Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's a CRIME that an abusive foster parent can apply successfully to several different agencies

Foster mom was cited
Agency found 'unexplained' scars on girl later killed in arson attack
Jewett, Christina. Sacramento Bee, Jan. 16, 2008, pg. B3.

A cross honoring arson victim Amariana Crenshaw, 4, marks the house where she died. An agency says it had started decertifying her foster mother because of violations.

The foster mother who cared for the 4-year-old girl killed in an arson attack early Friday had been cited for "unexplained" scars and bruises on the little girl's face, for locking her refrigerator and having deadbolts on all the bedroom and bathroom doors in her North Natomas home, public records show.

The foster family agency that discovered the violations in April – Homes with Heart – was in the process of decertifying Tracy Dossman as a foster mother. However, Dossman stopped communicating with the agency and became certified by another foster family agency, said Jennifer Neutzling, director of Homes with Heart.

"The lock on refrigerator, the locks on the door – everything you have in front of you," Neutzling said, referring to findings by state authorities that also say the temperature in the home was 62 degrees and that toxic substances were accessible to foster children. "Those are very serious allegations."

Officials at the state Department of Social Services, which oversees foster care licensing, said officials investigated the allegations and decided they did not threaten a child's safety.

"Sadly, a 4-year-old is no longer with us," said Shirley Washington, a spokeswoman for state Social Services. "But I don't know … that (these reports) would be a glaring alert that something was awry with the foster mother." (Umm.... would you want YOUR child to live with this woman?)

Criminal investigators stressed Tuesday that Dossman has been cooperative and is not a suspect in the search for who dropped an incendiary device into her home on Sweet Pea Way in Natomas just after 3:30 a.m. Friday, killing little Amariana Crenshaw.

The foster agency that now works with Dossman, Positive Option Family Service, did not return a call for comment Tuesday, but released a statement saying Dossman "has been a model foster parent with our agency" and has "experienced what can only be called every parent's worst nightmare."

Dossman, who had been in the process of adopting Amariana, has not responded to numerous requests for comment.

Court records show Dossman filed a restraining order against the child's biological mother in 2006, saying she threatened to "burn my house down." She also had gone to court and had sheriff's deputies evict tenants from the Sweet Pea Way home the day before the fire.

"We're taking it all in, really trying to get at the heart of all these different allegations and determine which motive is the most likely that someone would try to kill someone over," said Graham Barlowe, agent in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Sacramento.

Sacramento County Child Protective Services officials refused to comment Tuesday on Dossman's record or discuss department policy on foster family oversight. Lynn Frank, county Department of Health and Human Services director, said she was "appalled" at questions over the case.

Efforts to reach Dossman – including dropping off a letter at her home and calling her cell phone – were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Complaints investigated by the state against Dossman began in April 2005 and ended in April 2007, a period during which she was certified as a foster mother by three different agencies.

While certified by the Growing Alternatives foster family agency, Dossman was cited in April 2005 for not being home to accept a child from the bus after school.

"According to those interviewed, child #1 was returned to the school a minimum of two times because there was no one in the home to accept her," the complaint findings say.

Another substantiated complaint filed at the same time said a foster child under Dossman's care wore inadequate and dirty clothing. Also at that time, allegations – which later were deemed "inconclusive" – were made that a child was not given enough to eat and slept on the floor.

At the time, Dossman was licensed to care for as many as 20 children.

By February 2007 Dossman was licensed by Homes with Heart to care for four children in her upscale two-story home on Pop Becker Drive in North Natomas, documents show.

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