Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fathers, boyfriends figure prominently in child abuse deaths (Illinois)

Notice that none of these cases involve just mothers raising their children alone. They always center on an abusive father or boyfriend in the home. The first case discussed actually involves a CUSTODIAL FATHER, JEREMIAH THOMPSON. So much for the fathers rights demonization of single moms. The problem is not that they are single per se. It's that they involve awful men in the lives of their children.


29 more kids among Illinois child-welfare agency’s faces of failure

Posted: 02/16/2015, 07:00pm | Becky Schlikerman, Tony Arnold and Chris Fusco

Jeremiah Thompson first beat his daughter, little Jakarriah Patterson, when she was just a year and a half old, state child-welfare records show.

A year later, Thompson — a former ward of the state on parole for a robbery conviction — ended up caring for Jakarriah again.

This time, he beat her to death, authorities say.

Thompson, 22, told police he repeatedly “popped” Jakarriah for not listening to him in the three weeks he’d been caring for her at his home in Lansing. The girl had a broken jaw, fractured ribs, lacerations to her liver and dozens of bruises over her 37-pound body when the police found her dead, rigor mortis already setting in, on March 19, 2014.

“She said, ‘Dada, I love you.’ Her body fidgeted one last time,” a Lansing police detective wrote in his report on Jakarriah’s death. “Mr. Thompson stated he knew she was dead because of him.”

In the police lockup, Thompson — who would soon be charged with first-degree murder — couldn’t get his daughter’s screams out of his head. He put socks around his head and stuffed toilet paper in his ears because “he said he kept hearing her . . . calling for him,” according to the police.

Jakarriah is one of 29 children killed from abuse or neglect in the last reporting year who died within a year after they or their caregivers had come under scrutiny by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, a Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ review of newly released records from the agency’s inspector general found. One more abuse death remains under investigation.

The 29 deaths in DCFS-involved cases between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, is nearly double the number in 2009-2010. Of those, 10 children died from abuse and 19 as a result of neglect — including 10 sleep-related neglect cases, half of which involved adults who were drunk or high sleeping alongside infants.

In his successful campaign to unseat incumbent Pat Quinn, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner aired an ad that criticized Quinn based on a series of Sun-Times/WBEZ reports analyzing DCFS deaths dating back to 2003. DCFS also has come under fire in the wake of a Chicago Tribune investigation that found widespread problems with the agency’s residential treatment facilities.

Rauner has enlisted the Casey Family Programs — a nationally known child-welfare organization — to assess the agency.

On Friday, he tapped George Sheldon, who ran Florida’s equivalent of DCFS between 2008 and 2011, as Illinois’ next child-welfare chief. Sheldon, a lawyer and former Florida state representative, won last year’s Florida Democratic primary for attorney general but lost in the general election.

In choosing Sheldon, Rauner is bringing in an outsider to run the system — something Quinn didn’t do after DCFS chief Richard Calica left the agency in late 2013 and died shortly thereafter. Since then, DCFS has had four different directors, all who had worked for the agency.

While child-welfare advocates have long been calling for an outsider to head the agency, it’s unclear whether Rauner’s DCFS reform plans also involve spending more money — which, given that the state is strapped for cash, appears unlikely. Rauner will make his first state budget address, outlining his spending priorities, on Wednesday.

“Gov. Rauner is committed to ensuring the most vulnerable children of Illinois are cared for and receive the help that they need,” spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said. “He looks forward to proposing a responsible budget to turn around the agency.”

The Sun-Times/WBEZ analysis of Inspector General Denise Kane’s latest report also found other cases, like Jakarriah’s, involving the death of a child in which child-welfare workers — many employed by private agencies under state contract — appeared to have ignored prior abuse and other red flags. Though Kane doesn’t identify the caregivers or the children in her report, reporters obtained their names by cross-referencing details the inspector general provided with police reports, court records and news stories.

In addition to those cases, Kane cited and gave summaries of cases in which child-welfare workers had sounded alarm bells, only to have other authorities block efforts to take children into protective custody.

One of those involved 4-month-old Anterio Schlieper, who died in June 2014. Days after the Moline boy’s birth in January, DCFS met with the Rock Island County state’s attorney’s office because one of Anterio’s three sisters told a school counselor she was “afraid to leave home because her mother is always drunk with the baby,” according to a police report.

That wasn’t DCFS’s first encounter with the family, according to Kane. The agency had launched other investigations of the mother, Terri L. Wells, dating back to 2012.

Despite this, “the state’s attorney’s office did not feel there was enough evidence to file a petition” to remove the children from Wells’ care, according to Kane.

The night before Anterio was found unresponsive, Wells and the infant’s father, Anthony Schlieper, drank and smoked marijuana and then went to sleep beside him, according to Kane. Both were charged with felony “endangering a child causing death” but pleaded guilty to lesser charges and are awaiting sentencing.

Rock Island County State’s Attorney John L. McGehee said a forensic pathologist couldn’t determine whether Anterio’s parents directly caused his death, which records show was classified under a catch-all heading: sudden unexpected death in infancy.

“There was no evidence that we could prove that there is suffocation due to rolling over or doing something negligent,” McGehee said in explaining prosecutors’ decision to let Anterio’s parents plead guilty to lesser charges.

The state’s attorney also acknowledged his office had talked to DCFS before Anterio died but said his staff didn’t see enough evidence to ask a judge to take the drastic step of removing the children from the home.

“It is a difficult, tragic situation,” McGehee said. “This is a case that involves mostly abuse of alcohol. . . . It’s a very high burden that we have to show that the abuse is of such severe nature that it is something where the court steps in.”

Other DCFS-involved deaths cited in Kane’s report include:

• Torian Whitaker, of downstate Glen Carbon, who died on his fifth birthday after being hit in the chest so hard that his heart stopped. His mother’s boyfriend, Tavon Ludy, had been caring for Torian while she was out buying his birthday gift. Ludy has since been charged with murder in Torian’s Sept. 29, 2013, death.

DCFS had been aware of potential abuse in the household for months, according to records that show Torian’s older brother told teachers in February 2013 that Ludy had abused him. In March 2013, the school principal called DCFS to report a bump on the boy’s head. DCFS ruled out abuse after his mother and grandmother “characterized the child as a liar,” according to Kane.

Torian’s mother, Toria Coleman, was charged with felony child endangerment “because she was aware of her boyfriend’s treatment of her children,” according to Kane. The cases against Ludy, 26, and Coleman, 28, are pending.

• Amierah Roberson, a Chicago toddler whose burned body was found next to an abandoned factory in Riverdale in March 2014 after she’d been missing for two days. She’d been hit in the head before being set on fire, her autopsy found. Partially melted pink barrettes were found in her braided hair.

James Harris, now charged with murdering the 19-month-old girl, had been caring for Amierah while his girlfriend, the girl’s mother, went to work.

A month before Amierah died, a day care worker had reported to DCFS that the girl had bruises and scratches on her face. A DCFS investigation was pending when she went missing; Kane’s office is reviewing the findings.

In the case of Jakarriah Patterson, multiple sets of eyes had been trained on the family. Thompson, her father, had been a ward in DCFS’s care when she was born.

Thompson’s child-welfare caseworker had been “advised” that he abused Jakarriah in March 2013, according to Kane. Five months later, Thompson told the caseworker he’d resumed caring for his daughter, who was staying with him in Lansing.

The worker, though, didn’t see the child — or notify DCFS to check on her well-being despite Thompson’s criminal record and history of abuse.

In August 2013, Thompson turned 21 and “aged out” of the child-welfare system.

By March 2014, Jakarriah was dead.

Karla Patterson, Jakarriah’s mother, said she had no idea DCFS had concluded Thompson abused the girl back in March 2013. Otherwise, she said she wouldn’t have allowed the girl to live with him.

Patterson said she was forced to send Jakarriah and her other child to live with their fathers after her family lost its home in Green Bay, Wis.

“My mom was getting put out,” Patterson said. “We had nowhere to go. I sent my kids back with their fathers. I didn’t want to have my kids in the streets.”

Patterson said DCFS told her the first abuse allegation against Thompson was groundless.

“If they would have told me then, like, ‘We have something,’ she wouldn’t have been back,” Patterson said in tears.

A DCFS spokesman said Patterson had been told on June 26, 2013, that the abuse allegation against Thompson was credible.