Khalil Wimes spent much of his short life under the watch of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS). However, the system that was supposed to protect him may carry some blame for his death at just six years old. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more:
The Inquirer review found that, in the last eight months of Khalil’s life, DHS saw the child eight times during visits to his home and a DHS facility, but did not recognize that he was in danger.
By the time DHS realized he was in danger, it was already too late. Khalil died from head trauma allegedly inflicted by his parents, Tina Cuffie, 44, and Floyd Wimes, 48. Early reports raise serious questions about DHS being oblivious to the abuse and neglect that Khalil was suffering:
[Khalil’s] corpse weighed only 29 pounds and bore a sea of scars across his face and the rest of his body, according to police reports. Authorities believe Khalil suffered beatings at the hands of his parents for as long as two years, and he was photographed with obvious scarring at the same time the social worker was visiting him and his siblings in 2011.
The city has removed the social worker from active case duty and will review all cases she and her supervisor had handled. However, Khalil’s family had significant prior involvement with DHS. After being removed from his parents’ care at birth, he spent the next three years with foster parents. Unfortunately, the arrangement didn’t last despite vigorous protests:
In 2008, over the objection of his social worker at the time, his child advocate and his foster parents, Khalil was returned to Cuffie and Wimes. According to Family Court transcripts, DHS endorsed reunifying Khalil with Wimes and Cuffie since the couple had stayed off drugs for a six-month period, took a parenting class and got an apartment. DHS monitored Khalil for one year after he was returned to Wimes and Cuffie. Investigators believe the abuse started immediately after the monitoring ended.
Khalil’s death is similar to the 2006 death of Danieal Kelly, 14, who was also starved and abused. That tragedy led to sweeping reforms, but Khalil’s story shows more work may be needed.
In 2008, Khalil’s foster grandmother, La Reine Nixon, pleaded with the city not to send Khalil back to Cuffie and Wimes. On Tuesday, she said, “It is outrageous that all of the adults he should have been able to count on failed him miserably.”