The biological parents of 2-year-old Naomi Whitecrow have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the state Department of Human Services, claiming the agency failed to remove their child from a home that officials knew was dangerous.
Naomi's birthparents also sued their child's foster parents, Amy and
Naomi's biological parents, Kala Lee Whitecrow and Antoine D. Jones, allege DHS employees "suspected or knew the Holder home was dangerous" before Naomi's death.
The Oklahoma County District Court lawsuit, filed Friday, seeks damages of more than $10,000.
The Oklahoma medical examiner's office found recent scrapes and bruises on Naomi's face, chest, back, legs, right buttock and head following her Jan. 20, 2009, death. The medical examiner also found old and new scabs, but was unable to determine a cause of death.
An Indiana pathologist, Dean A. Hawley, subsequently reviewed autopsy documents, videos and photographs and filed a report stating the child died of blunt-force injury to the head, abdomen and
Naomi's foster mother, Amy Holder, 39, was charged with felony child abuse in connection with the death. She is awaiting a Nov. 29 preliminary hearing in Logan County.
She told an investigator that her husband was out of town working on the night of Naomi's death. Scott Adams, Amy Holder's attorney, has said his client denies having anything to do with Naomi's injuries or death.
Naomi was placed in the Holders' home about four months before her death, following a failed reunification with her mother at Chi Hullo Li Rehabilitation Center, a Choctaw Nation substance abuse family treatment center in Talihina, said Alicia Taylor, of Enid, who served as a
The lawsuit claims DHS "bears the responsibility for having operated — and continuing to operate — a foster care system in which children routinely become victims of DHS's failures."
DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said DHS officials have not yet seen the lawsuit and would not comment on it at this time.
DHS caseworkers are regularly assigned caseloads of more than 50 children each and sometimes as many as 100 children, when national standards call for limiting caseloads to 12 to 15 cases per worker, the lawsuit states.
"As a result, caseworkers cannot make required visits with foster children and caregivers, and cannot adequately monitor child safety," the lawsuit claims.
It also claims inadequate maintenance payments to foster parents contribute to a shortage of foster homes.
"For the past five years, Oklahoma has been among the worst three states in the nation, and for two years the very worst in the nation, in its rate of 'abuse in care' of foster children," the lawsuit states.
DHS officials have said in the past it is unfair to compare Oklahoma's child abuse rates with rates in other states because different states have different definitions of what constitutes child abuse.
Naomi was routinely separated from her siblings, who were also in DHS custody, and DHS employees failed to
They also state that DHS moved Naomi four times within seven months,