04 January 2011

Philly DHS-outsourced relief providers fail another child

This time, a 2-month-old boy named Quasir Williams starved to death at West Philadelphia's Travelers Aid Family Services shelter, which has a video on its website homepage showing kids learning how to make meals (starting at about 10:00), and which made over $4.7 million in the fiscal year ending June, 2009.

Also involved in Quasir's family's case was Lutheran Children and Family Service, which is a big player in local foster child placement, and whose website very carefully puts the accent grave on the second e in the word clientèle. Two of the organization's caseworkers have been suspended pending an investigation. LCFS made nearly $16 million in the fiscal year ending June, 2009.

How do two trained caseworkers not notice that a 2-month-old baby isn't growing and getting fat? How did the shelter workers and volunteers not notice? Where was the post-natal care for Quasir's mother and well-baby checkups for Quasir and his twin? (Quasir leaves behind five siblings, including a twin brother.) Does the shelter not keep a pediatrician involved as part of its "intensive array" and "full continuum" of services for families? Even bare-bones Medicaid acknowledges that a baby should have been seen by a doctor three times by the time he reaches 2 months of age (PDF). Where was DHS oversight in all this?

To be clear, I'm not exculpating the mother here. But she'd been in that shelter since September, she had four kids with her when she entered, and she gave birth while living there. The way I see it, that's a lot of people who knew about Quasir and his brother, and a lot of people who were paying more attention to their holiday shopping and New Year's Eve planning than to the Williams family and their struggle.

In October, 2009, after the deaths of Danieal Kelly and Charlenny Ferreira, I asked how many more kids were going to die before the city quits outsourcing services like this. Doesn't look to me that there has been much change.

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