September 12th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Another father has sued his state’s child protection agency for allowing his one year old son to be beaten to death while in his mother’s “care.” Read about it here (Shelbyville News, 9/8/12).
Apparently, little Jayden Noel had been taken to the emergency room some months before his death with bruising to his face consistent with blunt-force trauma. The Indiana Department of Child Services was alerted, but found the case unsubstantiated. The child was returned to his mother, but died a few months later as a result of multiple blows to his head. His mother, Chelsea Taylor and her former boyfriend, Ryan Worline were arrested and charged with felony neglect of a child. How the DA’s office figures multiple blows to the head of an infant constitute neglect, I suppose we’ll never know.
In fact, the father, Jerraco Noel, informed caseworkers for Indiana DCS about the abuse his son was suffering five months before he died, but the agency failed to intervene. Now he’s suing it for what he calls its negligence in failing to protect his son. Apparently Taylor and Worline gave inconsistent and patently unbelievable accounts of how the boy came to be hurt in the first instance. Noel, through his attorney, claims those facts should have alerted DCS to the danger Jayden was in. The agency has yet to respond to Noel’s suit.
According to the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services, year after year, mothers acting alone commit 40% of all child abuse and neglect in this country, twice what fathers commit. Add a boyfriend who’s not the father to the mix and the figure jumps to almost 60%. To my way of thinking, that alone should have sounded alarm bells in the minds of Indiana DCS concerning Jayden Noel. Their inconsistent statements plus their claim that “a toy” had caused such severe injury to the child that he had to be seen in the emergency room look from here to have been enough for DCS to take the boy at least temporarily.
What’s also clear, and was clear at the time to DCS, is that Jayden had a father who was concerned about him and was capable of caring for the boy. What could have been simpler than to remove him from his mother and place him with his father? With hindsight at least, it looks like an obvious fix, but DCS ignored it.
That’s not surprising. Child welfare agencies across the country are notorious for ignoring fathers as possible placement alternatives when children seem in danger at the hands of their mother. Indeed, an Urban Institute study shows that child protective agencies contact a father in barely half of those cases even though they know his identity about 88% of the time. That preference for foster care over father care is in no way defensible. For one thing, foster care has been shown many times to be more dangerous for children than parental care even when the parents are known to be somewhat abusive. And of course foster care is far more expensive for the state than father care that’s essentially free. Then there’s the fact that moving a child from his mother to his father is far less traumatic for a child than being placed with complete strangers often far from his familiar home, school, friends, extended family, etc.
Why didn’t Indiana DCS inquire into Jerraco Noel’s fitness to care for his son? We may never know. What we do know is that another child is dead, probably brutally beaten to death by his mother and/or her boyfriend. That could have been prevented, and Jerraco Noel was begging them to do so.