A health counselor called Baltimore’s Department of Social Services in 2002 to warn that a 22-year-old mother convicted of breaking her baby son’s arms and legs had abandoned court-ordered psychiatric treatment, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Despite the alarm, Social Services failed to protect Keisha Carr’s children or place them in foster homes. Three months later, Carr’s newborn son, David, was beaten to death, his skull smashed. Carr’s murder trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday. Police say she acknowledged killing the child; she says detectives tricked her into confessing.
The Sun says the death was the kind of tragedy that happens with numbing regularity in the city. Child welfare advocates say the state child protection system often ignores obvious warning signs, such as past child abuse in a home or a caretaker’s mental illness, and that children die with little or no intervention from the juvenile courts or the Department of Social Services.
Stephen Berry, a state official, says it is difficult to figure out which children to remove because almost all the families have histories of child abuse, but the parents often attempt to deceive caseworkers and the courts. “Deaths happen because families can be extremely dangerous places for children,” Berry said. “Most of our workers are extremely devoted. So the allegation that they are not doing everything they can to help protect children is an affront to us. When a child dies, it’s a shock for everyone here.”