Sunday, January 9, 2011

Foster care in America The day child welfare changed? (Part one)

            Someday, people just might look back at January 31, 2001 as the day child welfare changed.  Of course no one knew it at the time.  And there was no guarantee that anything good would come of the terrible tragedy that occurred on that day.

            But what happened that day started a chain of events that transformed child welfare in one state, and may have been a turning point for the nation.

            To understand that day, we need to go back some months earlier, to when a little girl in Maine named Logan Marr, and her sister Bailey, were taken from her mother, Christy.

Christy had some problems, but she had never harmed Logan nor had she allowed anyone else to harm her. Mostly, Christy’s problem was, she was poor.

Logan may have been abused in her first foster home. After that, Logan and her sister, Bailey, were moved to the home of Sally Schofield, herself a former caseworker for the child welfare agency.

In her searing account of the case, Logan’s Truth, award-winning independent journalist Terrilyn Simpson published a letter that Christy wrote to Logan’s new foster mother:

Dear Sally, 
My name is Christy. I'm Logan and Bailey's Mom. I'm writing this so you can know and understand my children. I thought I would let you know their likes and dislikes. 
Logan - she likes butterflies, pizza (what kid doesn't?), flavored noodles, pitted black olives (she likes to put them on her fingers), white cheese, grape soda, Babes in Toyland (her favorite movie) the Cartoon Arthur. Logan's dislikes - peas, fish sticks, going to bed early, not picking out her clothes. Bailey's likes - her brown teddy bear blanket (she takes it everywhere, including visits), dry cereal, pitted black olives, cheese, eggs, cooked carrots. 
Bailey's dislikes - having her poopie diaper changed (if you haven't noticed), someone taking her pacifier, fish sticks, someone feeding her (she likes to do it herself). Please ask [caseworker] Allison Peters what the kids are allergic to. 
I don't blame you for not wanting me to know who you are, I will respect that. Regardless of what you have heard or read, I love my little ladies with all my heart. I have never hit, spanked or put my hands on my girls. I do respect my children. I'm not saying you would or wouldn't, but Please don't hit or hurt my children. The girls have already been through enough they don't need the added stress in their life. 
Every night I look up at the sky about 7:45pm and say goodnight to my girls. In closing, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. Please tell the girls before they go to bed I love them and give them a big hug and kiss. Thanks again! 

A few months later, in December, 2000, Logan could be heard on home video during a supervised visit complaining that her foster mother hurt her. Nothing was done. Indeed, at one point, the caseworker who was supposed to be supervising the placement sent an e-mail to Sally Schofield gloating about the prospect of terminating parental rights, so Logan could live with Schofield forever.
About six weeks after that visit, - on January 31, 2001, to be precise, Logan was dead.

Sally Schofield was convicted of taking Logan down to the basement and tying her to a high chair with 42 feet of duct tape. She died of asphyxiation.

The story easily could have ended there.  How and why it didn’t, and how January 31, 2001 may have become the day that changed child welfare, is the topic of the next post on this Blog.