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Adoption subsidies for frozen corpses, more on the Maryland nightmare

This is a follow-up post to my initial post on this story, read Maryland- 3 adopted daughters; 1 beaten, 2 dead, frozen in freezer for 7 months first if you haven’t already.

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Today more details are emerging. The Washington Post article, Md. Mother Jailed After Bodies Of 2 Children Found in Freezer, for example, contains a wealth of sad new details.

With Bowman in jail, charged with child abuse, and investigators working to piece together what happened, the case again shined a spotlight on the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which recommended Bowman to a D.C. Superior Court judge as a suitable adoptive parent in 2001 and 2004. The girls had been wards of the D.C. government.

Secrecy in adoption is leaving many questions unanswered:

Yesterday, myriad questions about Bowman’s adoptions went unanswered as city and court officials in the District, citing confidentiality laws, declined to reveal details of a background check of Bowman that was performed by a private contractor. They said they were unaware of her 1999 misdemeanor conviction in the District for threatening to hurt someone.

We learn two of the girls, the surviving 7 year old and the 9 year old were biological sisters as well:

The missing children would be 9 and 11, officials said. They said the 7-year-old girl is a biological sister of the 9-year-old. All three were foster children of Bowman’s before she adopted the oldest child in 2001 and the other two in 2004, officials said.

There are no records of the three girls having been enrolled in public school in three Maryland Counties Bowman has lived in:

Many neighbors near Bowman’s beige ranch-style home in Lusby and at her former residence in Rockville said they had never seen children at her home and were unaware that she had any. Authorities in Calvert and Montgomery County — and in Prince George’s County, where she lived for a time — said they could find no record of the children being enrolled in public schools.

More details are emerging of the abuse the 7 year old adopted girl endured:

Bowman was being held yesterday on charges of child abuse in connection with injuries to the 7-year-old. The girl escaped from her locked bedroom Thursday by jumping out a window, police said.

Bowman admitted beating the girl with a “hard-heeled shoe,” the sheriff’s office said. The girl told police her mother beat her with a white shoe to the point that it was covered in blood, officials said.

The child had “extensive open infected sores and open lesions,” several injuries to her feet and knees, and ligature marks and extensive scarring on her neck, according to charging documents filed in court.

Clearly if there was “extensive scarring on her neck” her abuse and neglect had been ongoing.

A second Post article details the search for evidence at the former residence in Montgomery County, see Detectives Scour for Evidence in Case of Dead Girls. It also reveals even further insanity, the freezer with the dead girls may have been moved not once, but twice:

Starks said Bowman left Rockville in October or November of last year. She lived in Charles County briefly before moving to Calvert, officials said.

The chronology, which differs from information made public yesterday, raises the startling possibility that the bodies of the children might have been moved not once but twice.

All of which sits firmly in the context of D.C.’s Banita Jacks case from earlier this year and the aftermath. (A snapshot of the Jacks catastrophic failure can be found in articles such as this CBS news piece from last January, D.C. Woman: “Demons” Possessed Slain Girls, it also dealt with issues of kids being in and out of school and lack of follow up to determine the children’s welfare. But then she’s a research topic unto herself.) The disastrous outcome led to ongoing work trying to clean up the mess that is DC Child and Family Services Agency (see articles such as this, Court Orders CFSA To Do Obvious: Get A Plan, from the Washington City Paper for example.)

The case has again shined a spotlight on the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which recommended Bowman to a D.C. Superior Court judge as a suitable adoptive parent in 2001 and 2004. The girls had been wards of the D.C. government.

The child welfare agency came under fire in January after social workers failed to investigate reports of alleged child neglect by Banita Jacks, a Southeast Washington woman now charged with killing her four daughters in their home.

The Bowman mess also brings to the fore the issue of background checks being outsourced to private contractors:

…myriad questions about Bowman’s adoptions went unanswered as city and court officials in the District, citing confidentiality laws, declined to reveal details of a background check of Bowman that was performed by a private contractor. They said they were unaware of her 1999 misdemeanor conviction in the District for threatening to hurt someone.

In the midst of these remarkable circumstances, (DC) Mayor Fenty had this to say:

“It would be too premature, too irresponsible, to say someone along the chain messed up,” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said at a news conference.

(Fenty has been busy covering his own ass in all this, pointing out repeatedly that the adoptions took place before he came to office.)

Again, rather than blaming individuals and saying any one given person let these girls slide, I think we have to look systemically. After the adoption, were there follow up visits? Were there supposed to be any? (Further down in this post I’ve come across a quote which seems to imply that once a child is placed, the job is in all meaningful ways ‘done’.)

Was it ANYONE’S job to ensure these girls were getting any kind of education? Were they ever enrolled in any school anywhere? Do kids who are not enrolled just fall through the cracks? Is anyone tasked with making sure they are in some form of schooling if they are not in public schools, or do parents just get to opt out completely and no one cares? (Further does that mean federal adoption subsidies can be given to parents who opt their kids out of education?) Apparently it’s no one’s job to make sure these girls were getting education of some kind, they’re not in county schools, but no one checks to see if they’ve moved to private, or homeschool? Do they just fall off the edge? If it’s not already, then it’s long past time for it be added to someone’s job description.

The article continues:

Authorities in Calvert and County – and in Prince George’s County, where she lived for a time — said they could find no record of the children being enrolled in public schools.

(I’m still trying to determine when were the Bowmans living in Prince George’s? Before or after their time in Montogomery? How many of Maryland’s twenty-three counties were touched by this case?)

Through all of this the moves, the lack of any evidence of these girls being given any kind of education, heck the lack of evidence that these girls were even still alive, the checks kept rolling in. Federal “special needs” adoption subsidies to the tune of $2, 400 a month. Yes, thousands of dollars without so much as ever asking, oh by the way, the girls are still alive, right?

Adoption subsidies for frozen corpses.

Keep up the ‘good work’ money, no evidence of post placement children required.

In Montgomery and Calvery Counties, just as I suspected, some neighbors were unaware Bowman even had kids:

Many neighbors near Bowman’s beige ranch-style home in Lusby and at the Rockville residence said they had never seen children at her home and were unaware that she had any.

Moving from Rockville/Aspen Hill in Montgomery Co. to Lusby in Calvert Co. Bowman claiming to be in failing health, apparently left a mess in her wake:

A few months before moving out, Bowman complained of back pain and said she had cancer, according to neighbor Shirley Knapp.

After Bowman moved to Calvert, the landlord complained to Howard Knapp, Shirley’s husband, about the mess that had been left behind. “They were pigs,” he recalled the landlord saying. “They trashed the house, and there was at least one dead cat in there.”

So again, I ask, in the wake of the adoptions, where were the follow up visits? Was the house in similar condition through the time the Bowmans lived there?

Today, (Tuesday), the autopsy for the dead sisters was scheduled. Details are likely to be forthcoming soon. In light of this paragraph from early on in the article:

The Calvert sheriff’s office said in a statement that Bowman told investigators the remains in the freezer were those of her older two adopted daughters. She told them she wrapped one of the children in a plastic garbage bag and the other in a rug, officials said.

I am GUESSING that the two girls may have died in perhaps separate incidents. Had they died at once, Bowman would have been more likely to treat the two bodies similarly. As one was in a garbage bad and the other in a rug, there’s the possibility that we could be looking at two separate events.

As for the final surviving daughter, forced to save herself, she’s apparently going into the Maryland system:

The Maryland Department of Human Resources will file a petition in court today to gain custody of the 7-year-old.

A third article in today’s Post, Woman Met Adoption Requirements, D.C. Officials Say details the adoptions of the girls and the “special needs” adoption subsidies Bowman was receiving:

D.C. officials said yesterday that Renee D. Bowman followed the proper procedures for adopting three children and passed the background check and home study required for adoptive parents.

“Based on my review of the evidence today, all that happened,” said Peter Nickles, the city’s acting attorney general. He said that as part of a federal program for parents who take in “special needs” children, Bowman received a total of $2,400 a month for the three girls.

The special-needs designation can mean that children are part of a sibling set or a racial minority group, have a learning disability or were relinquished to the state by their biological parents, among other things.

Despite a previous conviction a misdemeanor that was clearly pertinent, Bowman sailed on through the process:

The city’s adoption process involves an investigation into the prospective parent’s background and home life, a child-rearing class, interviews and other evaluations. The final approval comes from a judge in the Superior Court’s family division.

Bowman cleared the hurdles despite a 1999 conviction on one misdemeanor count of “threats to do bodily harm.” She was given a six-month suspended sentence and put on supervised probation for a year, according to Superior Court records.

D.C. officials said at a news conference that they were unaware of the case and did not know whether a misdemeanor conviction would prevent an adoption .

As the District had outsourced the background check, they are now claiming ignorance of the misdemeanor conviction. This brings us to our next question, how many other people were allowed to adopt with prior convictions and what are the implications for the children they adopted?

Worse, they admit, they don’t even know whether or not the conviction would have disqualified her, or whether the adoptions would have gone forward anyway had they known!

As I continue to say, SYSTEMIC problems.

Fortunately, we do at least get the name of the private contractor:

The private agency that did the background check, the Baltimore-based Board of Child Care, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Which is to say they’re ducking this one and hoping attention goes elsewhere. That would be the Board of Child Care of the United Methodist Church. (Get yer ‘faith-based’ homestudies here!) The BOCC tries to be one stop shopping, providing everything from home studies to “all of the required post-placement services.”

Which brings us around to Adoptions Together, (yet another topic unto itself) from two directions, both the Post article with the quote below indicating that those with a misdemeanor conviction have gotten children in the past:

“Whenever there’s any kind of a criminal history, it’s always carefully evaluated,” said Janice Goldwater, executive director of the nonprofit Adoptions Together, which works with government agencies in the Washington region. “But there are people that adopt children that have misdemeanors.”

and by way of the Board of Child Care adoption page, which makes it clear Adoptions Together isn’t merely familiar with the broader DC adoption milieu, the Board of Child Care is in “partnership” with Adoptions Together:

The Board of Child Care is licensed as a child placement agency in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Through an established partnership with Adoptions Together, a comprehensive array of adoption services are available, including adoption counseling, home studies, assistance in the waiting period, full placement services, reunion services, and all of the required post-placement services.

The real bottom line is that ‘the buck’ appears to have stopped nowhere.

After placement, apparently the job is done:

“Once the court decides a family is fit, once it takes place, that ends the jurisdiction of the state or D.C,” said Mayor Fenty.

In other words, a clusterfuck of no one stepping up to the plate to say ‘damnit, someone somewhere in one of these systems needed to step forward to say it WAS their responsibility or their departments’ responsibility to ensure kids are still alive post placement’.

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Lots of other factors played into this mess, communication between DC and MD, outsourcing of background checks leading to deniability, lack of follow up once a kid is placed, homeschool laws that place less scrutiny on families when a child is no longer in public schools (based on assumptions that the kids must be getting something somewhere else), adoption subsidies that go out whether the kids is provably alive or not, and as always, the lack of budget, time, personel, etc to do what really should have been done every step of the way.

To do what kids need to ensure their very lives.

The SYSTEM failed these adopted girls. It’s past time to start re-evaluating from the ground up.

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