Saturday, February 23, 2008

Arizona Columnist Fails to Mention Judge in Children's Deaths

(Although Roberts Often Exposes CPS Related Deaths - seldom mentioned are the judges who go along with the agency.) How does this help the reader when Judicial Elections come around?)

Another child dies under CPS' watch
Feb. 23, 2007
Laurie Roberts

Marina Rodriguez holds up the letter her 8-year-old grandson wrote, the one saying he was afraid. In November, she faxed it to Child Protective Services, trying desperately to get someone to listen to her fears about what was happening to her grandsons.

Two months later, one of them was dead.

"When Fabian died, I asked (the caseworker), what happened to that letter," Marina said. "She said, 'Well, that was disregarded because it was coerced."

Four-year-old Fabian Silva is the fifth Tucson child to die in the last year while CPS was supposed to be watching. Just a week before he died, 5-month-old Jahyr Holguin was gone, one month after a hospital reported suspicions that the baby was being abused. His mother's boyfriend now sits in jail, awaiting trial for murder.

On Tuesday, the House Government Committee will hear a package of bills aimed at better protecting the most vulnerable among us: children whose parents can't or won't do the job. It'll be a political fight, with some legislators determined to protect CPS from prying eyes.

If we're lucky, they will, finally, be drowned out by those who know the sad stories of 4-year-old Ariana Payne and her 5-year-old brother Tyler, and Brandon Williams, an autistic boy who was 5 when he was beaten to death. And now of Jahyr Holguin and maybe Fabian Silva.

Rep. Jonathan Paton has seen enough. He and Rep. Kirk Adams are proposing to rip away the shroud of secrecy that allows CPS to covers its failings. "We've had (five) kids now who all have three things in common," Paton said. "Parents investigated by CPS. CPS determined their parents were safe and all (five) are dead. . . . The public has a right to know if policies were followed or not followed so we can make a better decision about how the agency is run."

Fabian's grandparents, Marina and Martin Rodriguez, saw their grandsons regularly until Halloween, when Fabian was hospitalized with a concussion and other injuries.

The Rodriguezes were there at the hospital when the CPS worker showed up on Nov. 1. It was the first and last they ever saw of her. Meanwhile, they say they had a falling out with their daughter, who had recently moved in with her boyfriend, and were cut off from contact with their grandsons.

All through November, Marina and Martin say they called CPS with their concerns, but the agency wasn't interested in talking to them.

Not even after another report was filed in mid-November, this time by a teacher.

Not even after Marina faxed over the letter from her other grandson. While Fabian was in the hospital, she says the boy's father asked his older son to write down what he was feeling. He wrote of being hit, of being scared.

"She (the caseworker) wouldn't talk to me," Marina said. "Then she stopped taking my calls."

On Jan. 26, Fabian was taken to University Medical Center, where he died the next morning.

Tucson police Sgt. Mark Robinson said detectives are still investigating his death. CPS took custody of the older boy the day Fabian died.

CPS spokeswoman Vicki Gaubeca confirmed that the agency received reports on Oct. 31 and Nov. 13. She said they spoke to the Rodriguezes on Nov. 1 and by phone on Nov. 9.

"In addition," she said, "CPS caseworkers interviewed all adults and children living in the home, the biological father, great grandparents, local law enforcement and medical and hospital personnel."

Everybody, it seems, but the people who were begging to tell their story.

Martin, a retired Army counterintelligence agent, said the CPS worker finally agreed to meet with them - after Fabian died.

"I said, how can you conduct a proper investigation that's one-sided? And she goes, 'Well I wasn't about to interview 40 people.' "