Deficiencies Found In Local Foster Home Where Infant Died

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ROCKDALE (September 15, 2013) -- An investigation led by Residential Childcare Licensing into a Rockdale foster home is now complete, after a 2-year-old infant died from injuries she sustained there last month.

Sherill Small (Jail photo)

The foster mother living at the home, Sherill Small, 54, was arrested last month on a warrant charging murder and remains in the Milam County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond, jail records showed.

A Milam County Grand Jury later handed up a capital murder indictment against Small.

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,” the affidavit said.

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

The contractor has nearly 70 foster homes in Central Texas. 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 Childcare Licensing began investigating Texas Mentor after Hill’s death.

Near the end of August, Texas Child Protective Services caseworkers randomly inspected 23 area foster homes operating under Texas Mentor.

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.

Residential Childcare Licensing’s investigation into Small’s home was released on Friday and cited the residence with 8 “deficiencies” or violations.

One violation said that there was a delay in calling first responders to Hill’s aid after she was initially hurt in August.

The violation reads, “The caregiver failed to use prudent judgment when she delayed calling 9-1-1 after realizing a young child in her care stopped breathing.”

It continues saying, “The caregiver called another person and waited at least 1-3 minutes before calling 9-1-1.”

A separate violation cited Small’s home for exceeding the total capacity of children she was allowed to care for on her home’s verification.

One violation says, “four times over the course of 8 months a person known to be a frequent visitor to the verified foster home needed a background check. The background check was not completed for this visitor.”

A similar violation was cited and reads, “An adult male was allowed to live in the home at the time there were children in care. The foster parents did not report the adult male to be living in the home; the adult male did not have a completed or current background check.”

Small’s home was also cited for allowing, “A sixteen year old to serve as a babysitter to children in care.” Furthermore, “the babysitter was not approved to babysit by the child placement management staff and did not have CPR training.”

The violation goes on to say that in one instance, “a 10-year-old served as babysitter while the foster parents drove to get fast food.”

For the fiscal year of 2013, 10 foster children have died under suspicious circumstances according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Texas Mentor was unavailable for comment Sunday, but 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."