Foster Parents Allegedly Suffocate Child

    Psychiatry ExpertThis case involves a 9-year-old boy with a history of behavioral disorders who was allegedly suffocated by his foster parents. The child was placed into the home of a couple that had not previously fostered children. During the months leading up to the incident, caseworkers were notified that the child had sustained bruises while under foster care. The child had also come forward alleging physical abuse, specifically from his foster mother. The child was taken for a psychiatric evaluation. During the evaluation, it was determined that the child presented a danger to himself and others. As a result, the child was admitted. During his hospitalization, the child disclosed fear of physical harm in his foster home. In spite of the child’s claims, the psychiatric facility made no effort to investigate abuse in the foster home. The child was discharged back to the foster home. Within a few weeks of returning home, the child was found dead in his bed. He was blue in color and had bruises covering his body. An autopsy ruled the cause of death to be asphyxiation. An expert psychiatrist was sought to opine on the child’s psychiatric care during her psychiatric hospitalization.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. How often do you evaluate and treat children who are within foster care and have been previously diagnosed with behavioral disorders in an acute psychiatric hospital setting?
    • 2. What special considerations should be given to these children to ensure that they do not become victims of abuse?

    Expert Witness Response E-081005

    I evaluate and treat children with mild to severe behavioral disorders that are within foster care several times a week in the acute psychiatric inpatient setting. Special considerations for these children include getting a treatment history not just from the foster family but coordinating with the department of children and family services (DCFS) to make sure that the details of treatment, medication and care line-up. A detailed social, family, substance and trauma/abuse history is given extra attention for these cases due to the many variables that can be provoking factors when getting to know the child or adolescent. If abuse is alleged or suspected, DCFS is contacted immediately. If previous allegations have been made, then the details of those are also obtained. Any treatment or medication change is formally sent to DCFS and is not started until consent is received from them. I have been working alongside DCFS for several years and have treated numerous children and adolescents with severe behavioral disorders and trauma histories.

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