In Memory of Children Protected to DEATH by CPS
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Why are these children dying ?
He had massive brain injuries; foster mother has been arrested
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
July 7, 2007
SAN DIEGO – Malachi Jermaine McBride-Roberts' life was brief and difficult.
He was born to a teenage mother living in foster care. After she ran away, he was sent to live with another foster family.
Malachi would have turned 2 on Thursday. But he died eight days ago from massive brain injuries. His foster mother, Linda Coleman, has been arrested in connection with his death. The incident sheds light on a confidential foster care system, one that critics say doesn't track deaths.
Malachi's biological parents – Keshia Roberts, 18, and Stefon McBride, 23 – weren't talking about the foster system yesterday when they buried their son.
“I just want a proper burial for my son,” Keshia Roberts said as tears streamed down.
McBride leaned on her shoulders and sobbed during services at Anderson-Ragsdale Mortuary Chapel in the San Diego community of Webster. About 75 family members and friends – some wearing white T-shirts that pictured Malachi – attended.
“This would not have happened had he been in my care,” McBride said afterward. “The last time I saw Malachi alive was a month ago. I got to take him to McDonald's and buy him a hamburger.”
Malachi lived with Coleman, two of her grandchildren and another foster child in a two-bedroom apartment in the Mountain View neighborhood of San Diego, police said. The other children, ages 2, 9 and 11, were taken to the Polinsky Children's Center in Kearny Mesa.
Deaths in foster careSince 2000, according to data collected by The Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law and by The San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 children died in foster care in the county.
The deaths are from all manner of causes, not just abuse. The Medical Examiner's Office ruled at least seven as sudden infant death syndrome.
Last year, three children died in foster care in the county.
Oceanside police are still investigating the death in November of a 4-year-old girl who was in foster care.
The Medical Examiner's Office determined Angelina Espalin died of blunt-force head trauma and was a homicide victim. She was unconscious when her foster parents took her to a hospital, said police, who have not made any arrests.
All is confidentialFoster care is a massive statewide system administered by counties.
Broad confidentiality laws shield everyone, including foster parents, meaning the number of children who die in foster care in the county – or statewide for that matter – is not readily known.
“The state does not have any centralized tracking system of kids who die in foster care,” said Christina Riehl, an attorney with The Children's Advocacy Institute. “They absolutely should be tracking them – these are children of the state.”
The institute had to query each of the state's 58 counties to compile statewide fatality data.
The institute reported that 65 deaths of children in foster care occurred statewide in 2006. In 2005, 48 deaths occurred statewide.
The total number of children in foster care in the county has fluctuated in recent years, from a high of 7,136 in 2000 to a low or 5,783 in 2006. Statewide, about 75,000 are in the system.
Malachi's parents said they reluctantly relied on foster care, unprepared to provide for their son.
Keshia Roberts, raised in foster care from the time she was 9 months old, was 16 when she gave birth to Malachi.
Despite being born with a hole in his heart, Malachi lived with the verve of a healthier toddler.
“He was always running and jumping around, smiling and laughing, as if nothing was wrong,” said Tina Roberts, the boy's grandmother. “He didn't deserve this.”
Questions remainHomicide investigators are still trying to determine what happened to Malachi.
State and county foster care officials either could not be reached or declined to comment yesterday.
Coleman, 47, surrendered to San Diego police Tuesday evening after autopsy results revealed Malachi died of blunt force trauma to the head. Coleman, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to be charged with murder Monday.
Police said Coleman called 911 from her Mountain View residence June 27 and said the boy – who had been in her care for less than three months – was having seizures and difficulty breathing.
Paramedics rushed him to a hospital, where he died two days later. Coleman has told authorities he fell from his crib.
Besides his heart problems, Malachi suffered from asthma and a skin disorder. Despite open-heart surgery last year, he seemed healthy and happy in recent months, family members said.
For the first 16 months of Malachi's life, Eddtwanna Starks was his foster mother. She also cared for the boy's mother, Keshia Roberts.
But the living arrangements fell apart earlier this year.
“Keshia suddenly ran away . . . and left the boy with me,” said Starks, 32.
Without the mother to help, Starks said that she couldn't give the boy the care he needed. She had other children living with her in her east San Diego home.
So Malachi was turned over to Coleman three months ago.
Everything seemed fine to those who knew Malachi.
“We were able to visit,” Malachi's father said. “I didn't see any problems or I would have done something.”
Malachi was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery yesterday.
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