The latest case of fatal child abuse in Baltimore is raising another round of questions about how the system attempts to protect children from their abusive parents.
One-month-old twins died last week, after their 17-year-old mother - whose
first child had been taken away because of abuse - had been allowed to leave
Johns Hopkins Hospital weeks earlier with the girls despite an effort by a
concerned hospital social worker to find information about her past.
A spokeswoman for the city Department of Social Services conceded yesterday
that the agency could have handled the case better, and said that officials
are discussing ways to improve their computer system.
Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter L. Beilenson said yesterday that
recommendations he offered more than four months ago to better protect
children from parents with documented histories of abuse have been ignored by
the Social Services Department and the state agency that runs it.
"If these recommendations had been put in place - in particular, following
through with monitoring women and men who have previous abuse histories - I
think they would absolutely prevent a significant number of child abuse
cases," Beilenson said. "But I can't even get a response from them."
The social services spokeswoman, Sue Fitzsimmons, said the agency had not
responded to Beilenson because the copy of his report that they received was
stamped "Draft" and was unsigned, suggesting it was not an official document.
State lawmakers said yesterday that they were appalled by the beating
deaths of Emonney and Emunnea Broadway, whose bodies were found May 11 in an
abandoned Northeast Baltimore basement with no toilet or electricity.
Beilenson's Jan. 21 report, which was compiled by a panel of experts
including Dr. Allen Walker of Johns Hopkins Hospital, listed 18
recommendations. One was: "Design measures to protect future children of a
parent who has been convicted of abusing previous children."
Other recommendations were to station child abuse caseworkers in hospitals
24 hours a day, scrutinize the mental health history of foster parents and
guardians, improve the computer technology at the Department of Social
Services, and end the department's policy of secrecy after the death of a
At the time of the report's release in January, Henry Fawell, a spokesman
for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said the governor "would welcome the
suggestions, and they will certainly be reviewed at the departmental level, by
the Department of Human Resources."
After Beilenson heard no response for three months, Mayor Martin O'Malley
wrote a follow-up letter May 3 to Christopher J. McCabe, secretary of the
state Department of Human Resources, which runs the city's social services
agency. O'Malley asked if Beilenson's report had been ignored, saying: "I am
anxious to hear your administrative team's reaction to these ideas."
Two weeks later, the department is still working on a reply to O'Malley's
letter, said Fitzsimmons. "We are in the process of responding to the mayor,
and part of our response will be that we never received an official, signed
copy," Fitzsimmons said.
Children die of abuse in Maryland at a rate that exceeds the national
average, according to federal statistics released last month. Much of the
abuse is concentrated in Baltimore.
Sierra Swann, 17, and Nathaniel Broadway, 24, the parents of the most
recent pair of victims, had been listed in a computer database maintained by
The agency previously investigated allegations that the couple abused and
neglected their first child, a 2-year-old girl, who was placed by the state in
foster care Dec. 12.
The mother delivered the twins last month, and a social worker at Johns
Hopkins Hospital was troubled enough to call social services to inquire about
The social services employee who answered the phone told the hospital
worker that there was no record of "active" child abuse cases concerning
Swann, Fitzsimmons said.
The employee did not mention that Swann was in the system twice - once, as
a missing foster child who had an outstanding warrant for running away; and a
second time, for when her 2-year-old had been taken away because of abuse.