Cradle to Grave City yanks 4 children after tragedy Newsday - Long Island, N.Y.
Author: By M.P. McQueen. Date: Mar 9, 1992
The Child Welfare Administration yanked four children from a Bronx woman's home after her infant son died in a cradle that later was recalled by federal authorities because of its link to child deaths.
When child welfare officials found out about the Feb. 24 recall, they still refused to take the children out of foster care, even though the police and medical examiner concluded the infant showed no signs of
abuse or neglect.
The medical examiner ruled that 8-week-old George Scott Mitchell II died of "positional asphyxia" - the baby was unable to breathe aftershifting in the cradle, and was not strong enough to move himself into
a position where he could.
The convertible battery-powered cradle and swing in which the baby died, the Graco Converta-Cradle III, was recalled by the manufacturer, Graco Children's Products, under an order from the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission after two infants were found dead in the cradle and two others developed breathing difficulties and had to be revived.
Bien King, 39, a legal secretary who lives in the Gun Hill Houses project, said child welfare officials charged her with neglect and seized four of her children, ranging from 5 to 13 years old, a month
after the baby died in the Graco cradle Dec. 8. Another child who is 15 is in school in Pennsylvania.
The children were not returned to her even after the widely publicized national recall of 169,000 cradles.
King says that although she informed CWA officials of the circumstances of the recall and requested the children back, CWA has shown no indication it intends to reunite the family before the next
hearing date in Bronx Family Court, set for April 3. Citing confidentiality laws, CWA officials refused to comment on the case.
"The children are homesick and they're sad. And one thing that they are starting to do that they never did before is they've started to not want to go to school," King said. King said events leading up to the tragedy began last summer, when, pregnant with her sixth child and briefly hospitalized to prevent a
miscarriage, she asked CWA to provide her with home care assistance. King acknowledged that the baby's father, who is no longer living with the family, was struggling with drug addiction and that there were conflicts between him and her oldest son.
King said the homemaker that the agency sent had a drug problem herself. By the time the baby was born Oct. 12, King said she had asked for a replacement and that the initial homemaker had stopped
coming. King said that on the day of the tragedy, a Sunday, she spent the morning in her bedroom with the baby. At about 12:45 in the afternoon, she decided to make a trip to the grocery store. She said she told her 13-year-old son to watch the baby, who was sleeping in the crib.
King said that she returned shortly before 2 o'clock and found her children playing video games in the living room. They told her the baby was fine and hadn't awakened.
But when she went to the bedroom, "I could see the cradle was tilted at an extreme angle and the baby was entirely at one end. At first I thought he was just in an uncomfortable position and when I went to
turn him, I saw his face was blue and distorted. His color was terrible. He wasn't moving at all. He wasn't breathing." She said his face was pressed against a vinyl-covered foam bumper that lined the
inside of the cradle. The baby was taken by ambulance to North Central Bronx Hospital, where
attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. On the day of the baby's funeral, Dec. 13, King said her CWA
caseworker, Rosemary Chandler, told her the agency had received an anonymous tip that she left the children alone for more than four hours on the day the baby died - a charge King vehemently denies.
Less than a month after the funeral, the agency filed a petition of neglect. CWA officials and police came to take the children Jan. 7. A medical examiner's report dated Jan. 13 said the infant showed no
evidence of neglect or abuse, according to spokesman Ellen Borakove. The report entered the manner of death as an "accident" owing to an "awkward lie in cradle."
Housing Police Deputy Inspector Charles Kammerdemer said last week that police had conducted an "exhaustive investigation" and that "it doesn't appear there was anything suspicious." King said child welfare officials seem bent on blaming her for her baby's death. "The problem wasn't that the baby was being watched by a 13-year-old. The problem was that the baby was in a defective cradle. It could have happened if the baby was next to me in the cradle and I was sleeping," King said.
Human Resources Administration spokeswoman Sheila Jack acknowledged that CWA, which is overseen by HRA, has "no manual, for example, that says this age is too young or that age is too old" to baby-sit siblings. She said the caseworker, consulting with supervisors, determines whether a parent has been negligent for leaving children inthe care of an older child. Then it's up to the family court judge to
But family law attorney Bruce A. Young, without commenting on the specifics of the case, said Thursday, "You could convict half of America for having 13-year-olds as a babysitter. More troubling is
that the mother had been requesting homemaking services from the city and they placed someone not responsible and declined to place anyone else."
1) Newsday Photo by Ozier Muhammad-Bien King says officials wrongly
accused her of neglect and seized her children. Photo-2) George
Mitchell. 3) Newsday Color Cover Photo by Ozier Muhammad-Bien King
holds a photograph of her 8-week-old son, George Scott Mitchell II,
who died in a cradle Dec. 8. Illustration-Cradle with STRAIGHT LEGS
ONLY CRADLE RECALLED-STOP USING IMMEDIATELY!; Bronx Mom. Give Me Back My Kids. City Put Four In Foster Care After Her Baby's Death In a Cradle
Now Being Recalled. Newsday Color Cover Photo by Ozier Muhammad-Bien
King holds a photograph of her 8-week-old son, George Scott Mitchell
II, who died in a cradle Dec. 8. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further
reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.