Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hell Is For Children: Heroes, Villians and Questions

Last week, we've learned of the tragic death of Christopher L. Thomas, Jr. (pictured on the right), who was a baby in the foster care system of Milwaukee County. He, along with his sister, were tortured by their aunt. The torture ultimately led to Christopher's death.

Since that time, there have been many things learned, mostly due to the yeoman work of Crocker Stephenson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Last Saturday, Stephenson reported that a hero has stepped forward. Randy Guy, owner of the Serenity Funeral Home, has taken on the somber task of paying for and conducting the funeral for Christopher. I commend Mr. Guy for stepping forward to ensure that Christopher receives some dignity during his short time on this Earth.

Too bad the same can't be said for many others.

Recently re-elected State Senator Alberta Darling shows herself to be the hypocritical villain that she really is. From the same article:

As funeral arrangements were being made Friday for 13-month-old Christopher L. Thomas Jr., a veteran state lawmaker demanded that the state Department of Children and Families investigate the foster child's death.

"I'm just so sick of this. So sick of this," said State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), echoing dozens of e-mails and phone calls to the Journal Sentinel from readers outraged by the treatment of the boy and his 2-year-old sister.

"I am heartsick," Darling said.

I am not the only one angered by Darling's hypocritical posturing. Representative Josh Zepnick issued a press release questioning her statement.

What rot. As I mentioned in last week's post, and in this post from a year ago, Darling is one of the people that created the bureaucratic monstrosity that is the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. And it doesn't stop there.

To make things more outrageous, the article reports that Darling issued a letter to Reggie Bicha, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, demanding that the Department do an investigation and give her a report on how this happened.

Not only did Darling help create it, but she is a member of the board that is supposed to be overseeing the child welfare system. But even this oversight committee is in disarray, and aren't able to oversee themselves, much less the BMCW. But as I also pointed out last year, Darling keeps pointing out that there are flaws in the system, and has the power and is in the position to correct the problems for the past ten years, has apparently done nothing, except take these politically advantageous postures.

In the same article from Stephenson, we also hear from the head of the BMCW, Denise Revels Robinson:

An e-mailed statement sent on behalf of Denise Revels Robinson, director of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, said it was "in the process of conducting an internal review of the case situation."

After that review, the statement said, the Department of Children and Families would conduct a review. That review would be "followed by an external review by the Child Fatality Review Team."

I'm sorry, but this is the same thing that she says every time a foster child is abused or murdered. Yet nothing has changed and the problems continue. Not only that, but the Child Fatality Review Team is an agency that is contracted to the BMCW to do their jobs. How independent of a review can one expect from an agency that is dependent on the BMCW for their money?

And it doesn't end here. In this morning's paper, Stephenson continues to try to pry the lid off of this story by speaking to the great-grandparents who futilely tried to warn the system that the children were in danger, and had offered to either take the children back to Alabama or to move to Milwaukee to take care of the children.

Still nothing happened. This is not unusual. Since the State privatized the child welfare system, many foster parents have turned in their license and no longer want to work with the system. Their complaints most often involve the fact that they receive little, if any, support from the system, and that they have to fight tooth and nail just to get minimal services for the children they are taking care of.

And if the murder of Christopher wasn't enough to outrage a person, today's article also gives a description to the horror that his sister was put through (emphasis mine, although it's hardly needed):

Glover said her daughter does not understand what has happened. She said the girl is unable to walk or raise her left arm and her face is scarred. Court records indicate the girl had burns over much of her body, several broken bones and was severely undernourished when police came to the Keiths' home Nov. 10.
A concerned reader had emailed me over the weekend, asking what a person could do, especially if they are not in a position to become a foster parent themselves. I did give the reader some options, but the only thing that will really stop these type of atrocities from happening over and over again would be to contact your state assembly person and state senator and tell them that the system needs to be fixed, and fixed now. Also, calling or writing the legislators just once will not be enough, but we need to hold their feet to the fire and keep after them until they do their jobs and fix the problem they created.

Until then, the best thing that a person could do would be to become a CASA volunteer. This would allow a person to become the eyes and ears of the court, and have legal standing to advocate for the children. If the system that is supposed to take care of these children can not or will not do their jobs, this is one's opportunity to help the courts ensure that they do the jobs that they are supposed to.


  1. For cry’n out loud, man…you need a punching bag in your basement!

    Just because Sen. Darling, as your said, “…is one of the people that created the bureaucratic monstrosity that is the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare” how can you use her as a peg on which to hang your frustrations? Do you think conditions would be better if there were NO
    Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare service?

    Everyone is grieved by this tragedy but please channel your energies into positive directions.

  2. It was better when it was allowed to be run by the county, just like the other 71 counties in this state.

    Darling not only helped create it, she is part of the "oversight" committee, and has done nothing to change it.

    It is outrageous that she pretends she gives a damn, when the last ten years prove otherwise.