Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Infant dies in NY foster home of 'shaken baby syndrome'

Mother to sue over son slain in foster care
County should have prevented it, she says

Drumsta, Raymond. Ithaca Journal, June 8, 2009.

ITHACA - A 14-month-old boy in foster care died due to negligence by the Tompkins County Department of Social Services, according to his mother.

In a notice filed with the claims court, Kristine Freda announced her intention to sue the county in connection with the death of son Adrian Hines last fall. Her attorney, Edward E. Kopko, filed the notice, which alleges that Adrian suffered "severe life-threatening injuries, including head trauma" while in the foster home.

Kopko could not be reached for comment, and the county attorney's office declined to comment. District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson said that her staff continues to investigate Adrian's death, but that no criminal charges have been filed.

Around 5:20 p.m. Oct. 2, deputies, Freeville firefighters and Etna firefighters responded to the report of an unresponsive child at the foster home on Etna Road, sheriff's officials said. Adrian was taken to Cayuga Medical Center and on to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, where he "subsequently died from injuries he sustained," they added.

According to sheriff's officials, an autopsy later determined that Adrian's death was a homicide.

After Adrian suffered his injuries, a doctor at Upstate Medical Center told Freda that the child was brain dead because of head trauma - including swelling and bleeding of his brain - caused by shaken baby syndrome, the notice went on to say.

"Adrian sustained conscious pain and suffering and wrongful death because of the negligence and recklessness of employees, agents and/or servants of (the Department of Social Services)," the notice alleged.

Among many other functions, DSS "oversees recruitment and retention of qualified, caring families who are willing to provide temporary foster care for children and to work with families toward reunification," according to its Web site.

The department removed Adrian from Freda's home in July, the notice said, and filed a neglect petition. The petition alleged that Freda had hit Adrian, shaken him and screamed at him on May 22, 2008, and that she had failed to provide appropriate supervision and make a "sanitary and safe home" for him - all of which Freda had emphatically denied, the papers said.

"A doctor evaluated Adrian subsequent to May 22, 2008 and found Adrian to be without injury," the notice said. Nonetheless, DSS placed Adrian in a foster home on July 24, then moved him to the foster home on Etna Road a few days later, according to the notice.

The foster home was "more dangerous of an environment than Freda's home," the notice alleges, where Adrian was regularly left in the care of the foster family's 15-year-old daughter "without adult supervision."

Adrian died because DSS failed to contact Freda's extended family to place him in their care and failed to investigate the foster home before placing him in it - all protocols that should've been followed, the notice said. The doctor at Upstate Medical Center, who had 30 years of experience, advised Freda that it would be best to take Adrian off life support "and let him die as peacefully as possible," the notice went to say.

"At 12:28 a.m., Oct. 3, 2008, Adrian died in Freda's arms," the notice said. Freda intends to sue for her pain and suffering due to Adrian's death, along with his medical and funeral expenses, "which have been accumulated in an amount to be determined at trial of this action."

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