Oklahoma lawmaker, task force question DHS decision to remove boy from home
A legislative task force plans to look into why DHS kept a 5-year-old boy away from his parents after his baby brother died, but did not act to remove the children of the baby's sitter.
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Nov 23The Oklahoman's Randy Ellis interviews Jason Nelson.
Nov 23An 8-month-old baby died in March from blunt force trauma...
Nov 3The Oklahoman's Nolan Clay addresses the Jacob Hedger...
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It took so long to reunite the (Hedger) family that it's really disturbing. This is a child that started to not do well in school. He was a great student. His mother is a teacher. It was really traumatic.”
Rep. Jason Nelson
“It just didn't make sense to me,” said Rep. Jason Nelson, who is head of the task force looking into policies at the state Department of Human Services.
The baby, Jacob “Jake” Ryan Hedger, stopped breathing after being at the baby sitter's home for seven hours March 8. He died the next day. He was almost 9 months old. The death has been ruled a homicide.
His brother, Sam Hedger, spent more than two months away from his parents, Zane and Leah Hedger.
The baby sitter, Traci Kramer, 41, has four children, including two sons, then 8 and 9, records show. DHS did close her unlicensed home day care, but did not seek removal of her own children from her home.
Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said, “My reading of the policies and the law is that no other kid should have ever been removed. The baby sitter's kids or the surviving brother should have not been removed.”
“It took so long to reunite the (Hedger) family that it's really disturbing,” Nelson said. “This is a child that started to not do well in school. He was a great student. His mother is a teacher. It was really traumatic. What I'm told and understand is the injury most likely had to have occurred while at the baby sitter's house ... I've talked to other doctors about it, granted not forensic experts, but some emergency room doctors that have said that an injury like that would likely have had to have happened within an hour or two before she found him in that condition ... None of the kids should have been removed. It's disturbing why the one was removed.”
Sam, now 6, was taken to a shelter and then was allowed to stay with his aunt until he could return home for good. DHS workers acted to keep Sam from his parents even though a hospital social worker reported on March 9 that she and a doctor “do not think the parents did this to the baby,” according to a DHS report.
Sam's aunt, Tammy Padgett, said being separated from his parents was traumatic from the start. She recalled Sam's first visit with his parents at a DHS office after he was taken from his home.
“The DHS worker was late showing up, and so I'm there with him and it was the morning after Jake died and that morning I had had to tell him that his brother was dead,” she said.
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