Monday, November 10, 2014

Dope smoker loses kid to foster killer

This is one of those stories with so many things wrong that it is unnecessary to list them.

The Houston Press reports:
Little Alex Hill would have been turning four-years-old this Friday. But rather than celebrating their child's birthday, the toddler's parents have only the bitter consolation of seeing a judge in Milam County hand Alex's foster mother a life sentence for murder.

The life sentence is a small victory in the case of two-year-old Alex, whose July 2013 death was caused by devastating injuries at the hands of her foster mother, 52-year old Sherill Small.

Alex was placed in Small's care in early 2013, after her father admitted to child welfare investigators that he had smoked marijuana while the child was tucked away in bed at night.

By all accounts, towheaded Alexandria "Alex" Hill, was a healthy and happy toddler, living with her parents, Joshua Hill and Mary Sweeny, in Cameron, Texas in late 2012. But in Texas, using cannabis goes against child welfare policy, and Hill, who told investigators he'd been smoking pot at night, was in violation of those laws.

"Mr. Hill admitted to smoking marijuana in the house when his daughter has been upstairs sleeping," the caseworker representing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services noted in court records. ...

Fearing for her safety, Hill refused to give Alex back, despite the threat of jail time, unless the state placed her in a different home. The placement agency ultimately gave in, and Alex was placed in her second foster home, this time with Sherill Small, who had one other child in her care.

Small had been approved as a foster parent by Texas Mentor, a third party private agency who provides foster homes to the Texas Child Protective Services system. No mention was made of Texas Mentor's shady track record -- they had racked up over 15 violations by this point, according to the Dallas Morning News.

One hundred fourteen more violations would ultimately follow, but none of this information was shared with Hill. The first time he heard it, he was sitting in the courtroom listening to testimony on Alex's beating death. ...

Ultimately, Small admitted to Rockdale police that Alex's injuries came from her slamming the toddler onto the floor of the home where she lived with her husband, Clemons Small III.

But it was an accident, Small said, one that happened when she was "playing a game" with the child. Still, she admitted to being "frustrated" with the girl because the the toddler had woken up early that morning to get herself food and water. ...

Turns out Sherill Small's third husband, Clemon Small, had a pretty legit criminal history, including multiple drug charges for marijuana.

During the home study portion of the couple's foster application, Clemon described himself as a recovering crack cocaine addict, and admitted to multiple drug charges. Small also admitted to the home study investigator that she had also been out of work for months. Rather, she made a living by keeping foster children.

Still, the report from the home study concluded that "the family is capable of providing a safe home environment," and Small was given the go ahead to provide foster care.
Marijuana consumption is effectively legal in California, so I do not think that it can be grounds for CPS or family court action. I do not know whether dope-smokers are allowed to be foster parents. My guess is that the foster parents conceal their vices.

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