Friday, June 6, 2008

Death of infant in foster care probed

The Department of Child Services is investigating the death of a Marion County infant who died while in foster care.
Seven-week-old Destiny Linden, who died April 28 at Riley Hospital for Children, is at least the fourth child under DCS supervision to die within the last five months in Marion County.
Susan Tielking, spokeswoman for the department, said the agency has opened an investigation into the death.

She also confirmed DCS had an open case involving Destiny at the time of her death, but said she could not provide any details of that case because of state confidentiality requirements.

Tielking said DCS records from the initial case, which apparently resulted in Destiny being placed in foster care, could not be released unless the new investigations determines she died as a result of abuse or neglect.

That fact that a child dies while in state custody, alone, is not enough under state law to trigger the release of DCS records, she explained.

The cause of Destiny’s death has not been determined, said Marion County Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew. She said initial indications point to a potential unsafe sleeping situation, but the final determination is pending results of toxicology and other tests, which will not be available for several weeks.

Ballew said the child was found unresponsive on an adult bed and, after attempts to revive her, was placed on life-support at Riley for about two days before being pronounced dead.

According to an IMPD report, police and medics were called to a home in the 8400 block of East 34th Street at 2:56 p.m., April 24 on a report of a possibly dead child. When authorities arrived, Everette Coleman, 43, identified himself as Destiny’s foster parent and said he called 911 when he discovered she had stopped breathing.

The report says officers collected a quilt, blanket and bottle from the bed where Destiny was laying, gathered a sheet from the baby's crib and a bottle from the living room floor.

Destiny initially was taken to Community Hospital East, according to the report.
Tielking said Coleman and his wife, Kim are licensed foster parents in good standing with the department.

Others children under DCS supervision who have died recently in Marion County include:

>> TaJanay Bailey, 3, who died Nov. 27, just weeks after she was returned to her mother and the woman’s boyfriend by DCS.

>> Miyanna Chowning, 3, who died Dec. 31, while in foster care.

>> Christine Miller, 8 weeks old, who died Jan. 21, while her family was involved in an active child protection case.

Tielking said she could not say how the four deaths in five months compare to past trends because the agency does not track the deaths of all children who are in state care, such as those who die from natural causes or accidents.

Dawn Robertson, spokeswoman for the family rights group, Honk For Kids, which works with parents dealing with the child welfare system, said the state should be able to say how many children in its care have died, regardless of the cause.

“They should be held to a higher standard,” she said. “They have taken these children from their parents because they believe they will be safer with the state. The public certainly ought to know when one of these children dies, even if there was nothing done wrong.”
Call Star reporter Tim Evans at (317) 444-6204.