OAKLAND (KPIX5/AP) — The family of a foster child who died after ingesting methamphetamine have sued Alameda County, saying the girl should have been removed from a Stockton home after she swallowed the drug for the first time.
Within days of being placed in a Stockton foster home, 3-year-old Mariah was admitted to the hospital after having eaten what was found to be methamphetamine.
Rather than setting off alarms, Mariah was returned to the same foster home where Alameda County Social Services had placed her and her five-year-old brother Jeremyah.
Family Attorney Darren Kessler said, “Without any investigation, without any inspection of the home, with no follow up what so ever by the people in charge of her care.”
“Two weeks later, predictably, Mariah again consumed methamphetamine in that home and then hours later she died a painful and tragic death in the arms of her brother,” Kessler said.
“For the brother, it has been horrible. He is still coping,” Kessler said. “This was the person he felt he should protect.”
Kessler said there was a police investigation but no charges filed. As for social services?
“There was a complete lack of action, there was just nothing that was done at all,” Kessler said.
Bill Grimm is a long-time attorney with the National Center For Youth Law.
Grimm said, “We need to have higher standards for those agencies and when these kinds of tragedies occur, we need full and complete transparency about why this happened.”
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a just released federal report critical of California’s handling of foster care investigations.
Don White with the Department of Health and Human Services said, “We took a sample between 2013 and 2015 and out of that sample of 100, we found that 78 investigations were not completed within the 90-day goal of the Department of Social Services. That is not acceptable.”
California Department of Social Services said they have already begun implementing the changes called for in the report, like having an onsite investigation within ten days of a reported incident.
Triad Family Services, which placed Mariah and her brother in the Stockton foster home, said they do not comment on pending litigation.
Mariah’s brother is in a different home and awaiting adoption.
Kessler says county workers missed obvious signs that Mariah was in danger. Kessler is representing the girl’s 5-year-old brother and his guardian.
Kessler says their foster mother took the girl to a hospital in 2015 because the child was “acting strange” and “talking to herself.”
He says that less than two weeks later, on Oct. 16, 2015 Mariah died in the arms of her brother after ingesting methamphetamine for a second time.
It is not clear how she came to ingest the drug.
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