Tag: child death

General, murder, news
CPS placed 18 month old child in his aunt’s care – now he’s dead

Two separate investigations will review Child Protective Services’ handling of a Dallas toddler’s case after the child was found dead Thursday in a landfill, a day after his aunt and caregiver reported him missing.

Police believe they found 18-month-old Cedrick Jackson’s remains Thursday morning in a landfill on the Garland-Rowlett line. The Dallas County medical examiner had yet to positively identify the remains or determine a cause of death as of Friday.

Authorities charged Sedrick Johnson, the 27-year-old boyfriend of the child’s aunt, with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury.

Johnson faces additional charges pending the medical examiner’s findings. The toddler had been living in a Lake Highlands apartment with Johnson and his aunt, Crystal Jackson, after CPS placed him in her care.

Johnson told police he had swaddled Cedrick in blankets — something he had been doing since May after the child “made a mess” with ketchup packets, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Johnson told police he unwrapped Cedrick after he heard the child making noises in his sleep. He said the toddler then vomited and became unresponsive. Johnson told police he left the child’s body in a dumpster in northeast Dallas after his CPR attempts failed.

Internal and independent reviews will likely examine why Cedrick was placed in the home of Johnson, who has a criminal history in Dallas County.

The child’s mother, Dishundra Thomas, had allowed Cedrick to stay with Jackson. The arrangement by CPS was not against her will, Thomas said.

However, CPS would not knowingly place a child in a home with an adult who has a criminal history, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Johnson was charged with child abandonment in 2010 after police said he left his infant daughter alone in an apartment while he propositioned an undercover officer who he believed was a prostitute, according to court records.

He pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to four years of probation. Johnson later violated that probation and was sentenced to eight months in state jail in 2016.

Under normal circumstances, CPS officials conduct a criminal background check on each adult in a home being considered for child placement, Gonzales said. She didn’t provide details on Cedrick’s case Friday, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

The Department of Family and Protective Service’s Office of Child Safety will conduct an independent review of CPS’ handling of Cedrick’s case, Gonzales said. It’s not clear when either investigation will complete.

The Office of Child Safety will issue a report detailing its findings when the investigation is complete, but Gonzales said the office would need the approval of the Dallas County district attorney’s office and law enforcement before releasing the report publicly.

Johnson was still in the Dallas County jail as of Friday evening, with bail set at $503,000.

Vigil in boy’s honor

Friday evening, mourners gathered under a pavilion at Lake Highlands Recreation Center for a community vigil in Cedrick’s memory, where Dishundra Thomas, the boy’s mother, briefly addressed the crowd of about 100 before breaking down, inconsolable. Another read a prepared statement that was barely comprehensible through her tears.

“Baby C.J. was the sweetest little baby in the world,” his mother said. “He meant everything to us. He didn’t deserve anything that happened to him.”

Eventually family members had to escort her away, as she sobbed and screamed, “I want him back!”

The gathering included several families with small children, carrying blue and white balloons, one in the shape of a giant C. Some wore blue T-shirts with an image of Cedrick’s face and the words, “Rest in Heaven.” One woman carried a handmade poster reading “Our Beloved CJ” with photos of the boy.

Linus Walton of Wylie, an acquaintance of the boy’s uncle, spoke as well, saying “He brought people, as we see right now, together. C.J. was loved. His life was not in vain.”

Finally, as the sun began to set, the crowd moved to an open grassy area, where Cedrick’s grand-aunt, Benita Arterberry of Mesquite, said the gesture was symbolic of a soul being commended to God.

“Father, we know that into each life a little rain must fall, and today is a storm,” she said, as the crowd sent their balloons skyward. “We are so grateful to have had him for the time that we did.”

Uncategorized
Family believes bullying, ADHD medication played role in 9-year-old girl’s suicide
A 9 year old CHILD should NEVER have suicidal ideations!STOP drugging children and give them love and appropriate discipline instead. Give them direction in life, lead them by being a good example. 

Give them self esteem and goals in life. Give them hope ..

I remember when I was told by CPS that my son, who was in foster care at the time, was having adverse reactions to psychotropic drugs they were giving him.  I was irate .

First of all my son had never taken psychotropic medications before foster care.

I do not believe psychotropic meds are good for kids in any situation! (or adults for that matter).

Second of all they were giving my son drugs after saying drugs was the reason they took him.

I said to the caseworker, “why are you drugging my child?”

” He’s very angry”, she answered.

” Well of course he is angry…” I began. ..

” You took him away from his home … I am angry too! You didn’t answer my question, why are you drugging my child?”

She pauses then sheepishly began talking ” Ms Murphy … let’s calm down and talk about your son’s anger…

“calm down? No! Let’s talk abou why the f*ck you are drugging my son? Did you call and talk to HIS REGULAR therapist not the so called CPS contract doctor?

did you send him to church? Did you? “

“Um no ma’am we cannot… we do not take children in foster homes to church”.

“Why not??” I demanded to know …

“We are not allowed to” she stated.

“Not allowed to?? But you ARE ALLOWED TO GIVE HIM DRUGS?”

She was stammering by now…”Ms Murphy-were trying to… we are here to help you…”

“No you’re not- I taught my son to turn to me with his problems or to pray about what’s bothering him…i taught him to stand still with God when he got angry, not to turn to drugs when he was angry.

Why are you teaching him to turn to drugs? are you trying to make him an addict? so you can take HIS kids from him one day too?? And you’re calling ME a bad parent? Really?”

I’ll never forget that conversation. so when I read about instances like this suicide I must share my experiences.

May peace find this child’s family.  

The parents of a 9-year-old Alabama girl who took her own life believe that bullying and ADHD medication played a role in her death.

According to AL.com,Madison “Maddie” Whittsett, of Birmingham, was pronounced dead at Children’s of Alabama Monday morning. The Friday before, her mother found her hanging in her bedroom closet.


“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else,’’ Madison’s stepfather, Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Lt. Jimmie Williams, told AL.com.

“We talked to one of her friends and Maddie had apparently had a bad day. The friend said Maddie was bullied and she looked sad while she was being bullied,’’ Jimmie Williams said. “It must have really worn her out that day.”

Her mother, Eugenia Williams, said Maddie had been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and received one-on-one help at her school. There had been incidents in which other students called her “stupid” and “dumb” but her parents felt like the issue had been addressed.

Just a few weeks ago, Maddie’s parents said she had been started on a medication to help with her ADHD that listed a side effect of possibly causing suicidal thoughts.

“The bullying plus the medicine, I think, gave her the boost to do that,’’ Jimmie Williams said.

The Williams hope Maddie’s story will help other parents.

“Maybe you can see if anything is going on. Look for changes in attitude. Changes in behavior,’’ Jimmie Williams said. “Support them and be there for them.”

He also hopes children will let adults know if they see a peer being bullied: “Like they always say, ‘If you see something, say something.’’’

Birmingham City Schools released this statement Tuesday afternoon: “Our school community is deeply saddened by the recent passing of a student. Counselors and district-level support staff, trained to help students, parents and school personnel at difficult times such as this, have been on-site at the impacted school today to provide assistance to students and staff in needed of support in processing this tragedy. The death of any young person is a tragic loss that impacts the whole school community, and we send our deepest condolences to the family.”

Eugenia Williams remembers her daughter as “alive, energetic, funny,” and said she loved to dance. Jimmie Williams said the suicide “came out of left field.”

“She just wanted to be your friend. She wanted to be everybody’s friend and wanted everyone to be happy,’’ he said. “We saw that in everything she did.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

 

cps
A Tragic Reminder That Time Is Precious

The story below is a tragic reminder that when you love someone -show them – your time with them is never guaranteed.

We are not in charge.

As parents we are, or try to be, mindful of taking precautions against the risks in this world that may harm our children. Covering electrical outlets, holding hands while crossing the street, installing gates around pools, etc.

However, this case reminds us, that we cannot prevent everything from potentially harming our child.

There are just some things that you don’t think about until too late. I mean, I never worried about sending my kids to school and that they might never vine home after choking on a pushpin of all things.

It just goes to show ya that time is precious.

To the suffering family: Godspeed, and may you find peace somehow! It’s Almost Tuesday.

image

After a Frisco Child’s Death, Her Family Wants Answers and Changes from Frisco ISD
[Updated]
Tues, May 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM
By Eric Nicholson
Source: Dallas Observer

No one — not her teacher, not her mom, not the school nurse, not the paramedics — could initially explain why Meaghan Levy, an otherwise healthy kindergartener at Frisco’s Corbell Elementary, suddenly collapsed to the floor as her class walked to the library on the morning of December 12. She had no history of medical problems and no known allergies.

The night before was normal — a trip to the grocery store with her mom and siblings, a dinner of turkey tacos, a run-through of Finding Nemo before bed — as was the morning.

She was in good spirits when she was dropped off at school in her white shirt and jean jacket, and she was typically cheerful as her class set out for the library an hour-and-a-half later.

When Fox 4 reported on the death the next week, they could say for certain only that Meaghan “became ill.”.

The actual cause of death was suggested by X-rays doctors at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy as they frantically tried to save Meaghan’s life, and confirmed a month later by the Collin County Medical Examiner: asphyxiation by pushpin.

For Meaghan’s mother, Nicole Kennedy, and her aunt, Erika Kennedy, the past five months have eroded some of the initial shock of losing a child 11 days before her 6th birthday. But they’ve done little to ease their despair.

Though Frisco ISD and Frisco police have closed their respective investigations and ruled the death an accident, the Kennedy sisters have questions:

Why didn’t Meaghan’s teacher have CPR training?

Why did the oxygen bottle pumping air into her lungs while paramedics were en route malfunction, sending the school nurse to the hospital?

Why were pushpins allowed within a kindergartener’s reach in the first place?

In an emailed response to questions posed by Unfair Park, Frisco ISD spokeswoman Shana Wortham said no employees have been disciplined and no policy changes have been made in the wake of Meaghan’s death.

Teachers are still encouraged, but not required, to take CPR training as part of their professional development regimen, and no move has been made to bar pushpins from Frisco ISD kindergarten classes.

“The hearts of the staff and students at the campus and the District continue to go out to the family,” Wortham wrote. “It was a tragic loss for all those who knew and loved her.”

Tragic particularly because it was avoidable. Pushpin deaths seem to be relatively rare, but they’re hardly unheard of.

Within two months of each other in 2011, children in Louisville, Kentucky and Oceanside, California choked to death on pushpins, their plastic bases just the right size to lodge in a young child’s trachea.

Even when they’re fully inhaled, they pose a painful challenge, the sharp point making them a nightmare to remove from the lungs.

Even after Meaghan began choking on the pushpin, there appears to be room for a quicker, more effective response.

According to a Frisco PD incident report, the first indication that something was wrong came when Meaghan approached her teacher in the hallway with her hands to her throat, appearing as if she couldn’t breath.(A video camera in the hallway captured Meaghan choking from afar, but does not show when or how she obtained the pushpin.)

The teacher’s response was to lead the girl to the nurse’s office, but Meaghan collapsed before they reached the door. Two parent volunteers happened to be standing nearby and helped carry Meaghan into the nurse’s office, by which time her face was turning blue. One of the volunteers performed the Heimlich maneuver — unsuccessfully, he told police. The nurse began CPR.

During the course of CPR, the nurse began to use one of the portable medical emergency oxygen units Frisco ISD provides at all its campuses. As she delivered the oxygen, the tank malfunctioned, spraying the nurse with a chemical — a caustic substance similar to soda ash — and sending her to the hospital.

Something similar happened in September when the school nurse at Frisco’s Lone Star High School attempted to administer oxygen to a student. The tank exploded, according to media reports, spraying the nurse, a student, three firefighters, and an assistant principal with the chemical and sending them to the hospital.

Wortham says the oxygen units are designed, manufactured and distributed by Frisco-based Oxysure.

“The portable oxygen is another tool available to our personnel to use in a medical situation until paramedics arrive,” she writes. “The District usually also has AEDs at every facility.”

Wortham did not address why the unit malfunctioned, when it was last inspected, or whether the twin cases of malfunctioning oxygen tanks has prompted the district to enact any changes.

She prefaced her responses with a note that
“the District’s comments are limited since we are unsure of legal action being considered.”

Oxysure said in a statement that its product worked properly in Meaghan’s case and in others.
“The cause of this tragedy appears to the be accidental swallowing of a pushpin and is unrelated to our product,” the company said. “We are unclear as to why we are being brought into it.”
FISD, the statement continues, “has hundreds of our units, and has successfully used the product in hundreds of saves since 2008.”

The media reports last fall were inaccurate.

The Oxysure unit is not a “tank” and is not “compressed.” It’s easy to confuse our product with traditional oxygen units, since that’s closer to the public’s frame of reference.

Our product is break-through, safe, accessible, life-safing technology and we work hard every day to re-frame the mindset around supplemental oxygen. Our job is to re-educate the public around this product since it’s breakthrough technology.

Bottom line is, OxySure units contain inert powders that, when deployed, provide medically safe and pure oxygen. OxySure saves lives.

Frisco ISD would have been responsible for inspecting the units, the company said.

Paramedics arrived soon after the oxygen tank malfunctioned and took Meaghan to the hospital.
After doctors discovered the pushpin, they decided she needed to be airlifted to the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Before they could load her on the helicopter, however, her condition worsened.

“After several minutes of intense care,” the police report says, “the lead doctor came into the hallway and notified the family that Meaghan had died.”

It’s not clear from the police report or autopsy that a properly functioning oxygen tank or a teacher trained to provide CPR would have saved Meaghan. But those are big “what ifs” — too big, say the Kennedy sisters.

They hope Meaghan’s death can still prompt changes at Frisco ISD: a ban on pushpins; mandatory CPR training for teachers; a better system to ensure the emergency medical equipment is in proper working order.

As much as anything, they want to raise awareness: Beware of kids and pushpins.

This post has been updated with a response from Oxysure.

© 2014 Dallas Observer, LLC. All rights reserved.

cps
A Tragic Reminder That Time Is Precious

The story below is a tragic reminder that when you love someone -show them – your time with them is never guaranteed.

We are not in charge.

As parents we are, or try to be, mindful of taking precautions against the risks in this world that may harm our children. Covering electrical outlets, holding hands while crossing the street, installing gates around pools, etc.

However, this case reminds us, that we cannot prevent everything from potentially harming our child.

There are just some things that you don’t think about until too late. I mean, I never worried about sending my kids to school and that they might never vine home after choking on a pushpin of all things.

It just goes to show ya that time is precious.

To the suffering family: Godspeed, and may you find peace somehow! It’s Almost Tuesday.

image

After a Frisco Child’s Death, Her Family Wants Answers and Changes from Frisco ISD
[Updated]
Tues, May 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM
By Eric Nicholson
Source: Dallas Observer

No one — not her teacher, not her mom, not the school nurse, not the paramedics — could initially explain why Meaghan Levy, an otherwise healthy kindergartener at Frisco’s Corbell Elementary, suddenly collapsed to the floor as her class walked to the library on the morning of December 12. She had no history of medical problems and no known allergies.

The night before was normal — a trip to the grocery store with her mom and siblings, a dinner of turkey tacos, a run-through of Finding Nemo before bed — as was the morning.

She was in good spirits when she was dropped off at school in her white shirt and jean jacket, and she was typically cheerful as her class set out for the library an hour-and-a-half later.

When Fox 4 reported on the death the next week, they could say for certain only that Meaghan “became ill.”.

The actual cause of death was suggested by X-rays doctors at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy as they frantically tried to save Meaghan’s life, and confirmed a month later by the Collin County Medical Examiner: asphyxiation by pushpin.

For Meaghan’s mother, Nicole Kennedy, and her aunt, Erika Kennedy, the past five months have eroded some of the initial shock of losing a child 11 days before her 6th birthday. But they’ve done little to ease their despair.

Though Frisco ISD and Frisco police have closed their respective investigations and ruled the death an accident, the Kennedy sisters have questions:

Why didn’t Meaghan’s teacher have CPR training?

Why did the oxygen bottle pumping air into her lungs while paramedics were en route malfunction, sending the school nurse to the hospital?

Why were pushpins allowed within a kindergartener’s reach in the first place?

In an emailed response to questions posed by Unfair Park, Frisco ISD spokeswoman Shana Wortham said no employees have been disciplined and no policy changes have been made in the wake of Meaghan’s death.

Teachers are still encouraged, but not required, to take CPR training as part of their professional development regimen, and no move has been made to bar pushpins from Frisco ISD kindergarten classes.

“The hearts of the staff and students at the campus and the District continue to go out to the family,” Wortham wrote. “It was a tragic loss for all those who knew and loved her.”

Tragic particularly because it was avoidable. Pushpin deaths seem to be relatively rare, but they’re hardly unheard of.

Within two months of each other in 2011, children in Louisville, Kentucky and Oceanside, California choked to death on pushpins, their plastic bases just the right size to lodge in a young child’s trachea.

Even when they’re fully inhaled, they pose a painful challenge, the sharp point making them a nightmare to remove from the lungs.

Even after Meaghan began choking on the pushpin, there appears to be room for a quicker, more effective response.

According to a Frisco PD incident report, the first indication that something was wrong came when Meaghan approached her teacher in the hallway with her hands to her throat, appearing as if she couldn’t breath.(A video camera in the hallway captured Meaghan choking from afar, but does not show when or how she obtained the pushpin.)

The teacher’s response was to lead the girl to the nurse’s office, but Meaghan collapsed before they reached the door. Two parent volunteers happened to be standing nearby and helped carry Meaghan into the nurse’s office, by which time her face was turning blue. One of the volunteers performed the Heimlich maneuver — unsuccessfully, he told police. The nurse began CPR.

During the course of CPR, the nurse began to use one of the portable medical emergency oxygen units Frisco ISD provides at all its campuses. As she delivered the oxygen, the tank malfunctioned, spraying the nurse with a chemical — a caustic substance similar to soda ash — and sending her to the hospital.

Something similar happened in September when the school nurse at Frisco’s Lone Star High School attempted to administer oxygen to a student. The tank exploded, according to media reports, spraying the nurse, a student, three firefighters, and an assistant principal with the chemical and sending them to the hospital.

Wortham says the oxygen units are designed, manufactured and distributed by Frisco-based Oxysure.

“The portable oxygen is another tool available to our personnel to use in a medical situation until paramedics arrive,” she writes. “The District usually also has AEDs at every facility.”

Wortham did not address why the unit malfunctioned, when it was last inspected, or whether the twin cases of malfunctioning oxygen tanks has prompted the district to enact any changes.

She prefaced her responses with a note that
“the District’s comments are limited since we are unsure of legal action being considered.”

Oxysure said in a statement that its product worked properly in Meaghan’s case and in others.
“The cause of this tragedy appears to the be accidental swallowing of a pushpin and is unrelated to our product,” the company said. “We are unclear as to why we are being brought into it.”
FISD, the statement continues, “has hundreds of our units, and has successfully used the product in hundreds of saves since 2008.”

The media reports last fall were inaccurate.

The Oxysure unit is not a “tank” and is not “compressed.” It’s easy to confuse our product with traditional oxygen units, since that’s closer to the public’s frame of reference.

Our product is break-through, safe, accessible, life-safing technology and we work hard every day to re-frame the mindset around supplemental oxygen. Our job is to re-educate the public around this product since it’s breakthrough technology.

Bottom line is, OxySure units contain inert powders that, when deployed, provide medically safe and pure oxygen. OxySure saves lives.

Frisco ISD would have been responsible for inspecting the units, the company said.

Paramedics arrived soon after the oxygen tank malfunctioned and took Meaghan to the hospital.
After doctors discovered the pushpin, they decided she needed to be airlifted to the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Before they could load her on the helicopter, however, her condition worsened.

“After several minutes of intense care,” the police report says, “the lead doctor came into the hallway and notified the family that Meaghan had died.”

It’s not clear from the police report or autopsy that a properly functioning oxygen tank or a teacher trained to provide CPR would have saved Meaghan. But those are big “what ifs” — too big, say the Kennedy sisters.

They hope Meaghan’s death can still prompt changes at Frisco ISD: a ban on pushpins; mandatory CPR training for teachers; a better system to ensure the emergency medical equipment is in proper working order.

As much as anything, they want to raise awareness: Beware of kids and pushpins.

This post has been updated with a response from Oxysure.

© 2014 Dallas Observer, LLC. All rights reserved.

children, cps, crime, death, domestic violence, haiti, social workers, tampa florida
Florida Mom Slain With Her 5 Children Endured Abuse

ist1_2685442-domestic-violence

September 21, 2009    Filed at 11:09 p.m. ET TAMPA,Fla. (AP)

A Florida woman slain along with her five children endured regular abuse from her husband but seemed overwhelmed by trying to raise the kids herself and wanted him around as a father figure, Department of Children and Families records show. Police in Haiti on Monday detained Mesac Damas, wanted for questioning in the slayings of his wife, Guerline Damas, and the couple’s three boys and two girls in their Naples, Fla., apartment. A relative said detectives told them their throats had been slit. Collier County Sheriff’s deputies have called Mesac Damas a person of interest in the slayings. The 33-year-old boarded a flight to Haiti from Miami International Airport on Friday, a day before police found the bodies. Mesac Damas told The Associated Press at the police station where he was being held in Port-au-Prince that he had planned to surrender and that he returned to his native Caribbean nation ”to say goodbye to my family.”

”I was going to turn myself in. You see I’ve got my suit on and everything,” Demas said as police led him from a backroom where he was interrogated to a jail cell.

He did not respond when asked if he killed his wife. Just days before he left the country, a Department of Children and Families caseworker assigned to the family had made an unannounced visit to the apartment and noted in a report that the children, ages 11 months to 9 years, seemed healthy and safe. Mesac Damas was home and dinner was cooked. The toddler was wearing a sundress and playing with her doll while the older daughter, dressed in pink, asked the caseworker if she had brought her a pink book bag, because she was going to school next year. The boys were in T-shirts and shorts and the worker didn’t see any bruises or marks.

Mesac Damas was due to finish a court-ordered battery intervention course in November. ”There is no safety concern,” the file reads. ”Children are doing fine.” But relatives of Guerline Damas, 32, said her husband was a ”loose cannon” who would take away his wife’s cell phone and be rude to her family. ”You’d never know what he’d do,” said her younger brother, Mackindy Dieu, 23, who lived with the couple several years ago. Dieu said his sister wasn’t open about the details of her personal life and her family didn’t know she was being abused until January, when Mesac Damas was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after he hit his wife as she held their baby daughter in her arms. According to DCF records, he choked her and ripped her shirt off.

”As this is occurring, the child slipped out of the mother’s hand and fell to the floor,” the report states. It was one of a handful of times that sheriff’s deputies had been called about domestic disputes between the couple.

But this one was different: Mesac Damas was taken into custody and a restraining order filed. The other children had been outside playing and were terrified by what had happened, a caseworker noted. In interviews, two of the older boys described seeing their parents fight regularly. The oldest, 9-year-old Michzach, told the caseworker that he would try to take all the children in a bedroom when the abuse happened. ”If he tries to call 911, dad hits him on the hand or in the head,” the file noted. When it was especially bad, Guerline Damas would sleep in her car. She hadn’t had an easy life — she immigrated to Florida from Haiti as a teenager after her father was murdered in their home. She went to high school and later found work in a Publix supermarket.

”What are you doing with this guy?” Dieu said the family told her when they learned about the abuse.

”You need to leave.”

The couple separated — for two months. Guerline Damas began counseling at a shelter for abused women. A caseworker noted she seemed overwhelmed at the thought of raising five children by herself. She started pushing for the restraining order to be lifted.

”She believes that a father should be with his children and she has faith in him, that he will not repeat domestic violence against his wife,” records from a visit in late March state.

Mesac Damas pleaded no contest to the battery charge and was given 12 months probation and ordered to take parenting classes and enroll in a battery intervention program. Around April, he moved back in. The family seemed to make progress. Mesac Damas said he was learning to control his anger and talk with the children more. The children said they had missed their father. The caseworker described observing a ”loving relationship” between the father and children.

”This clinician believes that this family will be a solid family unit once again,” the file states. —- Associated Press writer Jonathan M. Katz reported from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

children, cps, crime, death, domestic violence, haiti, social workers, tampa florida
Florida Mom Slain With Her 5 Children Endured Abuse

ist1_2685442-domestic-violence

September 21, 2009    Filed at 11:09 p.m. ET TAMPA,Fla. (AP)

A Florida woman slain along with her five children endured regular abuse from her husband but seemed overwhelmed by trying to raise the kids herself and wanted him around as a father figure, Department of Children and Families records show. Police in Haiti on Monday detained Mesac Damas, wanted for questioning in the slayings of his wife, Guerline Damas, and the couple’s three boys and two girls in their Naples, Fla., apartment. A relative said detectives told them their throats had been slit. Collier County Sheriff’s deputies have called Mesac Damas a person of interest in the slayings. The 33-year-old boarded a flight to Haiti from Miami International Airport on Friday, a day before police found the bodies. Mesac Damas told The Associated Press at the police station where he was being held in Port-au-Prince that he had planned to surrender and that he returned to his native Caribbean nation ”to say goodbye to my family.”

”I was going to turn myself in. You see I’ve got my suit on and everything,” Demas said as police led him from a backroom where he was interrogated to a jail cell.

He did not respond when asked if he killed his wife. Just days before he left the country, a Department of Children and Families caseworker assigned to the family had made an unannounced visit to the apartment and noted in a report that the children, ages 11 months to 9 years, seemed healthy and safe. Mesac Damas was home and dinner was cooked. The toddler was wearing a sundress and playing with her doll while the older daughter, dressed in pink, asked the caseworker if she had brought her a pink book bag, because she was going to school next year. The boys were in T-shirts and shorts and the worker didn’t see any bruises or marks.

Mesac Damas was due to finish a court-ordered battery intervention course in November. ”There is no safety concern,” the file reads. ”Children are doing fine.” But relatives of Guerline Damas, 32, said her husband was a ”loose cannon” who would take away his wife’s cell phone and be rude to her family. ”You’d never know what he’d do,” said her younger brother, Mackindy Dieu, 23, who lived with the couple several years ago. Dieu said his sister wasn’t open about the details of her personal life and her family didn’t know she was being abused until January, when Mesac Damas was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after he hit his wife as she held their baby daughter in her arms. According to DCF records, he choked her and ripped her shirt off.

”As this is occurring, the child slipped out of the mother’s hand and fell to the floor,” the report states. It was one of a handful of times that sheriff’s deputies had been called about domestic disputes between the couple.

But this one was different: Mesac Damas was taken into custody and a restraining order filed. The other children had been outside playing and were terrified by what had happened, a caseworker noted. In interviews, two of the older boys described seeing their parents fight regularly. The oldest, 9-year-old Michzach, told the caseworker that he would try to take all the children in a bedroom when the abuse happened. ”If he tries to call 911, dad hits him on the hand or in the head,” the file noted. When it was especially bad, Guerline Damas would sleep in her car. She hadn’t had an easy life — she immigrated to Florida from Haiti as a teenager after her father was murdered in their home. She went to high school and later found work in a Publix supermarket.

”What are you doing with this guy?” Dieu said the family told her when they learned about the abuse.

”You need to leave.”

The couple separated — for two months. Guerline Damas began counseling at a shelter for abused women. A caseworker noted she seemed overwhelmed at the thought of raising five children by herself. She started pushing for the restraining order to be lifted.

”She believes that a father should be with his children and she has faith in him, that he will not repeat domestic violence against his wife,” records from a visit in late March state.

Mesac Damas pleaded no contest to the battery charge and was given 12 months probation and ordered to take parenting classes and enroll in a battery intervention program. Around April, he moved back in. The family seemed to make progress. Mesac Damas said he was learning to control his anger and talk with the children more. The children said they had missed their father. The caseworker described observing a ”loving relationship” between the father and children.

”This clinician believes that this family will be a solid family unit once again,” the file states. —- Associated Press writer Jonathan M. Katz reported from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

domestic violence, family, foster care, foster parent, healing, law, legal, missing child, murder, system failure
Schaefer: Trial by jury needed to remove child

Sunday, December 2, 2007
Last modified Thursday, November 29, 2007 9:03 AM EST

Schaefer: Trial by jury needed to remove child
By Tom Law

Source: The Toccoa Record

State Sen. Nancy Schaefer last week called for an overhaul of the state’s child protection services provided through the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS).

Among the recommendations by Schaefer, who represents the 50th District which includes Stephens County, was that a jury trial be held when a child is taken from their parents.

Schaefer also called for the requirement of a warrant signed by a judge before removing a child from their parents, except in an emergency situation such as a medical crisis.

“The Department of Family and Children’s Service, known as the Department of Child Protective Services in other states, has become a protected empire built on taking children and separating families,”

Schaefer said in a lengthy e-mail…

“This is not to say there are not children who do need to be removed from wretched situations and need protection,”

Schaefer said.

“This report is concerned with the children and parents caught in legal kidnapping, ineffective policies and DFCS that does not remove a child or children when a child is enduring torment and abuse.”

Schaefer offered as an example an unnamed county in her district where she met with 37 families to discuss the “gestapo” tactics of the DFCS.

“I witnessed the deceitful conditions under which children were taken in the middle of the night, out of hospitals and off school busses,”

Schaefer said.

“Having worked with probably 300 cases statewide, I am convinced there is no responsibility and no accountability in the system.”

Among Schaefer’s conclusions:

  • Poor parents are targeted to lose their children because they do not have the wherewithal to hire lawyers and fight the system.

“Being poor does not mean you are not a good parent or that you do not love your child or that your child should be removed and placed with strangers,”

Schaefer said.

  • All parents are capable of making mistakes and that making a mistake does not mean children should be removed from the home.
  • Parenting classes, anger management classes, counseling referrals, therapy classes, etc. are demanded of parents with no compassion by the system while they are at work and while their children are separated from them.
  • Caseworkers and social workers are often guilty of fraud.
  • “They withhold evidence. They fabricate evidence and they seek to terminate parental rights. However, when charges are made against them, the charges are ignored,” Schaefer said.
  • Separation of families is a growing business because local governments have grown accustomed to having taxpayer dollars to balance their ever-expanding budgets.
  • DFCS and juvenile court can always hide behind a confidentiality clause in order to protect their decisions.
  • There are no financial resources and no real drive to unite a family and help keep them together.
  • The incentive for social workers to return children to their parents quickly after taking them has disappeared.
  • The policy manual for DFCS is considered the last word.“The manual is too long, too confusing, poorly written and doesn’t take the law into consideration,” Schaefer said.
  • Children removed from homes may not be safer in foster care.“Children of whom I am aware have been raped and impregnated in foster care and the head of a foster parents association in my district was recently arrested because of child molestation,” Schaefer said.
  • Grandparents are not often contacted by DFCS when children are removed from homes.“Grandparents who lose their grandchildren to strangers have lost their own flesh and blood. The children lose their family heritage, and grandparents lose all connections to their heirs,” Schaefer said.Schaefer is calling for an independent audit of DFCS to expose possible “corruption and fraud.”She also called for immediate change. “Every day that passes means more families and children are subject to being held hostage.”Schaefer said any financial incentives to separate families should end, and parents should be given their rights in writing.She also called for a required search for family members to be given the opportunity to adopt their own relatives, and when someone fabricates or presents false evidence, a hearing should be held with the right to discovery of all evidence.