone.

Child No. 6
Age: 11 months
Cause: Suffocation

Eleven-month-old infant girl was taken to the hospital by her 39-year-old mother who reported she found the infant not breathing. The mother later confessed to holding her hand over the baby’s mouth and nose in order to resuscitate her to get attention. The mother was charged with first-degree murder. She was indicated for death by abuse and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her 3-year-old child who is in the care of his father. Six weeks earlier the infant was seen in the emergency department for respiratory distress for which the mother used rescue breathing. The infant was hospitalized for 2-3 days following that incident. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: The family first came to the attention of DCFS in May 2009 following the birth of the couple’s first child. Hospital staff were concerned about the parents’ mental health and a request for child welfare services was made. The Department ensured that the parents were linked with services and the case was closed. In June 2010 the hotline was called after the mother was psychiatrically hospitalized for the second time in one month. The mother was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury and an intact family services case was open until February 2011. The mother participated in services and her extended family was supportive and helped care for the child. In January 2012 the mother’s mental health provider called the hotline requesting support services for the family. The referral remained open for one month.

Child No. 7
Age: 9 months
Cause: Blunt head trauma by abuse

Nine-month-old reportedly became unresponsive after being given a bottle by her 36-year-old father. The father called 911 and began CPR. During transport to the hospital, emergency responders noted bilateral bruising to the infant’s thighs. An MRI revealed bilateral retinal hemorrhages, massive swelling of the brain, and brain herniation. Neither the father nor the 29-year-old mother could provide an explanation for the infant’s extensive brain injuries. The family elected to remove the infant from life support four days later. The Department indicated both parents for death by abuse and cuts, bruises, welts by abuse to the 9-month-old and substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the 2-year-old sibling. The sibling was placed in relative foster care. Police investigation of the child’s death remains pending and no charges have been filed. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: At the age of three months the infant sustained bilateral corner femur fractures and unexplained bruises. The parents and five relatives had provided care for the infant and the infant’s 18-month-old sibling during the time when the injuries could have been inflicted. Both parents were indicated for bone fractures by abuse and cuts, bruises, welts by abuse to the infant and substantial risk of physical injury by abuse to the sibling. The children were placed in relative foster care. The parents participated in counseling and visited daily with their children. At the end of July 2012 the court returned both children home under a pre-adjudication supervision order. The Department was providing services to the family and monitoring the children at home.

Child No. 9
Age: 8 months
Cause: Skull fracture due to multiple blunt force injuries, with blunt force injuries of varying ages contributing

Eight-month-old infant became unresponsive while being cared for by his father. The father called 911 and the infant was pronounced dead in a hospital that evening. In the hospital the infant was discovered to have a skull fracture and healing rib fracture. His three surviving siblings who resided with the 26-year-old parents were medically assessed. The infant’s twin brother was found to have head injuries and a 1-1/2-year-old brother was found to have a healing rib fracture. The third child, a 2-1/2-year-old sister, did not have any injuries. At autopsy the infant was found to have multiple injuries and peritonitis (painful infection of the peritoneum) likely caused from being punched in the stomach. The father was indicated for death by abuse and for the abuse of the other children. The mother was indicated for death by neglect and for the abuse of the other children. All three children entered foster care and were placed with relatives. The father was charged with murder. While in jail awaiting trial the father hung himself. His death was ruled a suicide. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: In December 2008 the parents brought their 1-month-old son into the emergency department complaining he was constipated. Examination revealed that the infant had a complete break of his femur bone. The parents had no explanation for the injury. They were indicated for bone fractures by abuse and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect. The baby and his two older siblings entered foster care. The parents participated in services and the four subsequently born children were allowed to remain in their custody while they worked for the return home of their other children.

Child No. 10
Age: 3
Cause: Thermal injuries due to assault with an ignition of accelerant

Three-year-old girl died in the hospital two days after her 29-year-old mentally ill father set his family on fire. Her 33-year-old mother and the father also died. Her 9-year-old brother sustained burns over 35% of his body and survived. He is in foster care with a paternal aunt. On the night of the deadly fire, the children’s maternal aunt/relative foster mother permitted the mother to take the children overnight to the paternal grandmother’s home where the father was living, in violation of a court order that allowed the mother day visits with the children supervised by the aunt. She also violated a court order that allowed the father to see the children only when supervised by the caseworker. The aunt was indicated for death by neglect to the deceased; burns by neglect to the surviving child; and inadequate supervision and substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to both children. The paternal grandmother was indicated for death by neglect and substantial risk of physical injury by neglect, but the findings were unfounded on appeal. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: In September 2012 the two children were taken into protective custody and placed with the maternal aunt after their father filled a bathtub with gasoline and threatened to kill himself and the children.

Child No. 12
Age: 3 years

Cause: Blunt force trauma due to child abuse
Three-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the hospital after her legal guardian/aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend called 911 because she was gasping for air. The aunt had been the girl’s legal guardian since the girl was eight months old. The boyfriend was charged with first degree murder and is in custody awaiting trial. He was indicated for death by abuse. The aunt was indicated for death by neglect. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: In October 2010 the Department investigated the girl’s mother for medical neglect. Instead of her child entering the foster care system, the mother wanted her aunt and her aunt’s husband to adopt the girl. In November 2010 the aunt was granted legal guardianship for one year and the Department monitored the child in her custody for six months. The aunt contacted the Department for help when the guardianship was due to expire. The Department re-assessed the aunt and her husband; assisted them with obtaining guardianship; and monitored the family until March 2012. In March 2013, eight days before her death, the Department received a hotline call alleging that the girl was being mistreated by her aunt’s boyfriend. A child protection investigation was pending at the time of her death.

Child No. 15
Age: 14
Cause: Stab wounds and drug intoxication

Fourteen-year-old autistic boy was found in his bed stabbed to death. His 50-year-old mother and 44-year-old live-in caretaker were unconscious next to him having taken pills and left a letter explaining their actions. Both women survived and have been charged with first-degree murder. They were indicated for death by abuse and for substantial risk of physical injury by abuse to the teen’s 17-year-old sister who is in the care of her father. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: In January 2013 the Department opened an investigation of medical neglect to the boy by his mother because she was refusing medical treatment for the boy. During the investigation the mother caused the hotline to be called at least six times alleging misconduct by medical personnel at three different hospitals. The child was released from the hospital to the mother’s care with a medical action plan and an agreement that the family would participate in home-based services. The mother was unfounded for medical neglect. DCFS offered the mother intact family services but she refused.

Child No. 27
Age: 4
Cause: Seizure and injuries

Four-year-old medically complex ventilator-dependent boy with a history of seizures was found unresponsive around 10:00 p.m. on the floor after his 23-year-old mother and 22-year-old father heard him fall out of bed. His parents called 911 and the boy was pronounced dead at the hospital. The boy had multiple bruises, abrasions, and scars on his body and a laceration on his inner lower lip. The parents reported that he had fallen out of bed three or four times throughout the day on the day of his death. The police did not pursue an investigation of the child’s death. The Department indicated the parents for death by neglect, cuts, bruises, and welts by abuse, and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the surviving 2-year-old sibling. The Department took protective custody of the sibling, but the court denied temporary custody, instead ordering the family to participate in intact family services. The court case and intact family services case were closed in March 2013. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: A preventive services case was open from January 2011 until April 2011 when the Department investigated and indicated a report of medical neglect against the parents. The deceased was placed in a children’s hospital where he remained for one year. Upon his release from the hospital, he was returned home under an order of protection. His parents were involved in his medical care and he was receiving in-home nursing services. His court case was closed two weeks before his death.

Children who died from abuse within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased (2)

Child No. 3
Age: 3 ½ weeks
Cause: Suffocation

Three-and-a-half-week old baby died in the hospital two days after being suffocated by her mother’s boyfriend’s 39-year-old mother (who was not the paternal grandmother). The 14-year-old mother had run away from home with her baby and went to her 17-year-old boyfriend’s house. When the maternal grandmother and police showed up at the house to look for the baby, the boyfriend’s mother hid with the mother and baby in a basement crawlspace. When the baby cried, the boyfriend’s mother placed her hands over the baby’s mouth. After the police left and they exited the crawlspace, the baby was unresponsive. The mother was found delinquent of endangering the life and health of a child and was sentenced to 5 years probation. The boyfriend’s mother was convicted of endangering the life and health of a child and was sentenced to four years in a correctional facility. Both were indicated for death by abuse.

Prior history: In January 2012 the Department indicated a report of abuse to the 14-year-old by her 17-year-old brother, who was a ward. The abuse occurred while the siblings were staying with a sister.

Child No. 14
Age: 5 months
Cause: Suffocation

Five-month-old infant was taken off life support and pronounced dead four days after being brought to the emergency department with multiple head injuries including a skull fracture and severe brain swelling. The 21-year-old mother and 29-year-old father confessed that the father put his hand over the baby’s mouth and nose until the child went limp and then they left the baby in the crib until they checked on her later and found her unresponsive. Both parents are charged with murder. They were indicated for death by abuse and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to their two surviving children, who are now in the care of the Department. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: Three months prior to the infant’s death, school personnel called the hotline to report concerns about her 6-year-old sibling, who was new to the school. Staff reported that the boy had marks and bruises on his face, neck and arms and after getting sick, he expressed fear of going home early. During the investigation of cuts, bruises, welts, the child denied being mistreated and said the marks were from his 2-year-old brother. The parents denied any abuse to the boy and both the children’s maternal grandmother and doctor reported good care of the children, and the investigation was unfounded.

Children who died from neglect within a year of having contact with DCFS (12)

Child No. 19
Age: 2 months
Cause: Undetermined, but apparently sleep-related

Two-month-old infant was found unresponsive in the morning by her 56-year-old maternal grandmother. The infant had been sleeping on an adult bed with her 3 and 9-year-old siblings. This was the usual sleeping arrangement. The grandmother reported the baby never wanted to sleep in her crib. The grandmother and the baby’s 24-year-old mother were indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the 2, 3, and 9-year-old siblings.

Prior history: In late May 2012 the grandmother called the hotline to report that her daughter and four grandchildren lived with her and the mother often went out for days at a time without asking the grandmother to watch the children. The grandmother requested child welfare services, specifically counseling and housing for the mother and beds for the children. The child welfare services referral was pending at the time of the infant’s death.

Child No. 21
Age: 5 ½ months
Cause: Undetermined, but apparently sleep-related

Five-and-a-half-month-old infant girl was found unresponsive around 4 a.m. by her 13-year-old cousin. The infant had been sleeping with her twin sister in a pack ‘n play at their aunt’s home. The cousin heard one of the twins crying and got up to check on her and found the other twin unresponsive. The twins were spending the night at the aunt’s home; the mother’s six other children were at the maternal grandmother’s home and the mother was staying with the twins’ father. The aunt’s husband, who had previously been incarcerated for domestic violence against the aunt and her oldest child and indicated for the sexual abuse of another of her children, was residing in the home. The mother was indicated for inadequate supervision of the twins and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to two of her children. The aunt was indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her five children and the surviving twin. The mother’s seven surviving children and the aunt’s five children were placed in foster care where they remain.

Prior history: In June 2012 the 35-year-old mother and the 34-year-old aunt were indicated for inadequate supervision of the deceased’s twin sister. The mother went to get her hair done and took the deceased, leaving the other twin with the aunt. The aunt left the baby in the care of the 13-year-old cousin who took the baby to the beach with the baby’s 7 and 11-year-old siblings who took turns watching the baby while they swam. Both the mother and the aunt were indicated for inadequate supervision of the baby five days before the baby’s death. The mother was engaged in community services.

Child No. 24
Age: 8 months
Cause: Drowning

Eight-month-old baby was found unresponsive and floating in the bathtub by his 24-year-old mother when she returned home from school. The baby’s 30-year-old father had left him and his 2-year-old sibling unattended in approximately 6 inches of water. The father was indicated for death by neglect to the baby and both parents were indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the sibling. The father was convicted of endangering the life or health of a child and sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison. The sibling is in foster care with his maternal grandmother; he has a goal of return home to his mother who is progressing in services.

Prior history: Five months prior to the baby’s death, in April 2012, court personnel called the hotline to report an incident of domestic violence to the mother by the father while she was holding their almost three-month-old son. The mother obtained an order of protection against the father, but failed to renew it while the investigation was still pending. The father was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect and an intact family services case was opened. The parents were referred for domestic violence services, but had not followed through with the referrals before the baby died.

Child No. 31
Age: 3 months
Cause: Sudden unexplained death in infancy, but apparently sleep-related

Three-month-old infant was found unresponsive around 6 a.m. by her 33-year-old father. The father had gone to sleep with the baby on an adult mattress on the living room floor around 2:30 a.m. The baby was placed to sleep on her back on the side of the mattress pushed up against the wall. The father reported she rolled to her side and touched his face. The father, who was living with his sister and was a regular caregiver of the baby, was indicated for death by neglect to the baby. The baby’s mother reported advising the father not to sleep with the baby; the father’s sister had provided a pack ‘n play for the baby and advised the father to use it; and the mother of the father’s older child said she had warned him of the dangers of co-sleeping when he slept with their child. The father reported that he was not aware of the dangers of co-sleeping. He denied being under the influence of drugs at the time of the baby’s death, but he tested positive for cocaine, marijuana, and prescribed benzodiazepines so it could not be ruled out.

Prior history: The baby’s half-sister entered foster care in August 2011 when she was 5 months old because the mother had failed to take the child to several scheduled appointments to assess her for sickle cell disease. The mother engaged in services and the child was returned to her mother’s custody in March and to her guardianship in November, five days prior to the baby’s death. The family’s caseworker discussed safe sleep practices with the mother and provided her with a pack ‘n play. A caseworker saw the baby with the mother in August and October.

Child No. 39
Age: 4 months
Cause: Undetermined

Four-month-old baby was found unresponsive around 8 a.m. by her 31-year-old mother. The baby was found face up in the mother’s queen-sized bed where she regularly slept. There was no crib in the home. At autopsy the infant was found to have congenital heart disease which likely contributed to her death, but because overlay could not be excluded, the cause and manner of death were undetermined. At death the baby had severe untreated eczema. The mother was indicated for death by neglect and medical neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect and environmental neglect to the three surviving siblings. The father was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the surviving siblings who are in foster care with a maternal aunt. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: There was a child protection investigation pending for three weeks at the time of the infant’s death. In January 2013, the father of the youngest child and the unborn infant called the hotline to report the mother left the children, ages 10, 2 and almost 2, at home alone while she visited him; that her home was filthy; and that the children complained of being hungry. Despite phone attempts and in-person visits to the home, the child protection investigator had gotten no response from the mother and had not seen the children or been in the home when the baby died. After the baby’s death the investigation was indicated for environmental neglect.

Child No. 40
Age: 7 months
Cause: Undetermined

Seven-month-old infant was found unresponsive around 9:30 a.m. by his father. The infant had been sleeping on his stomach between his 26-year-old mother and 34-year-old father on a full-sized bed. He was last seen alive around 7:30 a.m. when he was given a bottle. There was a bassinet in the home. The infant had been diagnosed with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) two months prior. The parents were indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the mother’s surviving children, ages 10 and 11. The two surviving siblings were placed with one of the children’s fathers under a safety plan while DCFS awaited the autopsy report. The family decided it was best for him to continue to care for both children. DCFS provided the father with intact family services while he sought full custody of his child and guardianship of the other. The case was closed in December 2013.

Prior history: In June 2012 an intact family services case was opened after the mother was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her two children because of an incident of domestic violence between her and the deceased’s father. The couple was participating in services at the time of the infant’s death. The intact family services worker had discussed safe sleep with the mother.

Child No. 43
Age: 5 months
Cause: Undetermined, but apparently sleep-related

Six-month-old infant who was born prematurely was found unresponsive in bed with his 35-year-old mother and 5-year old sibling. The mother had breastfed the infant around 9:00 p.m. and laid him between herself and the sibling. She woke up around 3:00 a.m. and found the baby not breathing. She placed the baby in his crib and called 911. The mother was indicated for death by neglect. She reported that she had been advised by the baby’s primary care physician and child protection investigators that she should not co-sleep with the baby. During the investigation the father of the sibling sought and was awarded custody of the child in domestic relations court. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: The mother has a history with the Department dating to 2008 when an investigation was unfounded for environmental neglect. A 2009 investigation was unfounded for a bruise on her four-year-old son’s face. A witness said the child fell while jumping on the couch. This child later went to live with his father. In 2011 the mother reported that her then four-year-old daughter had been molested. The report was unfounded after the child denied being molested during a forensic interview. Shortly after the birth of the deceased, hospital staff called the hotline reporting that the mother was acting strangely and threatening to take the premature baby out of the hospital against medical advice. The mother voluntarily underwent two mental health assessments and was not considered to be a risk to the infant. The maternal grandfather assisted the mother in the care of the infant and his sibling and the investigation was unfounded. A month prior to the infant’s death, a pizza delivery man called emergency services to report the mother was passed out on a couch with the baby. Police released the baby and his 5-year-old sibling to the care of their grandfather. The report was pending at the time of the infant’s death. The mother was subsequently indicated for inadequate supervision. She has no children in her care; both surviving children are in the custody of their fathers.

Child No. 44
Age: 1 ½ months
Cause: Undetermined, but apparently sleep-related

One-and-a-half-month-old infant died in the hospital several hours after being discovered unresponsive by his 34-year-old mother. The mother fed the baby at 4:00 am and laid him face up on top of a pillow with a pacifier in his mouth, next to her on a queen-sized mattress. When the mother awoke at 9:00 am the baby was lying between her and the pillow and was unresponsive. The mother was indicated for death by neglect to the infant and for environmental neglect to her surviving eight children. A short-term intact family services case was opened to help the mother secure appropriate housing.

Prior history: There was one unfounded child protection investigation involving the family. When the deceased was born in April 2013, he and the mother tested positive for opiates and the Department opened an investigation for substance misuse. The investigation was unfounded after the investigator verified that the mother had a valid prescription for opiate-based pain medication for a broken finger she suffered while pregnant. During the investigation, the investigator provided the mother with a portable crib for the baby.

Child No. 45
Age: 6 ½ months
Cause: Asphyxia due to prone sleeping position on a couch

Six-and-a-half-month-old infant died in the hospital 10 days after being found unresponsive during a nap by her 27-year-old foster mother. The 27-year-old foster father had come home from work for lunch. The infant was tired and fussy, so he placed her on her stomach on the sofa to take a nap. The sofa was an L shape and she was placed in the corner with her face facing the back of the sofa. The foster father pushed the ottoman up against the sofa with some cushions to prevent the infant from rolling off the sofa while she slept. The foster father then made a sandwich and went back to work. The foster mother checked on her about a half hour later and found her in the same position unresponsive. The foster mother started CPR and called 911. The baby suffered brain injury related to a lack of oxygen. She was placed on life support which was removed 10 days after the incident. The baby died a little over an hour later. Her mother and grandmother were with her. The foster parents were indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to their 2-1/2-month-old infant. The couple’s foster home license is pending revocation because of the indicated findings against them.

Prior history: The baby girl’s biological parents had three children removed from their custody in January 2010; those children were adopted by foster parents in July 2012. A fourth child, born in December 2010, was placed with the foster parents with whom the deceased was later placed. The biological parents surrendered their rights to the baby boy so the foster parents could adopt him. The adoption was finalized a couple of weeks prior to the baby girl’s death. The biological parents were engaged in services and were making progress toward regaining custody and guardianship of their daughter.

Child No. 46
Age: 1 ½ years
Cause: Hit by minivan

One-and-a-half-year-old toddler died after she was struck by a minivan driven by her 40-year-old mother. The mother’s children were playing outside and the mother was backing up the minivan to move it to the other side of the driveway. She did not see the toddler behind the van. A blood test following the accident revealed the mother had been drinking and her blood alcohol concentration level was over the legal limit. The mother was charged with felony aggravated DUI leading to the death of another. She was indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her surviving children. The family already had an intact family services case open. The surviving elementary school-aged children participated in a grief therapy group at school; the high school-aged child attended counseling with her school social worker; and the family received supportive services from their church. The Department continued to provide services including substance abuse treatment and parenting education until the case was closed in July 2013.

Prior history: The family first came to the Department’s attention when the mother gave birth to her first substance-exposed infant, her fifth child, in March 2006. An intact family services case was open until January 2007 when the mother stopped participating in services. The children were cared for by their father and paternal grandmother. In December 2010 the deceased was born substance-exposed and a second intact family services case was opened. Both parents participated in services. In the month prior to the toddler’s death, the mother was noted to have completed treatment and been sober for over a year; drug testing that included screening for alcohol had been negative.

Child No. 52
Age: 5 months
Cause: Suffocation due to entrapment under a pillow

Five-month-old baby was found unresponsive around 6:45 a.m. by his 29-year-old aunt with whom his family lived. He was found lying on his back on the floor, wedged between a couch cushion and couch pillows. There was a bed pillow covering him. The aunt reported that she fed the infant around 1:00 a.m. and placed him on his stomach on a couch cushion with couch pillows pushed up next to it. His 8-year-old sister slept next to him and it was her pillow that ended up on top of the infant. There was not a crib in the home. The aunt was indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the other children in the home. The mother was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her surviving children because she stayed out overnight the night of her son’s death and had not left a number where she could be reached. A case was opened for short-term intact family services.

Prior history: In June 2012 hospital personnel called the hotline to report that the infant’s newborn screen was unreadable and the infant needed to be retested. Hospital staff made multiple outreach attempts, including sending a public health nurse to the home. Despite mother’s assurances that she would have the screen completed, and hospital staff advising they would call the hotline if she did not, the mother did not take the baby to be retested until after DCFS became involved. An investigation of medical neglect was indicated against the 27-year-old mother. The infant tested positive for the sickle cell trait and the mother was referred to community services.

Child No. 54
Age: 2 years
Cause: Asphyxia due to entrapment between mattress and wall due to co-sleeping

Two-year-old girl was found trapped between the bed and the wall by her 55-year-old grandmother with whom she was sharing the bed. The child had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, viral disease and sleep disturbances a month before her death. The grandmother was indicated for death by neglect, cuts, bruises, and welts, failure to thrive and inadequate food. An investigator had previously talked to the grandmother about sleep safety with the deceased because of her developmental delays. A sibling who was also in the care of the grandmother was placed in a safety plan with an adult sister. Following assessment, the girl was released to her mother’s custody.

Prior history: In June 2011 the mother left the children with an acquaintance who took the children to the police station saying he could not care for them. The children’s grandmother took physical custody of the children and requested assistance from the Extended Family Support Program which helped her to obtain public assistance and medical cards for the children. At a doctor’s appointment in February 2012, a doctor noted bruises and a lack of weight gain. The hotline was called and an investigation was indicated for medical neglect and cuts, bruises, and welts by the grandmother. The grandmother appealed the indicated findings and they were overturned in September 2012 following a hearing in which early intervention therapists and the child’s treating physician testified.

Children who died from neglect within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased (3)

Child No. 22
Age: 2 months
Cause: Undetermined

Two-month-old infant was found unresponsive in the morning by her 24-year-old mother. The mother had been sleeping in the same bed as the infant. The mother got up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready to take her father to work and pick up the baby’s father who worked a night shift. She left around 6:30 a.m. Her 23-year-old brother stayed at home with the children. The mother believed the baby was sleeping when she left the home. When she returned the baby was unresponsive. The mother called 911 and the baby was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m. An officer responding to the call described the baby as warm with blue lips. The brother reported that he checked on the baby and her 2-1/2-year-old sister while the mother was gone. The baby was sleeping in the bed on her back. Her 2-1/2-year-old sibling was sleeping on a mattress on the floor alongside the bed. The mother reported that she had found a bug in the baby’s crib so she had been putting the baby to sleep in her bed. The mother was indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her two surviving children. The father was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect because he allowed the mother to sleep with the infant. A short-term intact family services case was open from January to September 2013.

In June 2012, prior to the infant’s birth, the hotline was called with a report of a 4-year-old child outside unsupervised at almost 10:00 p.m. Investigation showed that the mother had gone out with her 2-year-old and had left her 4-year-old in the care of the child’s maternal grandmother, with whom the family lived. The maternal grandmother dozed off. The child said she couldn’t sleep so she went outside, but she didn’t tell her grandma. The child had not previously gone outside unsupervised and police did not have any prior contact with the family. The investigator talked to the family about putting an additional lock high up on the door, and the investigation was unfounded for inadequate supervision.

Child No. 61
Age: 2 ½ months
Cause: Asphyxia due to probable overlay

Two-and-a-half-month-old infant was found unresponsive by her 31-year-old mother around 6:00 a.m. The mother last saw the infant alive at approximately 2:00 a.m. when she fed and changed the baby and put her to sleep next to her in a full-sized bed. The mother’s 22-month-old and 3-year-old children, who normally slept in their own beds, slept at the foot of the mother’s bed that night. There was a bassinet in the home. Pursuant to a safety plan, the surviving children were placed with their maternal grandmother for eight months while the Department waited for the infant’s autopsy report to be completed. The mother was indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to her surviving children.

Prior history: There was an unfounded investigation involving this family prior to the infant’s death. In February 2012, a paternal relative called the hotline to report the mother was an alcoholic and drug addict who left her children home alone for days. The child protection investigator interviewed a paternal aunt, the children’s godmother, and the maternal grandmother. All reported seeing the family regularly and denied the veracity of the allegations. The maternal grandmother, who lived in the same building as the family, reported babysitting the children when the mother went out. The investigation of inadequate supervision was unfounded.

Child No. 70
Age: 3 days
Cause: Asphyxia due to co-sleeping and prone position on an adult bed

Three-day-old infant was found unresponsive by his father at approximately 9:30 am. The baby had been sleeping on his stomach between his 24-year-old mother and 21-year-old father on a full-sized adult bed. A bassinet was next to the bed and the parents had been educated about safe sleep. Both parents were indicated for death by neglect. While the investigation of the baby’s death was pending, a domestic violence incident occurred and the parents violated a safety plan for the mother’s 10-month-old daughter. The mother was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect and the baby girl entered foster care and is placed with her maternal great-grandmother.

Prior history: In March 2013 the mother’s boyfriend (father of the deceased baby) called the hotline to report that his girlfriend threw a can opener across the room and it hit her 8-month-old baby’s foot causing a cut. When interviewed by the child protection investigator, the boyfriend said he made the report because he was mad at his girlfriend. He said his girlfriend had actually tossed the can opener onto the bed and it bounced off, hitting the baby on the foot. The mother, who was interviewed separately, told the same story. The investigator observed a small, superficial scratch on the baby’s foot. The investigator completed a home safety checklist and discussed safe sleep practices, and the mother was unfounded for cuts, bruises, and welts by abuse.

Cases still under investigation in which DCFS had had contact with the family within a year and children died of possible neglect or abuse (5)

Child No. 25
Age: 5 ½
Cause: Tramadol poisoning

Five-and-a-half-year-old boy was found unresponsive around 11:30 a.m. by his 32-year-old mother. An autopsy and toxicology results from the boy’s autopsy revealed the boy died from Tramadol poisoning. Tramadol is a pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain. It was prescribed to the boy’s 44-year-old father and it was present in the home at the time of the boy’s death. Police and child protection investigations of the boy’s death are pending. The boy’s 14-year-old siblings are in relative foster care and are placed with a paternal uncle.

Prior history: In September 2012 a school social worker called the hotline requesting services for the family because of poverty. A worker attempted to visit the family in October but had an incorrect address. The worker had not yet seen the family when the boy died. The parents were previously indicated for environmental neglect in 2009.

Child No. 26
Age: 14
Cause: Undertermined

Almost 15-year-old ward was found unresponsive in his bed when staff at his residential treatment center went to wake him. At autopsy the ward had no injuries. Toxicology results did not reveal any unexpected substances in his system. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: In April 2011 the boy’s 44-year-old father struck the boy in the face and threatened to do so again in the future. The father was arrested and jailed. Following treatment for his facial injury, the boy’s mother refused to let him back in the home because of his behavior. The father was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by abuse. The mother was indicated for lock out. The boy entered the Department’s care on a dependency petition and was placed in the residential treatment facility where he remained until his death. He and his parents were working toward his return home.

Child No. 41
Age: 5
Cause: Pending

Five-year-old boy died in the hospital after becoming unresponsive in his foster home. His 22-year-old maternal aunt/foster parent reported that she heard a loud noise in the bathroom and found the boy on the floor vomiting and having what appeared to be a seizure. The 5-year-old did not have a previously diagnosed seizure disorder. At the time of his death, the boy had numerous bruises on him that the aunt said were self-inflicted and inflicted by the boy’s 9-year-old brother. The boy’s autopsy report, police and child protection investigations are pending. Following the boy’s death, the foster parent’s two children, ages 5 months and 2-1/2 years, were placed in foster care, but returned to their parents’ care in August 2013 pursuant to a court order that the mother have no unsupervised contact with the children. The boy’s two siblings remain in foster care; one is with his paternal grandmother and the other is in a non-relative foster home. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: The boy and his two older brothers entered foster care in January 2012 after an incident of domestic violence to the middle brother by the mother. The 25-year-old mother and 37-year-old father have a history of substance abuse and domestic violence.

Child No. 42
Age: 19
Cause: Pending

Nineteen-year-old Type I diabetic ward was found deceased in her bed early in the morning at her residential treatment facility. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: The teen entered foster care for the first time in 1996 when she was two years old. She lived in four traditional foster homes before returning to her father’s care in 2001. Her siblings remained in foster care until 2004 when they were placed in the subsidized guardianship of a paternal relative. The teen reentered foster care in 2006 at the age of 11 when, following a hospitalization, her father refused to allow her to return home.

Child No. 73
Age: 3 months
Cause: Possible overlay due to co-sleeping on an adult mattress

Three-month-old baby was found unresponsive around 9:00 a.m. He was sleeping in an adult bed with his 34-year-old mother and 5-year-old brother. An 11-year-old sister is in the custody of her father and was not present. The baby was last seen alive around 2:00 a.m. when his mother fed him. There was a bassinet in the home. A child protection investigation of death by neglect and substantial risk of physical injury to the two surviving siblings is pending. An intact family services case is open and the 5-year-old is being cared for by his grandparents. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: There was a pending child protection investigation when the infant died. Two-and-a-half-weeks earlier the police called the hotline to report the mother had been arrested for battering her boyfriend while holding the infant. The family lived with the maternal grandparents who agreed to care for the children. After the baby’s death, the investigation was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect. The mother has a history of substance abuse and domestic violence. She was indicated for substance misuse after she gave birth to the deceased who tested positive for amphetamines.

Fiscal year 2012 DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths: 34
Children who died from abuse within a year of having contact with DCFS: 12
Children who died from abuse within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased: 3
Children who died from neglect within a year of having contact with DCFS: 9
Children who died from neglect within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased: 10

Statewide abuse and neglect deaths in fiscal year 2012: 101 (includes three children whose deaths weren’t reported to DCFS)

CASE SUMMARIES

Children who died from abuse within a year of having contact with DCFS (12)
Child No. 1
Age: 2 ½
Cause: Multiple blunt force injuries as a result of child abuse

Two-and-a-half-year-old child died in the hospital one day after being taken there in full cardiac arrest. His 36-year-old mother told medical staff that while she was at home cooking in the kitchen she heard a loud thud from the room where the child and his 18-month-old sister were playing. She said that she found her son lying in the middle of the floor foaming at the mouth and she believed he was having a seizure. An autopsy revealed head injuries and multiple other injuries caused by abuse. The mother was charged with first-degree murder and is in jail awaiting trial. DCFS indicated her for death by abuse and took her 18-month-old daughter into protective custody. The girl is placed with a relative and has a goal of return home to her father. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: The deceased entered foster care following his premature substance-exposed birth. He was his mother’s sixth child and the third to be born substance-exposed. None of his siblings were in their mother’s care. After his birth the mother participated in services including substance-abuse treatment, counseling and parenting classes. While the deceased was in foster care, his mother gave birth, in December 2009, to a substance-free baby girl and was allowed to take the baby home. The deceased was returned home to his mother’s care in October 2010 and his court case was closed in March 2011. In June 2011 the boy was taken to the emergency department with bruising, scratches, and swelling. His mother reported that he had fallen off a bed two days prior. The hospital called the hotline and a child-protection investigation was pending at the time of the child’s death. The boy and his younger sister were in the care of their mother during the investigation; a safety plan was not in place. The boy’s maternal grandmother died 15 days before the boy’s death and his maternal uncle died 11 days before. Seven days before his death the child was seen in a second emergency department and two days before he was seen by a medical specialist for an issue related to his prematurity.

Child No. 3
Age: 17 months
Cause: Bronchopneumonia due to cerebral injuries due to blunt head trauma

Seventeen-month-old ward, who was medically compromised because of abuse she suffered when she was three months old, was found unresponsive in her crib by her paternal grandmother/foster mother. The grandfather called 911 and the child was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. After the child died, the parents were indicated for her death by abuse because the injuries she suffered at 3 months compromised her body’s immune response, resulting in a deadly respiratory infection.

Prior history: The Department’s first contact with the family was in October 2008 when the 28-year-old mother gave birth to a substance-exposed infant. An intact family services case was open from December 2008 until December 2009. The deceased was born three months later. In June 2010, when she was 3 months old, the deceased was brought to a hospital with complaints that she was not eating and was less alert. The baby was diagnosed with bilateral subdural hematomas and a fractured rib. The mother and 26-year-old father’s explanation that the baby had fallen off a bed weeks earlier was inconsistent with her injuries and she and her four older siblings entered foster care. The parents were indicated for head injuries by abuse to the deceased and substantial risk of physical injury to her siblings. The surviving siblings are in the subsidized guardianship of their maternal grandmother.

Children Nos. 4, 5
Ages: 4 years and 5 years
Cause: Shotgun wounds

Four- and 5-year-old siblings were shot and killed by their 25-year-old mother. Their 8-year-old brother was spared. The mother planned to kill all three of her children and herself, but the 8-year-old tried to wrestle the gun away and it jammed. She told the boy to get in the car and drove and dropped him off at a relative’s house. The mother was charged with two counts of murder but was found unfit to stand trial. She was remanded to the Division of Mental Health for psychiatric treatment until she can be found fit to stand trial. DCFS indicated her for the deaths of her children. The surviving boy is in the care of his maternal grandmother.

Prior history: An intact family services case was open on the family from February 2008 through April 2009. The mother participated in services minimally and requested that her case be closed. The children appeared well-cared for and there were no signs of abuse or neglect. In August 2011 the maternal grandmother called the hotline to request help in obtaining guardianship of her three grandchildren whom she was caring for since their mother was arrested and jailed 13 days earlier for battery, driving while intoxicated and driving on a revoked license without insurance. The children’s father was in prison. The grandmother was referred to Extended Family Support Services, but when a worker contacted her, she declined assistance. Five days before she killed the children, the mother was released on probation from county jail and resumed the care of her children from the grandmother.

Child No. 11
Age: 3 ½ months
Cause: Asphyxia due to foreign object in the pharynx after it was pushed down the mouth

Three-and-a-half-month-old baby girl was left in the care of her 26-year-old father and her maternal grandmother while her 19-year-old mother went to school. The baby stopped breathing while with her father in the basement. The father reported that the baby inhaled a piece of a baby wipe while he was wiping off her face. The maternal grandmother called 911 and the baby was taken by ambulance to the emergency department where a doctor worked on her but was unable to save her or find a baby wipe. At autopsy a full-sized balled up baby wipe was found in the baby’s pharynx, making the father’s story of what happened implausible. The father was charged with involuntary manslaughter and is awaiting trial. The Department indicated him for death by abuse. The deceased was an only child.

Prior history: There was one prior unfounded child protection investigation involving this family. In October 2011, a month before the child died, the parents got into an argument because the mother believed the father was being unfaithful to her. The mother hastily left the residence with the baby and allegedly did not buckle the baby in her car seat. The maternal grandmother reported that the mother put the child in the car seat without affixing the straps, but the maternal grandmother insisted the mother strap the baby in before she left the house. The mother agreed to allow the baby to be cared for by someone more appropriate if she became angry. The family was offered intact family services but they refused.

Child No. 12
Age: 4
Cause: Multiple blunt force injuries as a result of child abuse

Four-year-old child was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital on his 4th birthday. He had numerous bruises in various stages of healing on his body. Earlier that day an anonymous reporter called the hotline to report that the day before the boy was observed with a black eye that his 28-year-old mother said she caused when the boy wouldn’t settle down. Within hours a child protection investigator went to the family’s residence, but was informed by police officers there that the child was dead. The mother and her 34-year-old boyfriend admitted to striking the boy. Both have been charged with murder and are in jail awaiting trial. The Department indicated the pair for the boy’s death by abuse.

Prior history: Three months earlier the hotline was called when the mother took the child to a hospital emergency department reporting that he had fallen. Doctors reported that the child’s numerous injuries were not consistent with the mother’s explanation. The mother was arrested and charged with domestic battery (for which she was later convicted in October 2011) but the child protection investigation was unfounded for abuse and indicated for inadequate supervision in allowing the boy to sustain multiple injuries.

Child No. 13
Age: 4
Cause: Blunt trauma to the head

Four-year-old boy was discovered unresponsive on the floor of his bedroom by his babysitter around 8:00 a.m. The boy’s 30-year-old father was out of town for work; his father’s 29-year-old girlfriend, with whom they lived, had left for work earlier that morning. The girlfriend has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery of a child and concealment of homicidal death. She is awaiting trial. The Department indicated the girlfriend for the boy’s death by abuse and for substantial risk of physical injury to her own two children, ages 8 and 12, who were with their father at the time of the boy’s death and are with him now. The boy’s father was indicated for death by neglect because he left his son in his girlfriend’s care despite concern about her previous discipline of the boy. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: Eleven days prior to his death, the hotline was called with an allegation that the boy had a bruised and swollen eye and that he had had prior facial injuries as well. The child was seen by his pediatrician who diagnosed pink eye. The investigation was pending at the time of the boy’s death and no safety plan was in place. Ten months prior to the boy’s death an investigation was conducted for substantial risk of physical injury based on an allegation that the girlfriend had stabbed the father in the hand. The father denied being stabbed and the children denied seeing him get stabbed and the investigation was unfounded.

Children Nos. 15, 16, 17
Ages: 9 months, 7 ½ years, 8 ½ years
Cause: Gun shot wounds

Nine-month, 7-year old and 8-year-old children were shot and killed by their 30-year-old mother after she shot and killed her boyfriend, the nine-month-old baby’s 29-year-old father. She then shot and killed herself. The family had recently moved to a new town. The baby’s father was a security guard and had several guns but kept them locked up. The mother reportedly suffered from post-partum depression after the birth of the baby, but a family member reported she had recently seemed happy.

Prior history: One year earlier, the younger child’s therapist called the hotline to report domestic violence in the home. The investigator interviewed the two children, their mother and their mother’s boyfriend and all agreed that the mother and her boyfriend sometimes argued but there was no physical violence. The children’s father, who had the kids on weekends, was not aware of any domestic violence; the police had never been called to the home; and the children’s school had no concerns about the children’s care. The investigation was unfounded.

Child No. 22
Age: 14 months
Cause: Cerebral injuries due to blunt head trauma

Fourteen-month-old toddler was found unresponsive in her bed in the morning by her mother’s boyfriend. She died in the hospital the following day. The 19-year-old mother and 25-year-old boyfriend reported placing the toddler in her bed the night before. The toddler was crying because she didn’t want to go to sleep, but she normally cried herself to sleep. The mother left the residence for an hour and when she returned the girl was asleep. Only the mother and mother’s boyfriend cared for the toddler in the two days prior to her death. At autopsy, in addition to head trauma, the toddler had a healing fracture of the left lower leg estimated to be between two and six weeks old that was never treated and was believed to be from abuse. The mother’s three-week-old daughter was taken into protective custody and is in foster care. The mother and boyfriend were indicated for the girl’s death by abuse and substantial risk of physical injury to the surviving sibling. Police arrested the mother and her boyfriend on charges of felony child endangerment, but the local state’s attorney’s office declined to pursue the charges.

Prior history: In January 2012 an anonymous reporter called the hotline and stated that the mother and the deceased were living in an apartment with two other women and there was constant partying with drugs and alcohol; the apartment had no running water, no working stove and no food; and the toddler looked malnourished. A report was taken for investigation of substantial risk of physical injury and inadequate food. The report was unfounded after investigation and was believed to be a false report made to create trouble for one of the residents of the home. The child was observed to be healthy and she and her mother never lived at the reported residence.

Child No. 23
Age: 2 ½
Cause: Closed head injury with blunt chest and abdominal injuries

Two-and-a-half-year-old boy became unresponsive while being cared for by his mother’s 24-year-old boyfriend. The 23-year-old mother was at work. The boyfriend reported that the boy had fallen in the bathroom and then laid down in the living room and would not wake up. At the hospital the boy was discovered to have a severe head injury as well as bruises to his chest, arms and scalp. The boy was transferred to a children’s hospital for treatment where he died the following day. The boyfriend has been charged with first-degree murder and is in jail awaiting trial. The boy’s younger brother was taken into protective custody and is placed with a paternal aunt. The Department’s death investigation is pending because the county state’s attorney’s office will not allow the Department to conduct interviews and will not give access to police interviews of relevant witnesses until after the criminal trial.

Prior history: In July 2008 the mother was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury to her first son who was one month old; she gave guardianship of the baby to the maternal grandmother and the investigation was closed. In October 2011 the mother and her 29-year-old husband were investigated and unfounded for inadequate supervision of the mother’s 2-year-old son (the deceased) and the couple’s 7-month-old son. An anonymous reporter alleged the children were often left with the husband’s grandparents who were unable to care for the children because of poor health. Investigation revealed that the family lived with the husband’s grandparents who did not have health problems that prevented them from caring for the children. In January 2012 the Department investigated and unfounded a report of substantial risk of physical injury against the mother. The mother and her husband had separated and the mother was living on her own with the two children going back and forth between the couple. The investigator observed the children in the care of their mother in her home on two occasions. The home was appropriate and the children appeared well cared for. The mother reported that the children were cared for by her husband, grandparents, great-grandparents and her sister when she needed child care. The maternal grandmother and the mother’s sister vouched for the mother’s good care of the children. The mother is not believed to have been involved with the boyfriend at the time of the January investigation.

Children who died from abuse within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased (3)

Child No. 7
Age: 23 months
Cause: Abusive head trauma

Twenty-three-month-old became unresponsive while in the care of her 48-year-old maternal grandmother. She died the following day. The child had massive head injuries and bruises on multiple places of her body. The grandmother reported that her pit bull dog ran into the child and caused her to fall down three wooden steps onto a cement landing. The grandmother reported slapping, shaking and hitting the child to revive her. A physician specializing in child abuse gave the opinion that the child’s injuries were not consistent with the grandmother’s explanation and her described resuscitation techniques were unlikely. The grandmother was the sole caretaker of the child for the three days prior to the incident. The 25-year-old mother reported that for months prior to her daughter’s death she had suspected the grandmother was physically abusing the child but she continued to allow the girl and her younger brother to stay with the grandmother for extended visits. She also allowed the grandmother to remain the guardian of the mother’s two older children. The grandmother was indicated for the child’s death by abuse and the mother was indicated for death by neglect. Both were indicated for substantial risk of physical injury to the three surviving siblings who are now in foster care.

Prior history: The deceased was the third of four children. In April 2011 the maternal grandmother called the hotline requesting assistance to obtain guardianship of the mother’s two older children, ages 6 and 9 years, who had been living with the grandmother for two months. The two younger children stayed with their mother. An extended family support services case was opened to assist the grandmother to obtain guardianship. The case was closed in June 2011 when the grandmother was awarded guardianship of the children.

Child No. 26
Age: 2
Cause: Liver lacerations caused by blunt force abdominal trauma

Two-year-old boy became unresponsive while in the care of his 25-year-old father. The father reported the child had a normal day, eating and playing until he became tired and laid down on the couch to watch TV. A short while later he stopped breathing and his eyes rolled back. The boy’s mother left the child with his father three months earlier and moved out of state. At autopsy the child had healing rib fractures that were less than three months old. The father was indicated for death by abuse. The father and the boy’s 26-year-old stepmother were indicated for substantial risk of physical injury to their children, ages 2, 5, 7 and 9 years. The children are in the temporary custody of the Department and are placed with their maternal grandmother. No criminal charges have been filed. An OIG investigator is assisting police in obtaining information.

Prior history: The deceased’s stepmother was indicated in July 2011 for medical neglect of her then-4-year-old daughter. The mother left the children with their grandmother while she went out of town and she did not ensure the grandmother had sufficient medication for the girl’s epilepsy. The grandmother ran out of medication after she told her daughter she needed more and the girl had a seizure and had to be taken to the emergency department for treatment. The deceased was not a member of the household at the time of the report.

Child No. 39
Age: 6 months
Cause: Pending, later classified as child-abuse death

Six-month-old infant died while being airlifted to a children’s hospital. She had been taken by ambulance to the emergency department in cardiac arrest from the homeless shelter where she was residing with her 20-year-old mother and three older siblings. A 3-year-old half-sibling (different mother, same father) died five months later. Child-protection death investigations are pending because of ongoing criminal investigations. The deceased’s three siblings entered foster care following their sibling’s death.

Prior history: In May 2011 police called the hotline after responding to a domestic battery call in which the responding officer observed physical injuries to the mother. The 23-year-old father fled the home before police arrived. The child-protection investigator advised the mother to seek an order of protection and indicated the father for substantial risk of physical injury because the domestic violence altercation occurred in the presence of the children. One month later, mother gave birth prematurely to the deceased, who remained in the hospital until August 2011. Prior to the infant’s discharge, hospital staff contacted the hotline with concerns that the mother had not visited often and had yet to be trained on the infant’s special needs resulting from her prematurity. A child-welfare services referral was initiated; the mother was referred to a high-risk infant program and the referral was closed.

Children who died from neglect within a year of having contact with DCFS (9)

Child No. 28
Age: 13 months
Cause: Seizure disorder due to hyponatremia

Thirteen-month-old boy died in the hospital one day after his 23-year-old mother observed him having a seizure and called 911. Hospital staff found the child to be suffering from hyponatremia (low level of sodium in the blood), acute cerebral herniation (swelling and shifting of the brain, because of the seizures), and low weight (the infant weighed approximately 15 pounds; a 13-month-old boy at the 50th percentile weighs 19 pounds). The mother was indicated for death by neglect and malnutrition.

Prior History: The mother has two other children, ages 3 and 4, who entered foster care in February 2009 when the mother was indicated for medical neglect because she was not giving her then 2-month-old baby breathing treatments as prescribed. At the time of the baby’s death, the mother was working toward return home of her two children in foster care. She was participating in therapy and parent coaching. The family’s worker saw the baby one to two times per month. The mother took him for pediatric well-child check-ups according to the recommended schedule. In May the worker brought the mother baby spoons and appropriate toddler-aged food after the mother reported feeding the toddler primarily noodles.

Child No. 38
Age: 6 weeks
Cause: Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy with co-sleeping

Six-week-old baby was found unresponsive around 7:45 a.m. by his 15-year-old mother. The baby had been sleeping on his back on a pillow between the mother and the 20-year-old father in a queen-size bed. The mother last saw the baby alive around 3:30 a.m. when she put him back to sleep after feeding him. Both parents were indicated for death by neglect to the infant because they had recently moved from the paternal grandparents’ home to the maternal grandparents’ home and did not bring their bassinet or crib with them and they slept with the baby despite being educated about safe sleep. They were also indicated for environmental neglect because of the extremely cluttered condition of the home.

Prior history: When the infant was 24 days old a physician called the hotline concerned that the baby was being medically neglected by the young parents. The baby had been diagnosed with galactosemia (a disorder in which the body is unable to break down a type of sugar found in milk) shortly after birth and needed to be seen by a geneticist but the parents had not yet made an appointment. After the baby’s diagnosis, the parents moved to a new city with the paternal grandparents and were in the process of getting the baby’s medical card transferred which they needed to get an appointment with the geneticist. The investigator unfounded the report of medical neglect after he ensured that the baby was linked to and seen by a pediatrician, referred the baby for early intervention services and verified the family was enrolled in the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food-assistance program. He completed a home-safety checklist, observed a crib in the home and discussed safe sleep.

Child No. 61
Age: 6 months
Cause: Asphyxia due to prone sleeping condition within the back and lower cushion of a futon bed

Six-month-old infant was found unresponsive laying face-down on a futon couch by his 22-year-old mother around 7:00 a.m. She last saw the baby alive at 5:00 a.m. when he cried and she gave him his pacifier. The mother had moved in with her boyfriend and the baby regularly slept on the futon couch. There was an unassembled crib in the home that the mother said she did not use because there was mold in it. The mother was indicated for death by neglect because she had been educated about safe sleep practices by DCFS and the baby’s pediatrician.

Prior history: There were two prior investigations involving this family. The first hotline report was made after the baby’s birth because of concern that the mother used drugs. Both she and the baby tested negative for drugs; she and the baby were going to live with the maternal grandmother who was not concerned about the mother’s care of the baby; and there was a crib in the home. The investigation was unfounded for substantial risk of physical injury. Two months later the hotline was called with an allegation that the mother’s 32-year-old boyfriend was a registered sexual offender who cared for the baby. Investigation revealed that the boyfriend was a registered sexual predator because he had sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19 years old. The report was unfounded for substantial risk of sexual injury to the baby.

Child No. 64
Age: 1 month
Cause: Asphyxia due to overlay

Four-week-old infant was found unresponsive in bed between his parents. The 23-year-old mother last saw the baby alive between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. when she put the baby between herself and her husband and fell asleep. There was a crib next to the bed. The mother and the 29-year-old father admitted to sleeping with the baby on multiple occasions despite being warned against the practice by multiple professionals and the maternal grandmother. The parents were indicated for death by neglect and the mother was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury to her two older children because she and the baby’s father admitted to relapsing after the baby died. The children entered foster care and were placed with their maternal grandmother.

Prior history: An intact family case was opened in October 2011 following three reports in seven months alleging neglect to the mother’s two children. The third report, which was made by law enforcement after a traffic stop, was indicated for environmental neglect and substantial risk of physical injury. The mother, who was pregnant at the time, admitted to using heroin. Her boyfriend (the infant’s father) also used heroin and was in an inpatient treatment program at the time of the report by police. The mother engaged in substance-abuse treatment and a drug test taken weeks before the infant’s birth was negative. An anonymous reporter called the hotline the day after the infant was born alleging neglect and continued drug use by the mother. The baby tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepines at the time of his birth.

Children Nos. 72, 73
Ages: 5 ½ months
Cause: Asphyxia due to unsafe sleeping conditions

Six-month-old twins were found unresponsive around 8:30 a.m. by their 19-year-old mother. They were found face-down side by side with a large fleece blanket covering their entire bodies. The parents tried to revive the babies and called 911. Police and DCFS investigated. The mother reported that she had fed both babies bottles and placed the baby boy in his car seat and the baby girl in a swing around 11:00 p.m. The twins awoke around 1:30 a.m. and the mother changed diapers and laid the baby girl on her stomach in the crib and the baby boy in the swing. At 3:30 a.m. the baby boy awoke and the mother changed him and fed him a bottle before laying him down on his stomach in the crib with his sister. The mother placed a large fleece blanket on top of the babies. In the crib with the infants was a second large fleece blanket, two crib size comforters, one crib bumper pad, one large plush toy, a toddler size outerwear coat and two car seat/carrier covers. The mother, who was exhausted, said that she sometimes laid the twins down together on their stomachs despite being warned of the dangers because they slept better that way. At the time of the twins’ deaths, the mother and the 26-year-old father were caring for six children: the twins, 1 and 3-year-old children of the mother’s, and 3- and 4-year-old children of the father’s. The Department placed the mother’s children in relative foster care and the father’s children went to live with their mother. The Department indicated the mother for death by neglect and substantial risk of physical injury to the surviving children. The father was indicated for substantial risk of physical injury.

Prior history: In March 2011 the Department investigated a hotline report of bruising to the mother’s second child, then 7 months, while she was in the care of her father (who was not the twins’ father). The father was indicated for bruises to the baby and substantial risk of physical injury to her older sibling, then age 2. An intact family services case was opened on the young mother who needed domestic violence counseling (because of her history with the father), parenting instruction, and support. At the time the case was opened, the mother was living with her new boyfriend and her two children. Two months after the case was opened, in June 2011, the boyfriend’s 2 and 4-year-old children unexpectedly joined the family when their mother dropped them off and left town. In September 2011 the mother informed her worker that she was six months pregnant with twins and had begun prenatal care. The mother and boyfriend were overwhelmed, but tried to participate in services including parenting classes, homemaker services, and early intervention services for the children. The mother gave birth prematurely in November 2011. The Department provided two pack n play cribs and two car seats for the twins. They were seen for medical appointments in December, January, and February. The parents missed three appointments in March despite reminders and rescheduling, and clinic staff called the hotline with an allegation of medical neglect against the parents. Following the hotline report, in April 2012, the parents took the twins to the doctor. The parents reported difficulty keeping the appointments because of child care and transportation difficulties. The investigation was pending at the time of the twins’ deaths but was subsequently indicated. The twins were last seen by their worker in April 2012.

Child No. 77
Age: 10 months
Cause: Overlaying

Ten-month-old infant with spina bifida was found unresponsive around 10:00 a.m. by his 21-year-old mother. The mother fed the infant around 5:30 a.m. and then placed him on his back to sleep between herself and the 20-year-old father, both of whom were developmentally disabled and received SSI. When the mother awoke, she found the baby face down on the memory foam mattress against the father’s back. The family lived with the paternal grandparents. There was a crib in the home next to the parents’ bed. The grandparents had warned the parents, who were described as large, not to sleep with the baby and the maternal grandmother often moved the baby from the parents’ bed. The mother reported that the father had previously rolled over on the baby’s leg. Both parents were indicated for death by neglect.

Prior history: In September 2011 a worker from a home visiting program called the hotline with concern about the parents’ ability to care for the infant who had just had spine surgery and did not seem to be gaining weight. She was also concerned about the condition of the home. Allegations of failure to thrive and environmental neglect were investigated and unfounded. The infant’s primary care physician reported the baby was consistently gaining weight and the parents and grandparents were making and keeping medical appointments. The infant was seen weekly by early intervention physical and developmental therapists. The parents appeared capable of caring for the infant with the help of the grandparents. The investigator conducted a home safety checklist, observed a bassinet and crib for the baby, and determined that the condition of the home did not rise to the level of neglect. The investigator offered services to the family but they refused them.

Child No. 79
Age: 2 ½ years
Cause: Methadone intoxication

Two-and-a-half-year-old boy was found unresponsive by his 41-year-old mother who checked on him during a lengthy nap. The mother called 911 and the child was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Police talked to the mother who reported she was in a methadone-treatment program. She said she kept her methadone out of the child’s reach on a high shelf in her bedroom closet. When questioned about whether it was possible the child drank methadone, the mother went into the refrigerator and retrieved a plastic water bottle with a small amount of pink liquid in it that was methadone. The mother said she mixed the methadone with water but she did not think the child could get into the refrigerator. A cousin had been in the home that day and reported to police that he filled a water bottle with tap water for the child to drink. A child-protection investigation of the child’s death is pending. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: The mother and infant tested positive for methadone at the infant’s birth. The mother admitted using heroin two months prior to the infant’s birth. The infant was the mother’s fourth child; her other three children were being raised by relatives because of her history of substance abuse and criminal activities. Hospital staff called the hotline with a report of substantial risk of physical injury. The report was indicated and the Department took protective custody of the infant, but the case failed to pass screening with the local state’s attorney’s office which recommended community services. The mother was referred to an intact family services program specializing in services to substance-affected families. At the time of the child’s death, the mother was participating in a methadone-treatment program.

Child No. 101
Age: 6 months
Cause: Bronchopneumonia

Six-month-old baby was found unresponsive in her crib around 11:45 a.m. by her 26-year-old father. The father and 25-year-old mother reported that the baby fell asleep at approximately 9:00 p.m. and they placed her in her crib. The baby was last seen alive by her father who checked on her before going to bed at 3:00 a.m. The baby was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. The Department investigated and indicated the parents for death by neglect to the baby and for environmental neglect to all their children. The mother was also indicated for substantial risk of physical injury by neglect to the surviving siblings. The five surviving siblings, all under the age of 7, entered foster care.

Prior history: The family has a history with the Department dating to March 2007 when a preventive services case was opened to assist the family with various appointments, housing and childcare needs. The case was closed in September 2007. In March 2011 a second case was open for preventive services because the mother, who was low-functioning and recently gave birth to another child, lacked basic skills and knowledge of infant care. While the intact family services case was open, the Department conducted three child protection investigations. In October 2011 the Department investigated and unfounded an allegation of substance misuse against the mother. In November 2011 the parents were investigated and unfounded for bruises. In December 2011, the Department investigated and unfounded a report of inadequate shelter. The family had numerous services in place at the time of the infant’s death.

Children who died from neglect within a year of DCFS having contact with a family member or caretaker of the deceased (10)

Child No. 19
Age: Hours
Cause of death: Cold exposure with prematurity a significant contributing factor

Baby boy was discovered by police deceased on top of a dumpster after his 13-year-old mother presented at the hospital complaining of vaginal bleeding and she was discovered to have given birth. The girl admitted to hospital staff that she gave birth at home. Her mother came home and found her standing in a pool of blood in the bathroom and contacted the maternal grandmother to come take the girl to the hospital. The girl had earlier wrapped the baby in clothing and placed her on the dumpster; she said the baby never moved or cried. The 13-year-old had not told anyone about her pregnancy because she did not want her mother to find out that she had sex with a 15-year-old boy. The girl was charged with misdemeanor counts of obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. She was indicated for death by neglect. Her mother sought counseling for her.

Prior history: In September 2011 the Department investigated and unfounded a report of inadequate supervision against the grandmother. A neighbor called the hotline to report that the children, ages 4, 8, and 13, were left unsupervised while their maternal grandmother worked nights. The maternal grandmother, mother and children denied that the children were left unsupervised. The mother and maternal grandmother worked different shifts so that one of them was always available to supervise the children. Staff at the 8-year-old boy’s school was contacted and there were no concerns about his attendance or care.

Child No. 51
Age: 2
Cause: Drowning

Two-year-old girl drowned in a swimming pool at the home of her 36-year-old unlicensed home day care provider. The provider was caring for three of her own children as well as seven day care children who were between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. The day care provider found the 2-year-old unresponsive in the pool when she discovered her missing. The gate to the above-ground pool was not locked. The provider was charged with felony child endangerment and operating a child care facility without a license, a misdemeanor. She is awaiting trial. The provider was indicated for death by neglect and for substantial risk of physical injury to her four children who were placed in foster care because there was an order of protection prohibiting contact between the father and the children. The OIG is conducting a full investigation of this child’s death.

Prior history: In April 2011 the hotline was called with an allegation of inadequate supervision against the home day care provider. While investigating, the child-protection investigator learned that the provider was caring for four children without a home day care license. She was told she could not care for more than three children without a license, and she was provided with information about how to begin the licensing process. During a subsequent visit the investigator observed multiple children at the home and made a complaint to the day care licensing division. A licensing complaint investigation was substantiated and the provider was ordered to stop operating her home day care. She subsequently submitted an application for a license which was pending at the time of the girl’s drowning (and consequently withdrawn). In June 2011 the hotline was called with an allegation of substantial risk of physical injury to the provider’s four children by their father because of an incident of domestic violence in the home. The mother/provider obtained an order of protection and the investigation was indicated against the father.

Child No. 53
Age: 2 ½ months
Cause: Possible suffocation in a setting of co-sleeping

Two-and-a-half-month-old infant was found unresponsive around 6:45 a.m. by her 27-year-old mother with whom she was sleeping. The mother, who had taken prescription pain medication for a hernia and back injury, said that she last saw the baby alive when she fed her at 3:00 a.m. and placed her on her back to sleep in the mother’s bed. The baby’s 1-year-old sibling was also sleeping in the bed. The mother had a crib in the home for the baby, but it was full of clothes and was not being used. Police responding to the infant’s death called the hotline to report the home was filthy. The mother was indicated for environmental neglect of her six surviving children and death by neglect to the infant. The children, ages 1 to 12, entered foster care. They are placed with relatives and their mother, who is pregnant, is participating in services for their return home.

Prior history: The deceased was the mother’s seventh child. In May 2011 a staff member from a mentoring program called the hotline to report that the eldest child, then 11, had a mark over her eye from a belt buckle. The mother admitted that she caused the mark while disciplining the girl with a belt. The mother said she had been hitting the girl on her behind over her clothes, but the girl moved and was hit in the face. She was disciplining her daughter for being suspended from school. The mother was indicated for cuts, bruises and welts. The mentoring program agreed to continue working with the family. In July 2011 the 11-year-old girl alleged that the father of the three youngest children whipped the children. The father admitted to spanking the children over their clothes but never hard enough to leave marks. The children were observed and interviewed. None were afraid of the father and none had injuries. The 11-year-old girl conceded that the father did not injure them. She also reported that her mother had not hit her since the first investigation. The investigation was unfounded with the mentoring program agreeing to continue to provide mentoring and to link the family to any other service needs.

Child No. 55
Age: 9 months
Cause: Asphyxia due to overlay from co-sleeping

Nine-month-old baby was found unresponsive by her 32-year-old father around 3:00 a.m. The father, who admitted he and the mother were high on heroin, recalled lying in bed with the baby feeding her a bottle. He passed out and when he awakened, he found the baby unresponsive lying between him and the 25-year-old mother. There was a crib in the home. The Department indicated the mother and father for death by neglect, bruises by abuse (because the autopsy revealed two small bruises on the baby’s buttocks which the parents could not explain), and inadequate supervision of the mother’s 4-year-old son who had been returned home to the mother only five months prior. After the baby’s death the boy went to live with his father who obtained legal custody and guardianship of him.

Prior history: The deceased’s 4-year-old brother was in foster care with his maternal grandmother from December 2009 when he was 2 years old until April 2011 when he was returned home to his mother under a court order and monitoring by the private agency assigned to his case. While the child was in foster care, the mother and the deceased’s father had participated in services, including substance abuse evaluations, random drug screens, parenting classes and counseling.

Child No. 56
Age: 2 months
Cause: Asphyxia due to overlay

Two-month-old infant was found unresponsive around 4:00 a.m. by his 28-year-old mother. The mother placed the infant to sleep on his side on top of 3 pillows on the parents’ bed which was up against the wall. The mother slept in the middle of the bed with the baby next to the wall and the baby’s father on the other side of her. The baby had been born five weeks prematurely and spent his first three weeks of life in the hospital. The mother reported that as babies all four of her children slept with her. She admitted she had been educated by WIC (Women, Infants and Children food assistance program) about the dangers of co-sleeping. She had a bassinet for the baby but did not use it. The mother was indicated for death by neglect to the infant because she admitted she knew it was dangerous for her to sleep with him.

Prior history: In August and October 2010, the Department investigated allegations of sexual abuse to two of the mother’s three children by their maternal grandparents. Both investigations were initiated by the father of the oldest child who was in an ongoing custody battle with the mother. The local child advocacy center and police were involved in investigating the allegations. The Department unfounded its investigations and the police declined to pursue charges against either grandparent.

Children Nos. 62, 63
Ages: 3 years and 1 ½ years
Cause: Carbon monoxide intoxication due to inhalation of smoke and soot from apartment fire

One-and-a-half and 3-year-old siblings died in an apartment fire started by their 6-year-old sibling who was attempting to cook pizza in a box on the stove at 3:00 a.m. while his 38-year-old mother slept. The child had behavioral issues and had previously played with fire. He was psychiatrically hospitalized for 18 days a month earlier. It is not known how the boy started the stove because the mother had removed the knobs from the stove to keep the children from playing with them. The mother reported to the fire marshal that she heard the smoke detector and put it under her pillow. When she realized there was a fire in the apartment, she ran outside to get a breath of air and was unable to get back in to save the 1-1/2 and 3-year-old children. The 6-year-old boy had already run out of the house. The mother was indicated for inadequate supervision and substantial risk of physical injury to all three of the children and death by neglect to the deceased children. The boy is in foster care placed with a maternal great-aunt. A 5-year-old daughter remains with her grandmother with whom she has always lived.

Prior history: The family has had involvement with the Department since 2006 when the mother gave birth to her second child who demonstrated signs of withdrawal. The mother was addicted to huffing mothballs. The mother had neurological impairment because of the huffing and had been followed by a hospital neurology department for the past five years. The maternal grandmother was already caring for the mother’s 1-year-old and was willing to care for the new baby as well. Extended family members were willing to help as the mother needed care as well. The family received intact family services from September 2006 through August 2007 and again from November 2008, when the 3-year-old child was born, until June 2009. The mother participated in numerous services and had a large support system. At the time of the children’s deaths there was a pending child protection investigation that alleged that an injury to the 6-year-old boy’s arm was from being hit by his mother. The investigation was ultimately unfounded; the injury was a swollen pulled muscle that was not consistent with being hit.

Child No. 68
Age: 12 days
Cause: Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy due to co-sleeping with an adult on a couch

Twelve-day old infant was found unresponsive in his 27-year-old mother’s arms around 2:45 a.m. when his 29-year-old father got up to use the bathroom. The parents smoked marijuana and fell asleep on their sectional couch shortly after midnight. The mother fell asleep sitting on the recliner end of the sectional with the baby lying against her chest. The parents called 911 and the infant was taken to the hospital where he died three days later. There was a bassinet in the home. The Department took protective custody of the baby’s 2 and 8-year-old siblings. Three days later the children were returned to the parents under a court order that the parents cooperate with weekly drug screens and DCFS recommendations.

Prior history: In August 2011 the mother took her 23-month-old daughter to the emergency department with a left proximal humerus fracture. The mother explained the child had fallen off a slide at the playground three days earlier but was not in a lot of discomfort until the day before. An orthopedic specialist opined this was possible and the allegation of bone fractures by abuse was unfounded. The investigation uncovered concerns about domestic violence and substance abuse, however, and the parents were indicated for substantial risk of physical injury to the 23-month-old and her 7-year-old brother. An intact family services case was opened to provide the parents with services including substance abuse assessments; drug screens; substance abuse treatment; mental health assessments and counseling.

Child No. 75
Age: 2 months
Cause: Asphyxia due to overlaying

Two-month-old infant was found by his 29-year-old mother partially beneath his 27-year-old father with whom he was sleeping. The mother was not in bed with them because she had slept on the couch. There were a crib and bassinet in the home. The couple’s 2-year-old child slept in the crib and sometimes the infant would sleep in the bassinet, but other times with her husband in the bed. The couple knew the baby should have slept in the bassinet but he was a colicky baby and cried a lot; sometimes the only way to get him to sleep was to lay next to him. The father had wrapped a blanket in a horseshoe around the infant to keep him from rolling. The Department indicated the father for death by neglect because he was aware of the danger of co-sleeping.

Prior history: In June 2011 the father’s 4-year-old son, who was a ward, was taken to the emergency department by his foster parent-maternal grandmother with bruises to his buttocks that the father explained were caused when the boy got a “wedgy.” The hospital called the hotline because the child was a ward. An investigation of the bruises was unfounded. The father explained that he was playing with children on a trampoline throwing them up in the air and he threw his son up at his son’s request, but the boy changed his mind so the father tried to catch him mid-air and grabbed his shorts which caused the “wedgy” as the boy fell. The treating physician found the explanation consistent with the linear bruises and the maternal grandmother was not concerned about the boy’s safety in his father’s care. The boy was returned to his father, instead of his mother, from foster care in August 2011.

Child No. 78
Age: 11 months
Cause: Drowning

Eleven-month-old baby drowned in the bathtub. His 21-year-old mother placed him in the bath and then went to her room where she laid down and ‘passed out.’ She woke up one to two hours later and found the baby unresponsive in the bathtub. She admitted to police that she uses heroin and may have been under the influence when she put the baby in the bath. The mother was charged with manslaughter and felony endangerment of a child causing death. The Department indicated her for death by neglect.

Prior history: In April 2012 the mother’s 23-year-old boyfriend, with whom she and her son lived, was investigated for cuts, bruises and welts to his 2-year-old daughter. The girl was visiting her father for the weekend and had been in the care of multiple caregivers. During the weekend she got a black eye and scratches on her face. The father could not account for the black eye, but thought the scratches might be from a cat. The parents took the girl to the emergency department. Hospital staff described the parents as appropriate. The investigation was indicated for cuts, bruises, welts by neglect against an unknown perpetrator.

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