State failed 3-year-old Sherin Mathews,
head of Child Protective Services says
Texas Child Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman is disappointed in his agency’s handling of Sherin Mathews’ case.
Whitman, who declined to talk about any specifics of the case, said the agency will figure out how Sherin’s case “slipped through.”
“I’m gonna tell you right now, it is my mission, it is my passion that we get better at this,” he said.
In March, a doctor found that the 3-year-old Richardson girl had suffered injuries to her upper-arm bones and fractures in her leg bones that were in various stages of healing, according to testimony Wednesday.
The doctor, Suzanne Dakil of the Referral and Evaluation of At Risk Children Clinic, reported the injuries to CPS, suspecting that Sherin had been injured at the hands of her parents.
“I had no explanation other than this child had been physically abused,” Dakil said.
Sherin was found dead in a culvert Oct. 24, more than two weeks after her father reported her missing. Wesley Mathews originally told police he had left her outside in an alley around 3 a.m. as punishment for not drinking her milk. Later, he said that she had choked while he “physically assisted” her in drinking the milk, and he left her body in the culvert.
Wesley and his wife, Sini, remain jailed on charges related to the girl’s death. Her father is charged with injury to a child with serious bodily injury and her mother is charged with abandoning or endangering a child. Authorities say the couple went out to dinner with their other daughter, also 3, while leaving Sherin at the house alone.
The other daughter was placed with family members in November after more than a month in foster care. She is the couple’s biological daughter; Sherin was adopted from India.
Court testimony this week showed that Sherin was treated for an elbow fracture in September 2016. The family said her sister had pushed her off a couch while the two were playing, according to medical records.
Injuries in her upper-arm bones were suffered after Sini grabbed the girl to catch her from a fall on the playground, she claimed. But Dakil told the court that the injuries weren’t consistent with the mother’s claims.
After more X-rays showed leg fractures, Dakil reported the family to CPS.
The agency reached out to Dakil about Sherin’s medical history, she said, but the CPS commissioner says that “they could have done a better job.”
Commissioner Whitman says he can’t say why Sherin wasn’t removed from her home after the report, but that “it breaks [his] heart.”
“I mean, to have a child go outside because they didn’t want to drink their milk or whatever, I mean that story was just not believable,” he said to WFAA. “I don’t know. I don’t know what was going through her father’s mind.
“It’s astounding to me why someone would do that to a baby.”
‘Untethered to the evidence’: Court reverses DCS case that cut mom off from kids
Arizona – In a rare move, the state Court of Appeals has reversed a decision that severed a mother’s rights to her two children, saying state child-welfare workers presented a case “not sufficiently rooted in the evidence.”
The court cited numerous flaws in the evidence — or a lack thereof — presented by a Department of Child Safety caseworker, as well as a state-appointed psychologist who evaluated the mother. Writing for the three-judge panel, Acting Presiding Judge Peter B. Swann concluded there appeared to be only one motive to separate the mother from her kids: that the children were adoptable.
The court reversed the decision of Juvenile Court Judge Cari Harrison and sent the matter back to the Juvenile Court. It is unclear what will come next.
In a statement, DCS noted the action is highly unusual, something that was echoed by the courts, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, which represents the agency.
DCS reviewing the case
DCS said it is evaluating its next move.
“We will conduct a careful review of the facts of this case before deciding how to proceed, as we do in each case when considering what permanency plan is most appropriate,” spokesman Darren DaRonco said in an emailed statement.
Repeated attempts to contact the attorney who represented the mother were not successful.
It is also unknown when the rights of the mother, identified only as “Alma S.” in court documents, were severed, where the children have been in the meantime, and where they are now in the wake of the court’s finding.
Because of privacy laws, cases involving children in DCS custody do not contain information that would lead to the identification of the children.
Hospital visit triggers DCS involvement
The case dates back 2½ years, when a hospital official called DCS after seeing one of the children for a fractured leg bone, a fractured rib that was on the mend and multiple bruises. Hospitals are required by law to report injuries that might suggest child abuse.
While the initial DCS plan was to provide services to the family and keep it together, in early 2016 the plan shifted to severance and adoption. By the time the court was ready to issue a decision, the father said he would not fight the severance recommendation, and had his rights revoked.
The mother, however, did not agree to the severance plan. In court, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when asked about domestic violence, why she didn’t bring her child to the hospital immediately and whether she was aware of the severity of the child’s injuries.
Without her testimony, the Juvenile Court judge relied on the psychologist’s evaluation of the mother. The psychologist submitted a report finding the mother had substance-abuse issues, personality disorders and concluded her chances of being a good parent were “poor at best.”
While an appeals court normally gives great deference to such finding, Swann wrote, a review of the record showed that evaluation was “untethered to the evidence.”
Failing to do the basics
In a 15-page ruling, he faulted how the case was constructed and concluded the evidence does not support cutting off the mother’s rights to parent her children.
The ruling details how a new case manager, assigned to the matter in summer 2016, failed to do the basics of the job.
For example, the case manager never met with the mother outside of court hearings, only consulted with one of the social-service providers who worked with the mother on various issues, never checked out her suspicions that the mother was still dating the birth father of the child who had been brought to the hospital, never visited the mother’s home to see if it would be safe for the kids and only read several of the 145 pages of parent-aide notes filed in the case. Parent aides supervise visits between parents and children to evaluate their interactions.
The psychologist, according to the court ruling, received only partial information from DCS, dating from the earlier stages of the case.
The agency did not include later reports that showed the mother had successfully complied with all of the work DCS was requiring her to do in order to get her kids back, including results that showed she was testing clean for drugs, had received domestic-violence counseling and had an eight-month track record of successful supervised visits with her children, “where she always came prepared and showed proper parenting skills.”
The court also faulted the psychologist for failing to evaluate the mother’s parenting skills and suggested the subsequent report submitted to the court was “so lacking that we question (though we do not here decide) its admissibility.”
‘Adoptable’ a reason to take the kids
In reversing the Juvenile Court’s ruling, the appeal panel said it found little evidence that it would be in the children’s best interests to sever the mother’s rights.
“(A)part from these unsupported, conclusory opinions, the only evidence that severance is in the children’s best interests is the fact that the children are adoptable,” the appeals ruling stated. And it noted there apparently was no opportunity to adopt the children into the same household, meaning the siblings would be permanently separated.
The judges noted it is not permissible to adopt out children on the assumption that someone with better parenting skills might be able to care for a child. Instead, DCS must show a “substantial likelihood” that the parent cannot effectively parent in the near future.
The other judges, who joined in Swann’s conclusions, were Michael J. Brown and Patricia A. Orozco.
About this report
In 2016, when the number of children removed from their families peaked at more than 18,000, the Arizona Community Foundation gave The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com a three-year grant to support in-depth research on the topic. As part of that effort, reporter Mary Jo Pitzl and our other staff experts investigate the reasons behind the surge in foster children and the systems meant to support and protect them.
Finneytown principal, teacher under
investigation for Child Abuse
FINNEYTOWN, OH – A principal and teacher are under investigation in Finneytown after child abuse allegations came to light.
The mother of a student filed a police report with Springfield Township Police alleging her child was assaulted by Principal Lana Gerber.
In the report, it states the mother got a call from a “faculty member at Brent stating she witnessed the principal buckle her sons knees causing him to fall to the ground.”
The mother in the report states she asked her son about the incident and he said that it did occur. The child in question is 6-years-old.
The alleged incident happened on Nov. 10.
District officials told FOX19 NOW they are cooperating with police and their investigation.
The principal is still working as they look into the incident.
A spokesperson with police said, “Investigators assigned to the case are still in the process of interviewing witnesses. Once that is complete the determination will be made whether this will be pursed as a criminal offense, an administrative matter or that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to determine the incident occurred.”
FOX19 NOW did attempt to talk to the mother of the 6-year-old but was unsuccessful.
It was just last week that FOX19 NOW learned a Finneytown teacher had been placed on paid administrative leave since Oct. 5 over an incident which involved the dragging of a student.
The school district would not go into detail, but they did give a letter which it reads, “The administrative leave shall remain in effect until further notice, pending a formal meeting with the superintendent. The reason for this action is a substantiated report that you may have participated in an incident of child abuse.”
FOX19 NOW did speak to the teacher by phone. She said she used “poor judgment,” but felt her actions were not a fireable offense. She said she grabbed a student by the hand and was trying to get him to music class.
She said the child began to lay on the ground and she dragged him about four to five steps. The incident was captured on school cameras.
The teacher said, “I know what I did was wrong.”
She claims the child got up after those four to five steps and never even told his mother what happened.
The teacher’s personnel file also includes a glowing report. It reads, “she responds effectively to misbehavior. The teacher is extremely tolerant of individual differences and she persists in seeking effective approaches for individual students. She does an outstanding job of managing behavior even with difficult students.”
She said she will not resign and the Board will have to fire her.
Video shows nurses laughing as dying WWII vet calls for help
Hidden camera footage recently made public revealed a decorated World War II veteran died after fighting for air while a pair of nurses laughed in front of him.
James Dempsey on Feb. 27, 2014, repeatedly called out to staff members at Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation before he fell unconscious, gasping for air all the while.
Nursing home staff found him unresponsive just before 5:30 a.m. and it took them nearly an hour to call 911, according to state records obtained by WXIA.
Dempsey’s family, who sued the facility in 2014, declined to comment, citing a settlement with the nursing home.
Former nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles testified during the trial that she rushed to the 89-year-old veteran’s room when she learned he’d stopped breathing and performed chest compressions until help arrived.
Nuckles did not know she’d been filmed at the time and the clip directly contradicts her account, which she said was just “an honest mistake.”
Instead, the footage shows nursing staff repeatedly start and stop Dempsey’s chest compressions.
When the responding nurses struggled to get Dempsey’s oxygen machine to start, Nuckles can be heard laughing with them in the background.
“Ma’am was there something funny at the time?” Mike Prieto, the attorney for Dempsey’s family, questioned.
She responded: “I can’t even remember all that, as you can see.”
Retired nursing professor Elaine Harris identified several violations, including failure to respond, failure to assess and failure to act.
“In 43 years of nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a health care setting,” she told the news station.
Attorneys representing the Atlanta nursing home attempted to block WXIA from releasing the footage, but in the end dropped its appeal with the Georgia State Supreme Court.
Both Nuckles and another nurse were fired, but not until nearly a year after the incident. And they only just turned in their licenses in September — nearly three years after Dempsey’s death.
A spokesperson for the Georgia Board of Nursing could not confirm when the state became aware of the video, but the board’s action did come on the heels of receiving a link to the video.
A spokesperson for the nursing home, owned by Sava Senior Care, in a statement wrote they were “saddened by the events which occurred three years ago” before going on to note it has “new leadership and the leadership team and the staff have worked very diligently to improve quality care and the quality of life for our residents.”
AG Paxton: Child Predators Brought to Justice in Williamson County Operation
AUSTIN, TX – Continuing its efforts to protect children from dangerous child predators, the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU) of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office arrested three men in Williamson County for Online Solicitation of a Minor during an online operation last week.
The men were all charged with a second-degree felony and booked into the Williamson County Jail without incident.
During the operation, the three men, identified as Samuel David Kelly, Shane Michael Perry and Joshua Logan Dean, sexually solicited investigators posing as children online. Each man was arrested after they arrived at a predetermined location expecting to meet and engage in sexual activity with a child.
The attorney general’s office works to protect children by using the latest technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil predators online.
Attorney General Paxton urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks our children face on the internet and take steps to help ensure their safety.
Cyber safety tips for kids:
Never give out personal information such as name, address, phone number, or school.
Never agree to meet someone you met online.
Always tell an adult if you receive a message that makes you uncomfortable.
Report anything suspicious to the attorney’s general office at 800-252-8011