Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Child welfare in Maine: A response to institutional amnesia

Did a foster child’s plea to see her mother lead to her death?
The lawmakers - and most of the journalists - who remember
what happened to Logan Marr are not in government or
journalism anymore.
In the previous post to this blog, I summarized the story of five-year-old Logan Marr. She and her younger sister, Bailey, were taken from their mother in Maine, primarily because their mother’s poverty was confused with neglect.  They were placed with Sally Schofield, a foster mother who was, herself, a former supervisor for the Maine child welfare agency.

Logan tried to tell people she was being abused by Schofield – it’s even on videotape.  But the child welfare agency wouldn’t listen.

In January, 2001, Schofield dragged Logan to the basement and tied her to a high chair with 42 feet of duct tape. Logan died of asphyxiation. Schofield was convicted of manslaughter.  Last year she was released from prison.

Logan’s death helped lead to a surprising result: real child welfare reform. The state became a recognized national leader by emphasizing safe, proven alternatives to foster care.  

But, as I wrote yesterday, Maine has term limits, so the state legislators who were there when Logan Marr died, and who pushed for real reform, are no longer in office.  And between the passage of time – it’s been 17 years since Logan died – and the turmoil in the news business, almost all of the Maine journalists who covered the death of Logan Marr are gone.  So there is almost no institutional memory.

That has left the state’s “Trump-before-Trump” governor, Paul LePage, and his Department of Health and Human Services, free to run roughshod over the reforms and return to a take-the-child-and-run, pre-Logan Marr mentality.

Two documents to refresh memories

So today I’d like to introduce people who’ve never heard of Logan Marr to her and to her family. And I’d like to refresh the memories of those who have forgotten.  I’ll do that with two documents.

The first is one I’ve reprinted on this blog many times before. It is a letter that Logan’s mother, Christy, wrote to Schofield weeks before Schofield killed Logan. The letter originally was published in Logan’s Truth, independent journalist Terrilyn Simpson’s comprehensive account of the case.

The second document is one I didn’t know about until I started researching yesterday’s post. It’s from a story I missed when it was published a year ago in the Kennebec Journal. It’s by Betty Adams, one of the few reporters still around who covered the death of Logan Marr.

Adams wrote about Logan’s surviving sister, Bailey. At the time Bailey was 18 and a high school honor student.  It’s an extraordinary story about an extraordinary young woman. The story includes a link to Bailey’s full college admissions essay, in which she writes about the night her big sister died. It reveals, for the first time I know of, that it may actually have been a plea by Logan to see her mother that led to her death.


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!


I believe everyone has a certain person in their life that inspires them to live each day to the fullest. It is what makes them tick. A sole moment in time can be all it takes for a person’s view on life to change forever. Looking back into my own past, I can quickly identify who inspires and motivates me to live my life to the fullest. It is her, the one that I feel so close to me yet nearly impossible to reach. As much as I would love to feel her touch, I know she is in a place with no pain or suffering. She is the reason I wake up every day ready to fill my own shoes while attempting to fill a pair for her.
My memory of her does not deceive me. Fifteen years later, when I close my eyes at night, the nightmare is still the same.
“No!” shrieks a small, dark haired little girl, “I want to see my mumma!”
“For the last time, it is not going to happen” the woman insists while trying to stay calm. As if on cue, the lights above flicker, and the snow outside is still falling fast. A blood curdling scream starts coming out of the little girl’s mouth. Losing the calm demeanor she just had, the woman shakes her head with fury.
“Stop this now, I cannot handle this anymore!” the woman is screaming and shaking with anger.
I sit as still as possible on the soft run nearby not wanting to be noticed. Another scream is let out by the little girl, somehow this one is louder and more powerful than the previous. The woman stands up and forcefully grabs the child’s small, delicate wrist and pulls her towards the nearby door. Wide eyed, the child decides to stay quiet, but is still sobbing. The lights briefly flicker again. The woman opens the door, and leads the child down the stairs to the basement. I hear two sets of footsteps descend down, my heart is pounding. I am frozen in place. All is quiet at first, then a violent scream starts. It is heart wrenching. Finally, the saddest sound, one a wounded animal might make when it knows it is going to die. I hear the little girl’s voice for the last time, it is the word “help.” Everything goes silent, but it seems louder than the screams. Finally after some time, I hear footsteps coming back up the stairs, but this time it is only one set. A single tear falls down my face.
I wish I could say that this is just a nightmare that I am able to wake up from and have everything be all okay. Sadly that is not the case. This is a nightmare that I will have to live with awake or asleep for the rest of my life. I heard my older sister’s last words during one of Maine’s darkest moments on January 31, 2001. My five-year-old sister’s death became national news. Her story prompted Maine to reexamine many of DHS’s Child & Family Services policies. Our own foster mother murdered my older sister, Logan. Being the survivor of this horrid incident, I push myself to my limits and strive for excellence in everything for the both of us. I am not saying that any of this has been easy, but it has most certainly shaped me into the person I am today. I know that her life was taken away from her all too soon. This causes me to live each day of my life to the fullest. There are no guarantees in life, so I make the most out of the path I have been given. I do it all for Logan and me.