Woman Charged With Abusing Child After DCF Had Approved Placement

Toddler was malnourished, had burn marks and broken bones

NEW LONDON — A Groton woman granted temporary custody of her sister's child by the state has been charged with severely neglecting and abusing the 18-month-old boy, who was malnourished and had broken bones and burn marks when he was hospitalized after being removed from the woman's home.

The findings in Groton City Police Officer Bobby Harris' warrant for the arrest of Crystal L. Magee spell out what appears to be another foster-care situation gone wrong for the Department of Children and Families.

During the five months that the little boy lived with Crystal and Donald Magee on Mather Avenue in Groton, from June to November 2015, DCF caseworkers were told by the child's biological mother and employees from two other agencies about concerns over the child's health, or Crystal Magee's ability to properly care for the child.

DCF had approved the child's placement with the Magees.

Last month in a separate case, a Watertown husband and wife were charged with abusing children placed in their care by DCF, and concerns were raised with DCF before the foster parents were arrested.

Crystal Magee, 32, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of risk of injury to a minor and cruelty to a child. She is free on a $100,000 bond and is due back at Superior Court in New London on March 10.

The warrant affidavit paints a grim picture of the child upon his hospital admission.

"The 18-month-old is unable to talk, walk, or feed himself … [He] could not extend his left arm at the elbow … [He] also had a scar on his right wrist, possibly a burn. [He] had several scars to his chest and neck … [He} was emaciated and his ribs were visible. He had loose skin to his arms and legs … His eyes were sunken and the muscles in his temples were wasted. …"

In a statement to The Courant, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said her department "is deeply concerned about the treatment of this boy while in the care of a relative foster parent.

"We are appalled by what happened in the home of the woman who was arrested. Our foster parents and relative foster parents – with only the rarest of exceptions — provide outstanding care for children and, accordingly, we have high standards and expectations for them. Clearly that trust was violated in this instance."

Katz had issued a similar statement in the Watertown case. She said in the statement Thursday that DCF is doing an internal investigation of the Crystal Magee case.

"We are conducting a review of our oversight of the home and will take any actions necessary and appropriate to address possible issues that we identify in the course of that review," the statement says.

On June 12, 2015, four children were removed from their mother's home by DCF because of poor conditions inside the house, according to Harris' warrant affidavit. Three of the siblings were placed with another family.

Crystal Magee told Groton police investigators that she reluctantly agreed to a request from other family members to take the child. She said she told DCF she could only care for the boy for a month because she has severe COPD and her husband has a brain tumor. In the warrant, Harris, the Groton police youth officer, mentions that Donald Magee had "very poor motor skills" because of the tumor.

"Crystal stated that when [the child] arrived, all she was given was a car seat and the clothes [the child] had on," the affidavit states.

Magee told police that on June 21, 2015, "DCF arrived for her to sign papers for temporary custody" of the child.

Magee also claimed that she never received any money from DCF to help care for the boy, but police determined that Magee was given $3,690 plus debit cards totaling another $335 for food, diapers, a car seat and a crib.

The arrangement called for the boy's biological mother to continue to make doctor's appointments for the child. However, police would later learn that of the five medical appointments made for the child, Magee either canceled them or failed to show up.

Also, out of the eight home visits that were scheduled by case workers with the Birth to Three developmental program, Crystal Magee allowed only four of the visits to go forward between June and September 2015.

"Birth to Three Social Worker Anna Johnson … said that she stressed her concerns to DCF's Ted Parmlee that Crystal Magee had missed several of her scheduled appointments," the warrant affidavit states. Parmlee was the DCF worker assigned to the case.

Magee insisted to police that she fed and bathed the child regularly. But medical records showed the toddler lost about 3 pounds, about 15 percent of his weight, and was extremely undernourished.

"The victim showed signs of chronic malnutrition, contrary to [Magee's] claim that the victim lost weight only in the two weeks prior to [hospital] admission, which is implausible," the warrant affidavit states.

State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan said her office is reviewing both the Watertown case from January and this one.

"We want to see which systems issues need to be addressed to prevent the abuse of children in homes that are supposed to protect them. Are we doing enough to make sure that children are matched with homes that have the capacity to meet their needs?" said Eagan.

After his hospital admission, the child quickly began to thrive. He gained weight, his development accelerated, he began to vocalize sounds, to scoot and pull himself up to standing position, and to smile responsively, according to the affidavit.

Crystal Magee also has a 16-year-old son with special needs. Police interviewed a caseworker with the Family Support Center of Groton, which had worked with the Magee family. The support center's Diane Schrage told officers that Magee appeared "extremely stressed" when the toddler came to live with her in June 2015. Schrage told DCF's Parmlee "that Crystal appeared to be overwhelmed," the affidavit states.

In the interview with police, Schrage also said that Parmlee told her in October 2015 "that [Parmlee] believed something was going on at the Magees' home and he may have to remove the child."

In November 2015, the boy was placed with an aunt in Groton. The aunt took the child to a health clinic and the clinic called police and reported suspected child abuse.

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