Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wichita grandparents say SRS failed to protect grandson

Posted on Sun, Jan. 31, 2010
The Wichita Eagle

On Dec. 28, the paternal grandfather of a 5-month-old boy took him to a Wichita police substation after seeing several bruises on the infant's face.
The baby stayed in police protective custody for a couple of days before being returned to his mother, police and the grandparents say. Then on Jan. 19 — about three weeks after the baby was back with his mother — he was admitted to a Wichita hospital with serious brain injuries. His grandparents don't expect him to survive.
On Thursday, prosecutors charged his mother, 19-year-old Courtney D. McGee, with aggravated battery and felony child abuse, alleging that she beat, shook or injured her baby in a severe and cruel way. She remained in jail under a $100,000 bond. Her attorney could not be reached for comment.
The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office did not agree with an SRS plan for releasing the boy after he was in protective custody, and prosecutors called for a follow-up investigation that SRS did not pursue, a district attorney's official said Friday.
And now the grandparents fault the child-protection system for returning the baby to his mother.
After an initial investigation involving an SRS caseworker could not rule in abuse or rule it out, the system should have erred on the side of caution and kept the boy away from his mother until the situation could be investigated further, the grandparents say.
"It was so preventable," the grandfather said.
For privacy reasons, the grandparents asked that their names not be used. They said they were speaking for their 18-year-old son, the baby's father.
SRS is criticized
Their case is the latest of three ongoing cases across the state where families have publicly accused the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) of failing to protect children who were killed or severely injured.
At the same time, some of the loudest criticism of SRS continues to come from people who contend that the agency wrongly removes many children from their families — the opposite of the grandparents' concerns.
SRS spokeswoman Michelle Ponce said Friday that in each case, the agency "must weigh the emotional harm to the child from being removed from the home against the likelihood of harm if he were to remain in the home. It's always a difficult decision."
A timeline
The grandfather provided this timeline: On Dec. 23, the grandparents picked up their grandson and his mother and went to a mall to have pictures taken with Santa. When the grandparents dropped off the mother and child later at her Goddard home, "everything was fine," he said.
The next day, Dec. 24, the mother told the grandparents that her son had been slamming his face against his crib, the grandparents said.
On Christmas Day, when the grandparents picked up the boy, they saw bruises on his face and took pictures of the marks.
"It was bad enough that everyone that had seen it wanted to cry," the grandfather said. "It was obvious what had happened ... some type of blunt force to his face or squeezing or something."
After debating about the situation with family and close friends, on the night of Dec. 28, after the mother requested that her son be returned home, the grandfather took his grandson to the Patrol South station on South Broadway, the grandfather said. A sheriff's deputy came to pick up the child so he could be put in protective custody.
"That was absolutely the hardest thing I had ever done. Because I knew it would be a long time before I would ever get to see him again," the grandfather said. "But I knew it was the right thing. I had to do it for him."
That way, the boy would be safe, he says he thought at the time.
He said his grandson remained in protective custody until around Dec. 31, when the baby went back to his mother.
Capt. Russell Leeds, with the Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit, confirmed that the 5-month-old boy went back to his mother after being in protective custody for up to 72 hours, and that services were being provided to her through SRS.
DA's perspective
Ron Paschal, deputy district attorney for the juvenile division, said the DA's Office had "ongoing concerns" about the safety of the child and the "nature and extent and location of injuries," and did not approve of the SRS plan for releasing the boy after he was in protective custody.
Instead, prosecutors requested additional investigation by SRS, including an evaluation by a nationally recognized local pediatrician, Paschal said.
"We were told (by SRS) that that was not going to happen" and that the SRS was going to end its investigation, he said.
Paschal said that the DA's stance on the case was in line with its philosophy in such cases: "We follow the law ... but it's our position and policy to err on the side of protecting the child."
Ponce, the SRS spokeswoman, said she doesn't know details of the case and can't comment on it because of confidentiality laws.
Generally, she said, during an investigation after a child is put in protective custody, the social worker assigned to the case would speak to "anybody who would have pertinent information," possibly including a doctor, and recommend to the court whether the child should be removed from his home.
Family's perspective
The decision to return the boy to his mother appears to have rested on a state social worker's relying on a doctor's finding that abuse couldn't be ruled in or out, according to the grandmother.
"The medical system also failed him," the grandfather said. There is evidence of old injuries, he said. "They missed it."
Until it could be sorted out, the baby could have remained with his grandparents or been kept at a foster home, the grandmother said.
"That's all I ask: Be sure. And if they were sure, we wouldn't be doing this."
She said the SRS caseworker told her that "hindsight is 20/20," that the caseworker "wished she would have known then what she knew now," that a doctor couldn't prove it was abuse and couldn't prove it wasn't "and that was a big part of her assessment."
"And her I can forgive," the grandmother said. "A very tough job she has. But even though it's a tough job ... caution should go with the child... . It was a bad call, and she knows it was a bad all. I can't imagine how she's going to feel if he dies."
The grandfather said: "I have seen this woman's face, and you can tell she's tore up about it."
The grandparents say their grandson has sustained multiple "bleeds" in his brain and has been breathing with the help of a ventilator.
Although the grandparents say they have been praying for a miracle, they don't expect their grandson to survive.
"He's going to pass, it's just a matter of when," his grandfather said Friday.
"We just know he's going to be in God's hands, that's all we know," his grandmother added.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or

Read more:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Kansas Lawsuit Against Social Workers, Judge, County Attorney ETC... Woodward et al v. DCCCA Inc. et al

Judge Rebecca Lindamood on left is listed on this lawsuit.

Woodward et al v. DCCCA Inc. et al

James W. Woodward and Destiny Brown

DCCCA Inc., CASA, Randy Kauffman, Rebecca Lindamood, Charles Hart, Cheryl M. Pierce, Darrin C. Devinney, Kathleen Sebelius, Don Jordon, Deb Maaeir, Jennifer Wiebe, Loresa Lewis, Phyllis K. Webster, Janet Jacobs, Marry Lee Armstrong, Leslie Jensby, David McElhiney, Kelly Elliott, Tanya Lynn, Kristine Wilscam, Carmel Poor, Tom McDowell and Joshua Andrews

Case Number:
December 24, 2009

Kansas District Court
Wichita Office [ Court Info ]
XX US, Outside State
Presiding Judge:
District Judge J. Thomas Marten
Referring Judge:
Magistrate Judge Karen M. Humphreys

Nature of Suit:
Civil Rights - Other Civil Rights
42:1983 Civil Rights Act
Federal Question
Jury Demanded By:
Amount Demanded:

Magistrate Judge: Rebecca LindamoodGreenwood County Magistrate Court
311 N. MainEureka, KS 67045
Ph: 620-583-8155

Also listed in this lawsuit is the Secretary of SRS Don Jordan

and former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius

What about Judge Lindamood?

She has a history of kicking kids out of school and forcing them to get a GED.

Article from 2005:
Kansas Judge Is Ordering Teens To Drop Out Of School
KAKE On Your Side Investigation
Reporter: Jeff Golimowski
Judge Orders Teens To Drop Out Of School
Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005

A judge stands in the way of a hardworking, earnest girl trying to finish school. She’s not alone.
Graduation Day: It’s supposed to be one of the proudest days of a person’s life, a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment for hard work. Jessica won’t have one.
Jessica is a foster kid, who wished to remain unidentified. She should be a high school senior, but a judge told her to drop out.
A lot of Kansas kids can’t wait to get out of school. The girl we met fought to stay in. But, she lost in court, now her future is in doubt. A system dedicated to making kids’ lives better failed to help her.
Harold and Pam Walker have taken in more than 40 foster kids. The Walkers treat their charges like their own.
“They want you to create good memories and stand up for your kids and get them to do what’s right,” said Pam Walker.
Jessica’s been with the Walkers for almost a year after being removed from her parents by SRS. She had been having problems at El Dorado High. But, as soon as she got to the Walker’s and enrolled at Goddard High, things started turning around.
Jessica will turn 18 Nov. 4. At 18, a ward of the state can be released from SRS custody. Judge Rebecca Lindamood, a magistrate judge in Butler County who’s in charge of Jessica’s case, sees a problem.
Apparently, if a child hasn’t graduated by the time they’re 18, they’re going to lose them. The solution, according to Lindamood, is to force her out of school and into a GED.
“Most people that hear GED hear you’re a quitter,” said Harold Walker.
Jessica is not a quitter. She even found a way to graduate six months ahead of schedule. Not good enough.
“The judge said if I didn’t get my GED, she would pull me out of this home,” said Jessica.
For the Walkers, this is too familiar.
“I really didn’t make an effort,” said Johnathan Alvord, a former foster kid. “So, instead of trying to keep me in, they made me go take a GED.”
Alvord had truancy issues at 16. Lindamood’s decision, again, was to let him out of class.
Alvord said, looking back, he agrees. Though he said he could’ve graduated had he been forced to stay in. He spent the next two years looking for work. His GED was nearly useless.
We went to SRS headquarters in Topeka for answers. It’s against SRS policy for the agency to talk about specific cases. But we asked program manager Deanne Dinkel how the system is supposed to work.
“We always encourage our youth to be very involved with their educational goals,” said Dinkel.
So someone in Jessica’s position, who desperately wants to graduate, should be helped to succeed, according to the SRS. But, it’s not up to SRS. The ultimate decision for kids like Jessica is left in the hands of judges.
Lindamood made helping kids in SRS get an education part of her campaign. Yet state law seals every SRS case. Her constituents have no way of knowing the decisions she’s making. We tried to talk to Lindamood. The Kansas state court system responded, saying Lindamood was unable to respond because it involves a child in need of care case. They said Lindamood, as with other judges presiding over children in need of care, put education of the child as the highest priority.
Jessica has taken the tests for her GED and is now awaiting her results.
Friday is Jessica’s 18th birthday. Another court hearing is her present. She’ll be back in front of Lindamood, possibly for the final time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Overhaul of Kansas foster-care system urged

Posted on Wed, Jan. 13, 2010 10:55 PM

The Star’s Topeka correspondent

TOPEKA Legislation to end Kansas’ privatized foster care system is the latest volley from lawmakers who say the state lacks oversight over the contractors managing such child welfare services.
Dozens of parents who lost custody of their children have complained to lawmakers in recent weeks that the state and its contractor caseworkers remove children without giving sufficient reason or the chance to appeal.
The legislation would stop the state from signing new deals with the foster care contractors. The Johnson County lawmaker behind the new legislation said it’s meant to force contractors to answer questions if they want to keep the state’s business.
“We’re certainly going to get their attention,” said Rep. Mike Kiegerl, an Olathe Republican. “There’s a lack of oversight, a lack of transparency. Nobody ought to have the kind of power these caseworkers have.”
The contractors and the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services say they’re happy to address lawmakers’ concerns.
They note that local police and judges also play a key role in deciding when a child should be removed.
SRS officials promised to investigate the complaints raised by parents. But they stand by the privatized system, which was the first of its kind in the United States when it began in 1996.
“We feel like we have made a lot of accomplishments since privatization,” said SRS spokeswoman Michelle Ponce.
Kyle Kessler, a spokesman for contractor KVC Behavioral HealthCare, said his company will “provide any information that is requested.”
To reach David Klepper, call 785-354-1388 or send e-mail to
Posted on Wed, Jan. 13, 2010 10:55 PM

Grandparents Sue SRS Social Worker Over Granddaugher's Beating Death

Read more:

Coffeyville couple sues SRS worker after granddaughter's beating death


The Wichita Eagle

A family's lawsuit accuses a state social worker of gross negligence, saying she failed to protect a 23-month-old Coffeyville girl beaten to death by her
father's meth-addicted girlfriend.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday, accuses SRS social worker Linda
Gillen of not taking steps to remove Brooklyn Coons and her brother from a
dangerous household after the maternal grandparents repeatedly raised concerns
about injuries to Brooklyn.

The lawsuit — brought by Brooklyn's maternal grandparents, Larry and Mary
Crosetto — contends Gillen "failed to act to protect their grandchildren because
of a pre-existing grudge." The grudge involved actions the Crosettos took years
earlier in their adoption of Brooklyn's mother, Angela Crosetto Coons, the
lawsuit says.

Brooklyn's death is a case of a social worker who remained determined to keep
children with a parent even when it put the children at serious risk, the
lawsuit contends. Other agencies that could have protected Brooklyn deferred to
SRS because they thought the social worker was taking steps to monitor the girl,
it says.

In an interview, Larry Crosetto said Gillen, a licensed social worker with
the Coffeyville office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation
Services (SRS), "was aware there was a situation in that home. She didn't
investigate and find out what the situation was.

"What we hope to do is get SRS to act in these situations ... and prevent it
from happening to another family," Crosetto said.

SRS won't comment because of the pending litigation, spokeswoman Michelle
Ponce said Friday.

Gillen remains employed as an SRS social worker, Ponce said.

Gillen could not be reached for comment.

The litigation is filed in federal court because of the argument that
Brooklyn and her survivors were denied their constitutional rights by the state,
said Randy Rathbun, a Wichita lawyer and former U.S. attorney for Kansas who is
representing the Crosettos in their lawsuit.

The Kansas Attorney General's Office prosecuted the girlfriend in Brooklyn's
death, which occurred on Jan. 20, 2008. The girlfriend later married Brooklyn's
father. On Dec. 30, 2009, a judge sentenced Melissa Wells Coons to life in
prison for the murder of Brooklyn.

The same day the judge sentenced Melissa Coons, Brooklyn's father, Randy
Coons, was charged with aggravated child endangerment, said Ashley Anstaett,
spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.

The lawsuit against Gillen seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

The first loss

The Crosettos had dealt with a tragic loss less than six months before their
granddaughter's murder. On Aug. 9, 2007, Brooklyn's mother, Angela Coons, died
of a sudden illness at a Wichita hospital. She was 24.

Angela Coons had moved her small children — Brooklyn and son Christian, now 7
— to be with her in Wichita just weeks before she died, Larry Crosetto said.
Angela Coons was working in Wichita as a Comcare caseworker.

After their daughter became ill, the Crosettos rushed to Wichita. After she
died, they brought their grandchildren back to their Coffeyville home, Crosetto

Before Angela Coons moved to Wichita, she had left Randy Coons and moved in
with her parents. Because Angela was busy completing her degree at Pittsburg
State University, the Crosettos had "practically raised" their grandchildren,
Larry Crosetto said.

The weekend after they buried their daughter, their son-in-law, Randy Coons,
showed up on their front porch with two Coffeyville police officers and demanded
to take the children, Crosetto said. The son-in-law moved the children in with
him and his girlfriend, Melissa Wells.

"Within a week of the kids being put into that home, Brooklyn showed up on a
weekend with her lip stitched together," Crosetto said.

A narrative, timeline

The lawsuit provides this timeline:

In the fall of 2007, the Crosettos started seeing bruises on Brooklyn, and
their granddaughter received medical treatment twice for suspicious

"The Crosettos began to get more and more concerned about the bruises on
their grandchildren," the lawsuit says.

On Nov. 5, 2007, school officials told Gillen, the SRS social worker, that
Christian had bruising that looked suspicious, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit narrative: The next day, Larry Crosetto tried to
reach Gillen about the bruising, but got no return call, so he tried to contact
her again on Nov. 14, 15 and 16, eventually reaching her on Nov. 20. Gillen said
she had interviewed a school official, the children's father, his girlfriend and
Christian. Gillen indicated she had been at the girlfriend's home, the lawsuit

Gillen said a case had been opened and she would make a recommendation in
about 30 days. "She refused to discuss the suspected drug situation in the
home," the lawsuit says.

Crosetto said the grandchildren remained with the girlfriend during the week;
the grandparents got the children on weekends. They would exchange the children
in the front yard of the girlfriend's home. He said he wasn't allowed

He became concerned about the conditions in the house, noticing that the
children had rashes that appeared to be from fleas and that they looked "filthy
dirty" every Friday night when he or his wife picked them up.

"Sometimes it was hard to tell if it was bruises or dirt," he said.

"I tried everything to find out what was going on inside that house," said
Crosetto, a 62-year-old accountant.

He said he began taking pictures to document injuries he saw.

Escalating situation

The situation got worse.

On Dec. 10, 2007, the lawsuit says, Crosetto called Gillen again because the
"bruising and marks were beginning to escalate. She told Crosetto to call the
police as it was her duty to try to protect the family and keep it together.
Larry asked for an appointment to visit about her duty to protect the

On Dec. 12, 2007, Crosetto sought help from school officials. "Their position
was that SRS had taken control of the situation and it was out of their hands,"
the lawsuit says.

On Sunday Dec. 23, the Crosettos' doctor noticed bruises on Brooklyn's face
while she was at church, and he thought SRS should be notified. The doctor
recommended that Larry Crosetto have another doctor examine Brooklyn the next
day. On Dec. 24, the second doctor saw the girl, called police and sent a letter
to the Coffeyville SRS office asking that "they investigate the situation and
get back to him."

Gillen did not respond to the letter, the lawsuit says. But that same day the
doctor called police, a Coffeyville police officer took a report from Crosetto
in the doctor's office and said he would contact the prosecutor's office when it
opened after the holiday, Crosetto said.

"I was under the understanding that the Police Department was trying ... to
intervene, that the roadblock was SRS," Crosetto said.

The Crosettos believed Brooklyn was in danger.

"I was scared to death," Crosetto said.

The grandparents met with Gillen at her office on Dec. 28, and Larry Crosetto
offered a CD showing Brooklyn's injuries. Gillen refused to accept it, saying it
would be a police matter, the lawsuit said.

"The meeting became heated when it became apparent to the Crosettos that the
defendant had some animus against them and was not going to do anything to
protect the children. Mr. Crosetto made it clear that he was afraid she was not
going to do anything until one of his grandchildren was killed."

And then the worst happened. On Jan. 17, 2008 — 20 days after the Crosettos
expressed their fears to Gillen — Coffeyville police responded to a 911 call
about Brooklyn. She was unresponsive, and she was in the care of Wells. Police
saw head trauma and bruises.

Doctors found that Brooklyn's brain was bleeding as a result of her being
struck on the head, and she had brain damage from being shaken, the lawsuit

The day after the 911 call, it says, police put three other children from the
home of Wells and Randy Coons into protective custody because of "deplorable"
living conditions and because of the fatal injuries to Brooklyn.

The lawsuit says that the Police Department didn't take more steps to protect
Brooklyn and the other children before Jan. 18, 2008, "as it reasonably believed
that the defendant was undertaking her statutory obligations to safeguard" the

The lawsuit argues that Gillen's "conduct increased the danger to (Brooklyn)
from the meth addicted girlfriend."

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Grandmother: How did SRS lose child?

BY TIM POTTER, The Wichita Eagle Today at 7:31 a.m.
Long before someone beat 2-year-old Damion Thomas to death in Wichita in 2008, the state saw signs he was at risk.Read more:

Grandmother: How did SRS lose child?

The Wichita Eagle
Mike Hutmacher/The Wichita Eagle
Jackie Thomas, grandmother of 2-year-old Damion Thomas, who died 2008.

Mike Hutmacher/The Wichita Eagle
Jackie Thomas, grandmother of 2-year-old Damion Thomas, keeps mementos of the boy in and near her Bible.
Long before someone beat 2-year-old Damion Thomas to death in Wichita in 2008, the state saw signs he was at risk.
When he and his twin brother were born, they tested positive for marijuana, says their paternal grandmother, Jackie Thomas. The twins also failed to gain weight.
So the state's child-welfare agency — the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services — began monitoring the boys and trying to help their young mother, Shaneekwa Saunders, Thomas said.
But when Damion most needed a safety net, it wasn't there, Thomas said.
Saunders and her small children moved from Kansas City, Kan., to Wichita in late 2007, Thomas said. SRS closed its cases involving the family because it couldn't locate them, a court document says.
Although SRS said it couldn't find Damion and the other children, it was paying for their day care in Wichita in the weeks leading up to his death, according to state records.
If anyone had been checking on Damion in the months before he died — if anyone saw any part of his body — they would have seen injuries, Thomas said.
An autopsy found that Damion suffered abuse for months leading up to a fatal beating.
Thomas said she didn't see her grandson for about a year before he died because after the move to Wichita, she couldn't find her grandchildren and their mother. Thomas learned of his injuries after he died.
She said she can't understand why SRS appears to have stopped checking on Damion and why it said it couldn't find him if it was paying for his day care.
"How can you have a child on your radar ... and just lose him?" she asked.
"From day one" after she got word that Damion was on life support in a Wichita hospital, Thomas said, she faulted SRS.
"They need to be held accountable," she said.
SRS spokeswoman Michelle Ponce said she can't comment on Damion because of privacy issues and because of pending charges in his death. The mother's boyfriend has been charged with first-degree murder.
In general, Ponce said, if SRS is involved with a child at birth, the agency would rarely investigate the case two years later unless it received additional reports of child-welfare concerns.
Anytime a child becomes a homicide victim, it is standard practice for SRS to review any of its involvement with the child's family, she said.
"I think the most important thing that needs to come out of a story like this is that people need to not be afraid to become involved" in reporting signs of possible abuse, Ponce said.
According to an autopsy report, Damion had new and old injuries, including a possible bite mark and bruises and scars, from head to toe. He also had extensive internal injuries.
Police said his twin had been beaten as well, but not as severely.
The autopsy concluded that Damion died "as a result of multiple blunt force injuries. The manner of death is homicide."
Damion died on Sept. 20, 2008.
Searching for the kids
Thomas, 42, who lives in the Kansas City area, said she came to Wichita in July or August of 2008 and spent two fruitless days looking for her grandchildren.
She knew only that Saunders and her children were living with Saunders' boyfriend — DeWhite Cameron.
Cameron had a long criminal record before he was charged with first-degree murder in Damion's death and aggravated battery over injuries to Damion's twin. Pending is a determination of whether Cameron is mentally competent to stand trial.
Thomas said that around the spring of 2008, months before Damion died, she called SRS offices in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita in an effort to see her grandchildren. She said she told the offices that Saunders and her children were in Wichita, though she didn't know their address.
At the time Damion died, the family was living in a small corner house on Erie, near 13th and Hillside.
The Kansas City office didn't know Saunders and her children had left the Kansas City area, and the Wichita office wouldn't tell her anything, Thomas said.
To Thomas, it doesn't make sense that SRS lost the children because by the summer of 2008 the agency was paying a Wichita woman to provide day care for the Thomas children through an assistance program. If SRS knew where to find the children's day care provider, then it could locate the children and resume its monitoring of them, she said.
Thomas knows that SRS was paying for day care because the SRS Wichita office mailed a document dated Aug. 6, 2008 — about a month and a half before Damion died — to Saunders at a Kansas City, Kan., address.
The document gave the name of the Wichita day care provider and said the provider was being paid $794.20 for August to care for four small Thomas children, including Damion and his twin.
Twins monitored early
Because of SRS concerns about the twins after they were born, the children and their mother were supposed to stay with Thomas or with their maternal grandmother, who lived in Wichita, Thomas said. For much of the first half of the twins' lives, they lived with Thomas, she said.
Earlier in the twins' lives, "SRS was checking on the kids," Thomas said. "They were in her (Saunders') life."
SRS made home visits, and scales were used to weigh the twins when they lived in Kansas City, Kan., Thomas said.
Saunders had to take parenting classes, and she received assistance including clothing and diapers, Thomas said.
After moving to Wichita, Saunders ended up living with the boyfriend, Thomas said.
When she reached Saunders by phone, Saunders said she was staying in Wichita because she was receiving SRS assistance, Thomas said.
Thomas said that when she tried to contact Saunders again, closer to the time Damion died, the boyfriend said Saunders didn't want to talk to her.
Court documents show that for at least the last 5 1/2 months of his life, Damion was living with Cameron, the boyfriend. He is not the father of any of Saunders' children.
According to a transcript of Saunders' guilty plea to aggravated child endangerment, she admitted leaving her children with Cameron while she worked, from April 1 to Sept. 18, 2008.
She said Cameron was abusing her and her children, and that she knew they were in danger.
After the boy's death, SRS investigated the day care provider to determine whether she "was actually providing care and if so, was she aware of the past alleged abuse or was she only providing the child care in name only and we may have possible fraud," according to an internal SRS e-mail received by The Eagle.
Fraud can occur when parents conspire with providers to split day care assistance money without sending the children to day care.
The Eagle reported in November that the day care provider said she didn't see Damion and the other Thomas children for about three weeks before he died.
It's unclear whether SRS or authorities have determined whether fraud occurred in Damion's case. The issue remains under review, Ponce said.
Memories, aftermath
Early one morning in September 2008, Thomas got a call saying her grandchildren had been critically injured.
She came to Wichita and learned that Damion had been unresponsive since he arrived at the hospital and that he was probably going to be taken off life support.
Now, Thomas clings to a few tangible reminders: Damion's crayon-and-pen scribbling; a slip of paper with his hospital room number; and framed prints of his foot and hand made shortly before he died.
Thomas said she doesn't know the status of her surviving grandchildren. SRS said it can't comment.
At Saunders' sentencing on June 2, 2009, she received probation.
According to a transcript of the sentencing, her attorney, Chrystal Krier, said it was possible that Saunders, now 25, would regain custody of her surviving children.
"I would also just like the court to know she is working with SRS and she's been attending parenting classes, and she's now able to see her kids on Thursdays, and hopefully within a couple of months she'll be able to get her kids back," Krier said.
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or more: