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Foster mom: ‘If the system doesn’t get its act together, these kids die’

baby1

Kalie

SEATTLE — In Tuolumne County, Calif., 26 year-old Kevin Boehmer is charged with murder for allegedly killing his 3-month-old daughter, Kalie.

On Dec. 9, Boehmer brought the infant to the emergency room in Sonora, Calif. She was barely breathing and had serious injuries, including multiple, partially healed broken bones.  Little Kalie slipped into a coma and was taken off life support a few days later.

“The thing we thought was hardest is something bad is going to happen before she could come to us. We didn’t think it would be this bad,” said Jamie Hope.

Jamie and Melissa Hope wanted to foster the little girl because they had already adopted her older sister, Aveaha, after she was taken from her biological mother, Tiffany Tucker.  The Hopes found out early that Aveaha’s mother was pregnant while being held in prison awaiting sentencing.

Tucker is serving five years in prison for neglecting and abusing Aveaha to the point that when a family friend finally called 911; the child was, according to doctors, within hours of dying from dehydration.  Years earlier, Tucker’s first child was also taken away from her for similar reasons.

Despite that history, Tucker was allowed to choose the baby’s guardian.  On Sept. 4, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma discharged the baby to Boehmer, believed to be the baby’s father.  Days later, he and Kalie moved to California.

“The most important thing is safety. We want to make sure that the child is safe. Here we violated that,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland.  “There are so many points along the way where we could have done things differently to protect this newborn.

“I can’t imagine simply giving a newborn to someone the offender in prison designates as a guardian with only a simple background check. What we should do in my opinion is bring this newborn into foster care temporarily while doing a much more thorough job of determining who this guardian is going to be,” Goodman said.

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services says that even though Tucker has a track record of child abuse and neglect, those past cases are considered closed and they can’t take action unless they find new violations.

“We say we don’t know and we’re not aware and don’t have an open case?” Jamie Hope asked. “Every child is a new case?  No! If there is history here, this should be on someone’s radar.”

Goodman agrees.

“We find out this baby (Kalie) had broken bones in previous occasions and we find out too late by the time this baby is literally dying in the hospital. Further investigation could have been done. I don’t want to second-guess California, but there has got to be better communication between the states,” said Goodman.

On Sept. 11, Washington Children’s Administration officials started a CPS investigation after learning Boehmer left the state. They spoke with California officials, who told them Boehmer answered a phone number he provided and confirmed he set up a doctor’s appointment for Kalie. On Sept. 14, Washington closed its investigation because Boehmer was confirmed out of state.

Beth Canfield, president of the Foster Parents Association of Washington State, says that’s not good enough.

“The foster parent had clearly reported to check on this baby, and they didn’t listen to her because she said if it needs an adoptive home, I’m available,” said Canfield.

Time and again, Canfield said, state law endangers children by placing too much emphasis on keeping kids with their biological parents.

“We’re concerned because the bar has been set so much higher for kids to enter foster care. We’re real concerned that kids are going to be in unsafe places,” said Canfield.

Last year, Josh Powell attacked his young sons with a hatchet before blowing up his Graham, Wash., home with all three of them inside. Powell had lost custody of the boys and was suspected in their mother’s disappearance. He was also being evaluated as a potential threat to the kids, but the state still allowed the boys to have supervised visits to his home, with the long-term goal of reuniting the family.

“These children had a loving home as an option and DSHS time and time again is trying to force the round peg into the square hole,” said attorney David Moody.

Moody sued DSHS on behalf of Amber Wright, a young woman who was repeatedly drugged and raped by her own father. Despite clear evidence and witness testimony, CPS closed the case and allowed David Wright to keep custody.

“It’s tragic that DSHS puts themselves in the position of always being reactionary instead of proactive.  It doesn’t take someone with a whole lot of common sense to realize these are bad situations, these are dangerous situations for little kids and DSHS continues to screw up time and time again,” said Moody.  “It would be nice if children lived with loving and supporting parents but for DSHS to push for reunification is leading to a lot of these problems.  Certain parents just simply aren’t fit to care for children.”

Jamie and Melissa Hope wanted more than anything to raise Aveaha and her little sister, an opportunity they felt was ripped away from them.

“If the system doesn’t get its act together, these kids die,” Jamie Hope said.  “We say, ‘Oh, the system isn’t perfect.’  Well it’s bigger than that to me.  Right now it’s huge to me.”

Since DSHS did open a CPS investigation in September and Kalie died, the state is required to perform a child fatality review. That must be completed by June and is overseen by the Office of the State Family and Children’s Ombudsman.  The review will be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office for review and then could go to the Legislature’s Early Learning and Human Services Committee, which could draft any new legislation.

14 comments

  • SGHolland

    These babies are people. Killing little people should be tried and prosecuted severely. People who have killed their babies should be sterilized. Why does the nation get livid about Michael Vick being a dog torturer, but we "wink" at these sorts of horror? We need to bring it to the public eye…it's horrific and a scourge to every human that this should happen.

  • Steph

    WA is a reunification state. The top priority is the rights of the parents, not the child. It breaks my heart that this beautiful child was handed over to someone that the mother picked out of thin air and then was allowed to leave the state. Where was this little girls Amber Alert?

  • nikki noble

    I agree i was a foster kid my self and it is bull crap they (cps) came and took my daughter away because i was a foster kid when i had her i was 17 years old… i got her back but my point is i am a good mom take care of my daughter and my case is closed but when i had my son they came to my house again like i was someone bad i never hurt my kids.. i just think cps needs to check there stuff go back to school learn more about what they are doing and go after the people that have crimital records not poeple like me that never been in trouble with law

    • wanda

      CPS are the worse criminals in the world. They have damaged all generations. Children dying in their hands in in foster care more than from real abusive parents. CPS takes children from the protective parent and placed with the abuser or into the foster care. By removing child everyone getting paid including foster parents. if a real parent get money for own children as foster parents gets it it could stop the poverty and crimes …CPS coming after you because you are vulnerable and your each child is $ 85K for them …

      • beetlebug

        Amen Wanda! I am a grandmother and cps will not even consider me as placement. They work in their own circles: Courts, OUR elected officials, state, foster/adopt system and, on and on! My grchildren might be adopted to un licensed people saying they are "friend of the family" instead of keeping them with family!!!!!! I need help!

  • SueBHoney

    CPS is damned if they react (they are accused of acting in haste) and damned if they under react (they didn't do enough)…..I wouldn't want their job ever. imagine having a caseload of 30 and then ask yourself this…..How do they leave their VERY IMPORTANT AND VITAL jobs at work? How do they not lay awake at night worrying about every child on their caseload? I say it can only be their passion for helping children and their families! These human beings "juggle" a lot of "balls" in their job….and being human means that sometimes one of those balls might get dropped. Do I think this is okay or an excuse when a child that should have been protected is harmed or even killed? Absolutely not!!!! But I also think that community members, neighbors, and relatives must share in the blame by not reporting what the see or know to the proper authorities so that there is a record of those concerns. This baby should never have been given to her murderer without a very thorough home study performed to make sure this baby would be safe….even if it meant that the baby spent some time with a foster family….perhaps putting some thought, time and energy into the process would have lead to a different outcome. Then again, do you know anyone that had no criminal history but still did something horrible to a child? I do….he now has a criminal history that will forever deny him any unsupervised contact with any child AND he's in prison because of what was doing to children. Right where h belongs!!! My heart aches for this precious, innocent and vulnerable baby and her family and it makes me sick to think of the pain and torture this little baby endured in her short little life. I know God is taking care of her now!!!!

  • Fed Up....

    Wanda……UMMM..Foster parents DO NOT get "paid" for doing foster care! WE get a small amount of reimbursement to by some of the essentials for the children…We also put ALOT of our owbnmoney into these children because we love and want to care for them! This is not about the money…It is about putting a child in a safe environment wether it be with a parent or a loving family! Not all bio parents are fit to parent there child…..
    Now…I am a foster mom and I have had this little girl for 4 years (her whole life) and suddenly the father (who is a known drug dealer and gang member, who was actually the mothers drug dealer) is now getting her…REALLY?? Where is the protection for this little girl who is being taken from her mommy and being put in a home with a stranger…Just because he is her 'Biological" father! That is BS….I am done with the FOSTER CARE SYSTEM after this BS…They dont care about the childs well being only about the BIO parents rights..Well what about these kids rights????? OH by the way this is a tribal case which was originally through the state….They both suck…

  • Ronda

    I am the grandmother of kalie and let me say this the state of Washington refused me custody of my little kalie because of first a comment that I made to a police officer when kalies mom my daughter Tiffany was a teen ager and was in trouble alot,second thing is because I had custody of Tiffany’s first child and gave her to the state because my then boyfriend was abusive to me after I took her and so protecting her I have her up to them pluse she needed medical attention because of her inner ears and third and finally because of a incident that happened almost 8 years ago with my now ex-husband nothing to do with I child,I work a good job and have a nice home and would have been able to take care of her and have her be with family that would never had harmed her,my daughter has made mistake in life she is a stubborn women and she should have been placed in a facility with her children to teach her and watch over her 24-7 so she could have learned the proper way to care for her children I myself offered her to move in with me so I can help but she said no over and over again but the state was wrong in denieing me custody of aveaha and kalie based on my past which I have not had either prior or after the events any trouble with the law or other wise I was railroaded because I live out of state in Oregon and I myself offered Kevin to take her if he at any time felt he could not take care and previde and safe home for her,this has been very devestating to me to know that they would not even listen or look into me as guardian of my grandchildren Washington ok well grays harbor county dhs is corrupt and the only care about the numbers

  • Jasmine Kroger

    It pains me whenever I see something like this on TV or in the internet. These children are innocent and they do not deserve to suffer for the consequences of others. All they need and they deserve is a family that will love them and take care of them.

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