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Nearly 24 Area Foster Homes Inspected After Toddler’s Death

AUSTIN (August 29, 2013)—Texas Child Protective Services caseworkers have randomly inspected 23 area foster homes in the wake of the arrest a foster mother in Rockdale, who is charged with capital murder in the death of a 2-year-old who was in her care.

Julie Moody of the Department of Family and Protective Services said Thursday caseworkers interviewed a total of 59 children in the 23 homes and removed two children from one of the homes because of the use of inappropriate discipline.

In another case, caseworkers barred a frequent visitor from a foster home until a criminal background check was performed, Moody said.

Sherill Small, 54, of Rockdale was arrested earlier this month on a warrant charging murder and remains in the Milam County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond.

The child, Alexandria Hill, 2, died at Scott & White's McLane Children's Hospital after she was taken off life support.

Smalls’ arrest affidavit says, “She became frustrated with Alexandria, picked her up, and in a downward motion with a lot of force came down toward the ground with her.”

“She did this twice and on the third time she lost her grip and the victim was thrown to the ground head first,” the affidavit said.

At McLane’s emergency room, the affidavit says, doctors found that the toddler had “subdural hemorrhaging, subarachnoid hemorrhaging, and retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes."

Small became a foster parent through Texas Mentor, a child placement agency with a dismal history.

State records show it has racked up 59 violations in the past two years.

Some of those violations center around routine background checks that weren’t corrected after inspection.

Residential Child Care Licensing has been investigating Texas Mentor since Small’s arrest.

The contractor has nearly 70 foster homes in Central Texas.

Texas Mentor sent News 10 a statement after the inspections were announced that said, “We are aware that the state has been in contact with several of our foster homes. Given the recent tragedy, we will cooperate fully."

Meanwhile Thursday retired U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack has ruled that a class-action lawsuit accusing the state of poorly supervising foster children can proceed.

She certified as a class more than 12,000 abused and neglected children permanently removed from their birth families in the suit brought by the group Children's Rights.


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