Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dad living in transitional home for male addicts that helps him get custody of medically fragile 2-year-old daughter; girl dies within two months, but dad deemed not responsible (San Jose, California)

This has fathers rights crap all over it. For years, the federal government has funded FR groups meant to "reunite" dangerous criminals, addicts, and mentally ill fathers with their children and force those kids into the father's custody. There is funding to do this. No equivalent funding for mothers.

So we yank a medically fragile 2-year-old girl out of foster care for what? To give her to a formerly jailed, addicted father living in an all-male transitional housing situation devoted to getting these creeps access to little kids. No one with any background (or interest) in taking care of disabled children. Just getting ownership. Dead in two months. Who didn't see that coming.

Mother is (allegedly) "mentally impaired" but there are no details--the reporter doesn't bother to follow-up on the hearsay testimony. Maybe she wasn't mother of the year material, but you got to wonder whether she would have managed to kill off a todder within two months WITH NO CONSEQUENCES. He even keeps his name out of the media. Slick move!

South Bay foster child dies after being sent to live with dad in home for recovering addicts

By Karen de Sá
Posted: 03/16/2016 07:00:22 AM PDT | Updated: about 7 hours ago

SAN JOSE -- Santa Clara County officials are reviewing why a medically fragile 2-year-old girl was sent home to live with her father in a transitional home for recovering drug addicts, about two months before she was found dead.

It still isn't clear what caused the Feb. 28 death of Kelly Nguyen -- who required specialized care for a chromosomal birth defect known as DiGeorge syndrome. But the unusual placement -- and the rare death of a Santa Clara County foster child -- is raising troubling questions.

Kelly's death is not being investigated as a homicide. Her father is described by the girl's previous foster parents as loving and well-intentioned, but they had been told he was recently released from jail and struggling with drug problems when social workers placed Kelly in his care. Her mother had already been ruled out as a caregiver.

The couple had two older, healthy boys also in foster care, but authorities chose to give the father a second chance at parenting with Kelly, who could not speak and suffered from a genetic syndrome causing lifelong disability and developmental delays.

"It raises red flags," said Lisa Traxler, president of the Kinship, Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Santa Clara County, a foster parents assistance program. "It's a home with men coming out of jail or in recovery and they're not better yet -- they're there for a reason, so having a nonverbal, medically fragile child in his care at age 2 -- if something happened, she can't tell anybody."

For now, all eyes are on the Santa Clara County coroner's office, which has completed an autopsy but is conducting further tests in the coming weeks to determine how the girl died.

"We grieve for her passing at much too young of an age," said Stanley Lee, social services program manager for the Department of Family and Children's Services. "But we don't know why she passed away."

Meanwhile, the county is exploring what might have gone wrong in Kelly's case: County Executive Jeff Smith said Tuesday that in light of the girl's death, the Department of Family and Children's Services "is reviewing the decisions related to her placement." Foster care placements must be approved by a judicial officer in the juvenile dependency court, after attorneys representing each parent, the child and the social worker have argued their positions. Traxler and other foster parents familiar with the case said they support reunification with birth families whenever possible. But this case was different.

"Had she been my foster child, I would have asked for a meeting," said Traxler, who has cared for 68 foster children over 21 years. "I would have spoken with the child's attorney, I would have stepped in to be a voice for this little child because she doesn't have a voice -- I would have said: 'What's the hurry? Let's let dad get a little further in his recovery.' "

Most parents working through dependency courts to regain custody of children they've been accused of abusing or neglecting suffer from addiction, homelessness or mental illness. Often, they are placed in transitional housing units while they work their way through court-ordered recovery and parenting programs.

At times, children are placed with mothers in transitional housing. But it is more unusual for fathers to reunite in those settings, Lee and other system insiders confirmed.

"The department does the best they can and they don't intentionally set out for anyone to be harmed, but I think sometimes mistakes are made as in any life situation," Traxler said. "From what it looks like from where I'm sitting, maybe it was a mistake."

Kelly's father -- who is not being named because he is not suspected of wrongdoing in her death and could not be reached Tuesday -- was referred to a six-bed, two-story home in South San Jose that serves fathers going through the local Dependency Wellness Court. The specialty foster care court serves parents in recovery who are actively engaged in regaining custody of their children.

"It doesn't matter whether it's a mother or a father, as long as a parent can safely protect and care for a child," Lee said. And if that parent is deemed worthy while "transitioning to more long-term housing," he added, "the law would require us to consider that as a possibility."

But the placement continues to trouble those mourning Kelly's death, including foster parents who attended services March 10 at the Oak Hill Memorial Park for the affectionate little girl with short-cut bangs and boundless enthusiasm. Her tiny body lay in a small casket in a lacy white dress.

"She was literally a ray of sunshine; she was infectious," said one of her several former foster mothers, Shellie Nichol. "Everywhere she went, she would walk around and hug everyone. Within hours, you'd fall in love with her because she was just the sweetest thing on the planet."

Kelly arrived at Nichol's San Jose foster home last June, completely nonverbal and with a clear need for ongoing medical attention and physical therapy, Nichol said. During the six months she cared for Kelly, who she affectionately called "Kiki," Nichol said she kept a video monitor trained on her all night. That's because the small girl would often choke on her mucus, and frequently vomited after crying and overeating, she said.

Nichol was told when she first received Kelly that her mother was mentally impaired and her father was in jail. But by July, he was out and visiting his daughter diligently, she said. Nichol and others familiar with the case said they believed the parents loved the girl but were unable to care for her.

Yet, based on a social worker's recommendation, Kelly was moved from Nichol's home to another in a succession of foster homes, and then reunified with her father.

Within two months, San Jose police received a 1:15 a.m. call from her father's temporary home stating that the toddler was unresponsive. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Although homicide detectives were initially called to the home -- following protocol for an unexpected child death -- there has been no arrest in the case. "We are not investigating it as a homicide at this point," San Jose police spokesman Officer Albert Morales said.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese, who leads a committee overseeing foster care, said Tuesday he was not familiar with the details of Kelly's death. But he noted the loss.

"The worst possible tragedy is the loss of a child -- in any circumstances -- and a foster child is our child," Cortese said. "Fundamentally it's our responsibility to ensure the safety of every child that's in our system. This is a member of our extended family and we need to feel the emotional pain and look at what we could have done differently."