Mother Charged in Killing of Son Just Five Months After Regaining Custody

babydeath_web_2012_08_16_q2_facebooknocredit_zAfriyie Gaspard stands accused of first-degree manslaughter after allegedly strangling her 2-year-old son, Izayah. Emerging details about this tragic case show Gaspard has a long history with New York’s Administration for Child Services (ACS). The WNYC News Blog reports:

In 2008, [Gaspard’s] three oldest children were put into foster care after she was accused of leaving them unattended on two different occasions. The oldest child at the time was three. In 2009, a fourth child was placed in foster care shortly after birth, as was Izayah, who was born in 2010. Gaspard’s youngest child, an 11-month-old baby was not removed.

Gaspard completed parenting and anger management classes as well as domestic violence counseling before all of her children were returned to her care–Izayah was sent back to her home five months ago. While ACS was unwilling to discuss the specifics of Gaspard’s case, a spokesman did clarify the department’s policies on reunification:

ACS spokesman Michael Fagan said, “If a parent is working to improve the issues that brought their children into foster care and showing progress, then we work toward reunification.”

However, despite meeting ACS’ requirements, some noticed that Gaspard was “overwhelmed” by caring for six children on her own. The New York Times’ City Room Blog reports:

One neighbor of Afriyie Gaspard’s, Magdalia Fonteur, said Ms. Gaspard “was stressed and overwhelmed” and “always looked like she had a lot in her head.”

“She had no space,” Ms. Fonteur said. “She was paralyzed.”

Local advocates for parents involved in the child welfare system noted that there is often a gap in services once children are returned home, resulting in parents losing the help they were once provided. Some experts feel the situation can make the transition for kids and parents all the more difficult:

“That’s a really difficult point in time,” [Mike] Arsham [of the Child Welfare Organizing Project] explained. “Because often the scenario is I have no real bond with this child who was removed at birth and now he’s in his terrible two’s…It’s difficult and stressful.”

Gaspard’s sister, Stephanie, says Gaspard’s children were afraid they would be returned to foster care:

When Afriyie punished them, she said, they would say: “Please, we’ll be good. We don’t want to go back.”

Izayah’s five surviving siblings are now back in foster care, according to the WNYC News Blog.