A 3-year-old disabled foster child is lucky to be alive after nearly drowning in a pool. New details show that the state may have left the boy in an unsafe foster home. A Bakersfield Californian columnist writes about this near-fatal tragedy:
The fact that [Paul] was anywhere near that pool at all, however, is deeply concerning when you know that the Kern County Department of Human Services [DHS] had opened a 24-hour emergency investigation against Paul’s foster parents the day before for allegations that the children weren’t being properly supervised.
Despite the “emergency investigation,” Paul still ended up in a hospital bed. Existing reports suggest that Paul and the five other foster children he lived with may have been in a negligent home:
County social workers had been told by other tenants at the apartment complex on Victor Street that the kids in that foster family had been seen in the care of the teenage foster daughter and that they had been kicking in doors and committing other vandalism.
Worst of all, one tenant reportedly told Paul’s social worker, Natalie Yubeta, that she had nearly run over him twice when the child was in the parking lot unsupervised…
While the evidence calls into question how DHS handled Paul’s case, most of the relevant information remains confidential–a fact the story’s columnist mentioned several times:
A Kern County Human Services spokeswoman said that while the state Community Care Licensing agency would be the agency to investigate the foster home, “any incident involving a Dependent Child of the Court would also be investigated by the (county) Department of Human Services.”
No one at county Human Services would confirm there was such an investigation ongoing, citing confidentiality laws.
And no one got back to me to explain the protocol for exactly how “24-hour emergency investigations” are conducted.
Some degree of confidentiality is required in these cases to protect those involved, but there have been instances all over the country of child welfare systems preventing the release of information that could cast them in a negative light. It’s far too early to say if that’s the case here. What we know is that Paul was left in a foster home that had raised the concern of neighbors on more than one occasion. The consequences of the decisions made by DHS are now on the shoulders of a nine-year-old boy:
Now Paul is waking up with nightmares, something that never happened before–even after nine surgeries to fix his club foot, two for a cleft palate and, until recently, having to be fed through gastrostomy tube, a manifestation of being born with Pierre Robin Syndrome. Through it all, he’d been secure and happy.
But that was before he was pulled, unconscious, from a pool on a late spring day.