STOCKTON — Spiders crawled up her tiny limbs, as monkeys danced and bunnies hopped about.
Her fingers curled up in jagged spasms, her belly shook violently, and her pupils grew nearly as wide as her big brown eyes. Her heart pumped as fast as it could to cope with the methamphetamine coursing through her 33-pound body.
Little Mariah, a 3-year-old born in Berkeley, was “tweaking again,” her foster brother would tell investigators — detailing the extended hallucinations and body convulsions in the hours before she died on Oct. 16, 2015.
Again. Thirteen days earlier, just days after her new foster parents took Mariah and her older brother Jeremyah into their Stockton home, the agitated girl was rushed to the emergency room where doctors found traces of meth in her system.
At the time, medical staff decided Mariah had ingested the drug while living with her biological mother in Oakland, San Joaquin County prosecutors say. The girl was treated then returned to the foster home. It was a death sentence.
Hundreds of pages of reports and records from San Joaquin Child Protective Services, the hospital, police and the coroner obtained by this news organization show a series of failures by the people tasked with protecting Mariah, from the social workers who chose not to remove her from the foster home after the first incident, to the doctors who appear to have accepted the foster mother’s suggestions that the drug poisoning occurred before the girl was in her care.
But a leading toxicology expert briefed on the case said no doctor or social worker should have believed that excuse. Mariah had been away from her biological mother for at least three days when she arrived at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, and such severe symptoms would surface immediately after drug ingestion, the expert said.
“I think CPS made a mistake. CPS should not have placed that child back with the foster family,” said Bruce Goldberger, University of Florida College of Medicine professor and director of toxicology.
Bill Grimm, senior attorney for Oakland’s National Center for Youth Law, said after being briefed on the case that the Child Protective Services’ decision has profound implications.
“The decision to return this child to the foster family raises serious questions about the quality of investigations conducted by the agency and is evidence of its failure to make the child’s health and safety the paramount concern,” he said. “It suggests that many other children entrusted …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News