Oklahoma DHS left baby with mother despite drug use

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services received a call when Tamberlynn Wheeler of Seminole was born because both the baby and her mother had drugs in their systems.
BY RANDY ELLIS rellis@opubco.com Published: October 2, 2011
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Powell said DHS reviews all death cases, but she didn't know whether any workers were found to have violated policies in Tamberlynn's case or whether any worker was disciplined. Powell said she also didn't know whether Erb or Wheeler participated in recommended treatment programs.

At the time of Tamberlynn's Dec. 31, 2007, birth, Erb tested positive for benzodiazepine, marijuana and an antidepressant, DHS reported. The baby tested positive for marijuana.

The father was questioned and admitted to a history of methamphetamine and marijuana abuse, saying he had last used methamphetamine about two or three years earlier and had last used marijuana about a month earlier, the Commission on Children and Youth reported.

DHS workers reported they confirmed allegations of substance abuse by Erb and failure to protect by Wheeler as the allegations pertained to the neglect of Tamberlynn. However they found the allegation of substance abuse by Erb as it pertained to the neglect of Tamberlynn's sibling was “unsubstantiated.”

“According to the OKDHS documentation, the drug use by Ms. Erb and Mr. Wheeler Jr. did not affect their abilities to parent Tamberlynn's sibling,” the report said. “Further documentation found that the OKDHS recommended that Ms. Erb and Mr. Wheeler Jr. participate in a drug and alcohol assessment, and follow through with all the recommendations made by the service provider.”

Tamberlynn's birth was not the first time DHS received a report of alleged child endangerment regarding Erb and Wheeler.

Six months before Tamberlynn was born, DHS received a complaint that her sibling had been exposed to domestic violence when Wheeler allegedly threw a knife at Erb after another man in the home had flirted with her.

A DHS worker interviewed the couple, four relatives and two other witnesses, all of whom denied that Wheeler had thrown a knife at Erb.

“Reportedly, the family resided with relatives and the relatives did not allow the couple to engage in physical altercations in the home and/or around Tamberlynn's sibling,” the commission's report said.

The DHS worker noted that Wheeler “drank an excessive amount of alcohol and that it caused him to be argumentative.”

The couple split for a while and Erb moved to California after the incident. Erb visited an emergency room in California due to problems with her pregnancy and tested positive for marijuana at that time, the report said.

“Ms. Erb did not receive prenatal care, was in an abusive relationship with the father of Tamberlynn's sibling, and was observed with a burn on her back,” the report said.

Erb told a DHS worker she suffered the injury when she was burned with a torch.

After Tamberlynn's death, the parental rights of Erb and Wheeler to her sibling were terminated. Parental rights to a third child, born later in California, also were terminated.



According to the OKDHS documen-

tation, the drug use

by Ms. Erb

and Mr. Wheeler, Jr. did not

affect their abilities

to parent Tamberlynn's sibling.”

the Commission on Children and Youth reported

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