Thursday, June 5, 2008

Toddler dies 6 months after returning to parents

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) -- Child safety officials said six months after being returned to his parents, a 21-month-old Georgetown boy has died after being shaken and hit on the head.
Elizabeth Arellano, 21, reported Thursday that her son Christopher Barcenas had been choking on a chicken nugget while in her care at home, police said. He was rushed to a Georgetown hospital and then flown to Dell Children's Medical Center, where he died Friday.
Parents Arellano and Sergio Barcenas, 22, told investigators they could not explain how Christopher had received his injuries.
"The child suffered blunt-force trauma to the back of the head, and that caused the child's death, and that the explanations do not match with that kind of injuries, so that's why we are looking at this as an abuse-related death," said Darrell Azar with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The couple's other two children were taken into protective custody again Thursday after Child Protective Services reported finding significant chest injuries and bruises on Christopher's twin brother while at the hospital.
"It's very disheartening, I think, for our staff and everyone involved when you have a situation where you think you have done everything you could, you've taken every reasonable precaution, and the family seems to be on the right, and then something terrible happens," Azar said.
CPS had removed Christopher and his two siblings from their parents' home in 2007 from February to December after reports of neglect and domestic violence. During that time, CPS officials said Arellano and Barcenas underwent treatment to regain custody of their children.
The couple had taken parenting classes and underwent psychological evaluations as part of their treatment. Monthly home visits by CPS were performed until March.
In April, the family's case was dismissed after CPS officials said they felt Arellano and Barcenas had made great progress through their parenting classes.
"We look for honesty, we look for cooperativeness, we look for whether or not they actually do what they say they are going to do," Azar said. "They complete services that we feel are necessary to strengthen their family."
Georgetown police said they are investigating the incident, but charges have not been filed in connection with the toddler's death.
CPS plans continue its investigation.