We are failing children who are most in need.
Five government agencies had contact with Banita Jacks in the months leading up to the deaths of her four daughters, according to a timeline that D.C. officials released yesterday detailing the family’s descent. But at least twice, the agencies charged with protecting the children apparently lost track of them.
In a news conference, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and other city officials listed steps taken by social workers, police officers and school officials to try to help Jacks, her companion and her daughters, who she told police were possessed by demons.
At one point, Fenty said, a nurse at George Washington University Hospital called the Child and Family Services Agency’s hotline to report that the family was living in a van. But the hotline worker immediately closed the case because the family had no fixed address, Fenty (D) said.
The bodies of the children, allegedly killed by their mother, were found in a Southeast Washington residence Wednesday. Months earlier, police were called to the house after receiving a report that the mother might have been holding her eldest daughter hostage. But D.C. social workers dropped another inquiry because of an inaccurate report that the family had moved to Maryland. Authorities have said the children might have been dead since May.
… reminded me of this case.
On Jan. 31, 2001, 5-year-old Logan Marr was found dead in the basement of her foster mother’s home in Chelsea, Maine. The foster mother, Sally Schofield, a highly respected former caseworker for Maine’s Department of Human Services (DHS), would later be tried and convicted of manslaughter after police determined that Logan had died from asphyxiation after being bound with duct tape and strapped into a high chair in the basement.
Sally was the third foster mother to take in Logan since she was removed from her birth mother, Christy Marr, in August 1998. The teenaged Christy had moved in with her mother, Kathy Baker, shortly after Logan’s birth, and the two had fought constantly over how to raise the baby. It was Kathy who initiated Christy’s first contact with Maine’s Department of Human Services; in May 1996, she called the department to report her concerns about Logan’s safety. According to DHS records, Kathy told an intake worker that she had always worried “that Christy is too immature and troubled to be a good parent to Logan,” and that “Christy can’t or won’t put Logan’s needs before her own. Kathy said that Christy screams and hollers at the baby all the time and handles her extremely roughly.”