GREENVILLE, S.C. —WYFF News 4 Investigates learned that South Carolina doesn’t have enough foster parents to care for the more than 3,700 children currently in foster care.
Finding people to care for foster children is a challenge in South Carolina. According to numbers WYFF News 4 Investigates obtained, there are 1,227 children in foster care in the Upstate, but only 682 foster homes and shelters.
Some foster homes care for more than one child, but foster parents said there is still a need for more homes.
“Unfortunately, if there’s a child from Greenville County but there’s not a home in Greenville available to take them, they’ll reach out to find a home wherever they can. So it may very well be in Oconee County,” foster parent Chris Koppenger said.
WYFF News 4 Investigates learned that more than half of foster children in the Upstate are placed in foster homes outside of their home counties.
“It’s difficult enough that they’re being taken from their parents, but now you’re taking away their friends, their school, the doctor they’re used to, the church they’ve gone to,” Koppenger said.
Koppenger said more foster parents would help increase the odds that children could stay in their communities and have a better chance to thrive. The need is great statewide. According to numbers WYFF News 4 Investigates obtained from the Department of Social Services, there are about 400 more children in South Carolina’s foster system now than there were two years ago.
We checked with Georgia and North Carolina as well. Officials in both states provided WYFF News 4 Investigates with numbers showing that there are hundreds more foster children in those states right now compared to a year ago. However, neither state was able to say if there are enough foster homes for the children.
Koppenger said people can be hesitant to become foster parents because they may only have the child for a little while. Koppenger said the more than 40 children he and his wife have fostered will always be in his heart, even if they are no longer in his home.
“These are my children, they will always be my children,” Koppenger said.
GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama woman charged with capital murder in the death of her granddaughter forced the girl to run for more than three hours carrying sticks and firewood as a punishment for lying, prosecutors said Monday.
Joyce Garrard is accused of forcing 9-year-old Savannah Hardin to run until she died as punishment for a lie about eating candy on the school bus. She could be sentenced either to death or life without parole if convicted.
Assistant district attorney Marcus Reid said during opening statements in a standing-room-only courtroom that jurors would hear from neighbors who say they heard and saw what happened to Savannah the day she died.
Defense attorney Dani Bone tried to raise doubt about medical evidence in the case by showing jurors a version of the indictment, which mentioned severe dehydration and seizures. However, Bone said Savannah died because of a fatally low sodium level. He said the evidence will show the girl had too much water in her system, not that she was dehydrated.
Bone told jurors that prosecutors “have oversold their case to the world.”
“They’re trying to hoodwink you with junk science,” he said. “Make them prove their case.”
According to prosecutors, neighbors said Garrard yelled at the girl as she ran, forcing her to continue “like some kind of drill sergeant.”
A neighbor, Chad Jacobs, said he saw the girl running and carrying firewood and sticks over a two-hour period as he came and went from his home.
“Joyce and Savannah were in the yard, and Joyce was telling Savannah to keep running,” said Chad Jacobs. “She was just saying, ‘Keep running, I didn’t tell you to stop.'”
Jacobs said he wasn’t concerned at first but eventually saw the girl “on all fours” on the ground and vomiting with Garrard pouring water over her. Paramedics arrived within minutes, he said.
When paramedics arrived, they found Savannah on the ground, “freezing cold to the touch,” her clothes and shoes soaking wet, Reid said. Garrard never told the medics that the girl had been running; she said only that the girl collapsed in the yard.
Savannah wasn’t supposed to eat candy because she was on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and had a bladder problem, but she had eaten candy on the school bus the day before she died.
Garrard was angry that Savannah ate the candy — “but she was more upset about the lie,” Reid said.
Surveillance video from a school bus shown to a jury showed Garrard talking with the bus driver, Raenna Holmes, about Savannah taking candy without paying from another student who was selling it. Garrard told Holmes: “She’s going to run until I tell her to stop.”
The women then talk about a bladder condition the girl had and a procedure she had related to that condition. The driver then asks, “Is she OK?”
Garrard replies: “She might be when I get about four more bottles of water in her.”
Holmes said in court that she saw the girl picking up sticks in the yard but did not see her running.
“I feel partly responsible. I should have paid for those candy bars,” Holmes said.
The girl’s stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, is awaiting trial on a murder charge in the girl’s death. Authorities said she failed to intervene while the older woman forced the girl to run.
Last evening, while working, I saw the face of someone I knew on the internet, and this evil man had been captured in Brazil.
The leader of a cult-like religious sect who was on the U.S. Marshall’s Most Wanted List has been arrested by Brazilian authorities and faces extradition for allegedly molesting two young girls.
Victor Arden Barnard, 52, was taken into custody Friday in northeastern Brazil, according to The U.S. Marshals Service.
“We coordinated efforts with law enforcement and military in Brazil and Barnard was taken into custody without incident,” the U.S. Marshals Service said in a media statement.
US Marshal’s just confirmed arrest of Victor Barnard in Brazil. pic.twitter.com/iQ0l4mb64B
Barnard led the River Road Fellowship in Minnesota and Washington state. The congregation is an offshoot of The Way International, a nondenominational Christian group, authorities said.
Court documents provided to The Huffington Post show Barnard is facing 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct related to two young women, who claim he abused them for nearly a decade at a church compound.
Since November, Barnard has been on the U.S. Marshall’s 15 Most Wanted List, with a $25,000 reward offered for information leading to his capture.
Brazil’s G1 News, citing a Brazilian military police official, reported Barnard was captured at an ocean view apartment in Rio Grande do Norte. A 33-year-old Brazilian woman was with Barnard and had allegedly been helping him hide.
Brazilian authorities said Barnard, who entered the country legally in 2012, was found with number of possessions, including diaries, computers and flash drives, G1 News reported.
Barnard is being held at the Federal Police headquarters in Christmas, pending formal extradition to the U.S.
Authorities in Washington state have been searching for Barnard since April 2014, when a warrant for his arrest was issued by prosecutors in Pine County District Court.
The two victims at the center of the charges, the criminal complaint alleges, were among several girls who lived at Barnard’s River Road Fellowship compound in Finlayson, Minnesota, which is located about 90 miles north of Minneapolis.
One of the alleged victims in the case contacted the Pine County Sheriff’s Office in January 2012 and told them she had been part of Barnard’s “Maidens Group,” which she claims was made up of young women between the ages of 12 and 24, who lived in an area of the compound referred to as the “Shepherd’s Camp.”
The woman told sheriff’s investigators she was 11 years old when her family joined the fellowship in 1998. Within two years, she alleged, Barnard began having sex with her.
“Barnard repeatedly preached to her that he represented Christ in the flesh, that Jesus Christ had Mary Magdalene and other women who followed him, that King Solomon slept with many concubines, that the firstborn child was to be sacrificed to God, and that it was normal for Barnard to have sex with her because it was in God’s Word,” the complaint states.
The alleged victim said she was 22 years old when she left the compound in 2010.
The second alleged victim told police she was 12 years old in 2000, when Barnard started having sex with her. She said he told her it was okay for them to have sex because he was a “man of God and she would remain a virgin because of it,” according to the complaint.
The second victim said she stayed at the compound until age 20, in 2009.
Both victims told police they were ordered not to tell anyone they were having sex with Barnard, the complaint alleges.
According to the sheriff’s office, the River Road Fellowship was settled in Pine County about 17 years ago.
“They were pretty self-sufficient,” Pine County Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell told The Associated Press in April 2014. “They processed their own meat; they grew their own crops. As much as they could, they kept themselves separated from regular society.”
The group, which consisted of about 50 members, remained in Pine County until 2011, when it relocated to Washington state.
“There had been a division in the group that caused many to separate because Barnard had admitted to having sexual relations with multiple married women in the group,” the criminal complaint alleges.
In November 2012, sheriff’s investigators traveled to Spokane, Wash., to question Barnard, but were unable to locate him. Congregation members that investigators spoke with were unwilling to help put authorities in touch with Barnard, police said.
Investigators spent two years building a case against Barnard before they filed charges against him.
“That man is the devil incarnate,” Cindi Currie, who said she had tried to persuade a friend to leave Barnard’s group years ago, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“I’m so glad they found him,” Currie said. “Not only will Victor Barnard go to jail, but every adult who knew what was going on up there can start to pay, and maybe these girls can start to heal.”