“Then the worker in … their visitation room got on to Leah because they were crying. She pulled her aside and she said, ‘This is supposed to not be teary. You're not supposed to be crying. This is supposed to be a happy visit for him.' And, Leah said, ‘His baby brother just died, you know, our baby just died. He's got to process that grief.' You know, just wacky stuff.”
Padgett said she once asked a DHS official why the baby sitter's four children were not picked up. She said she was told: “We knew that if we picked both sets of children up, we would be 50 percent wrong.”
Also traumatic for Sam was that he witnessed the baby sitter trying to revive his baby brother. Sam was at the home after spending the morning in kindergarten. He told investigators the baby sitter was worried because his brother wouldn't wake up.
A DHS spokeswoman, Sheree Powell, said Sam was removed because of safety concerns. She said an assistant district attorney had to agree with the recommendation and a judge ordered the removal.
“We worked with the family until the concerns were resolved,” Powell said.
“Our hearts go out to the Hedgers for the tragic death of their son,” she said. “We understand their frustrations over the removal of their son.”
She did not directly address why the Kramer children were not removed. Instead, she said, “Ages and verbal abilities of children are factors in determining if safety concerns exist and whether or not children may be at risk of abuse or neglect.”
She said DHS will discuss the case with Nelson and two other legislators who had concerns.
Nelson questions whether DHS is inconsistent in its training of workers. He recalled talking this summer with a group of 15 to 18 DHS child welfare workers from across the state about how the intake process works.
“Pretty soon the whole room had melted down with disagreement,” he said.
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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