Friday, January 13, 2006


In yet another case of fatal child abuse, the child in question was known to be abused not only by friends, neighbors and teachers, but also to child welfare services.

Nixzmary Brown was only seven when she died. She had signs of sexual abuse, physical abuse and even restraint marks on her ankles from where her step-father (charged in her murder) tied her to a chair. AP

There are two things that I do not understand about child welfare. 1) Why is it that there are children who are known to be abused by parents, step-parents or guardians, left in the custody of their abusers? And 2) Why does this same system, who is failing so many children, hound parents who have never abused their child(ren) at all, ever?

Lately there have been numerous cases of child abuse that had been reported by multiple people, child welfare was involved and yet, somehow, these children went back to the "homes" where they were abused, only to die there. Nixzmary Brown and Kelsey Briggs being just two among thousands. In both cases files had been opened with child welfare and the abuse signs had been witnessed.

Nixzmary was underweight and malnourished as well as bruised. Child welfare had been notified, twice.
ACS Commissioner John Mattingly said, in Nixzmary's case, the family was uncooperative, ignoring repeated phone calls from caseworkers and turning them away at the door. He said the agency should have obtained a court order to enter the home.*
While they claim that they tried to find out what was going on, they did not attain any court aid in order to force an interview with her parents. Her case and life were left to slip between the cracks. Though her death has caused an investigation in the child welfare system of New York City.

Kelsey had broken bones and bruises, and at the end of her very short life, an apathy towards life itself which was completely different than her sunny personality.
A Meeker fire department emergency medical technician told investigators he knew Kelsey was dead when he arrived at 3:27 p.m. She was blue and had no pulse. Kelsey was taken by ambulance to the Prague hospital.
In a report, an OSBI agent described what the medical examiner’s chief investigator told him: “Kelsey had a lot of bleeding in her intestines. Kelsey had bruising on pressure points of ribs, front of chest, side and back.
“Kelsey also had bruising between the vagina and anus. ... The injuries could have been caused from possible kneeing, punching or squeezing. Kelsey also had upper lip bruising.”
A pathologist reported Kelsey’s injuries were recent. *
She had people, loved ones, willing to fight for her. The courts had even taken her out of the home, but for some inexplicable reason, she was sent back only to die days later.

The child welfare system completely failed these children. But that is not all child welfare has done. They have harrassed, followed, arrested, and labeled good people who had no claim of abuse against them.

Due to privacy issues, I will not name the people in the two stories that I relay here.

One is a couple who had two children with one on the way. While pregnant with their third child, the mother got quite sick. She was in the hospital where she received medications. Within a short amount of time, a random drug test was given to her and of course, having been given presciptive strength medications, the test came back positive. A notation was made and the parents were questioned. They explained what had happened and believed that was the end of it. No, sadly, a few months later, after suffering through surprise inspections of their home, psychological exams and more questioning, a social worker along with a pair of policemen showed up on their doorstep and took their children into state custody. The parents wanted to fight, but the more you fight, the more you are labeled "uncooperative" and the file is red tagged so the process takes even longer. They eventually got their children back, but they have been "labeled."

The second was a young couple who owned their own business. While the wife was helping her husband close up the store, their young son started getting cranky. The mother held him on the counter while she finished up some paperwork. The child didn't want to be there and threw himself backwards (anyone who has a child has probably had experience with this stiff body tantrum). Needless to say, the child fell, hitting his head. The parents immediately placed a call to their doctor. He told them that since he had not lost consciousness, nor was there anything more than a small bump, to just watch him overnight and take him in for possible x-rays if there were any problems in the morning. Not sure about this, the couple did take their son to the emergency room within a couple of hours because they wanted to make sure he was okay. But, because they waited, because they had no witnesses to the incident they were labeled "a threat". The parents didn't even know it until they had another child and the mother noticed that there was always a nurse in the room with her or her family when the baby was in the room. After demanding to see her child's medical file, they found that they had been labeled a possible threat to their child and the nurses were told not to leave them alone with the baby! It took years to have that label removed, but in many eyes they are still guilty.

Now in these two cases, there was never a claim of child abuse placed. In the first a report was apparently made by a nurse at the hospital (someone who obviously hadn't read the mother's medical chart to see that she had been medicated!). In the second case a report was filed by someone at the hospital because they were suspicious. But both cases were investigated and no evidence was ever found, yet both families suffered repeatedly at the hands of welfare services.

The flip side of the coin is the children who have files and the abuse is known, yet they are left to die, to "fall through the cracks". How is it that some social workers, who are either overworked or apathetic to the truly abused children in their care, fail them, while other very zealous social workers can make allegations of abuse out of whole cloth against parents who have done absolutely nothing wrong? All of it is wrong and the deaths are tragic and stoppable, so why aren't they?

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