Foster-Care System Stretched Too Far

Sally Schofield, the foster mother of Logan Marr, was found guilty June 25 of wrapping the 5-year-old's body with 42 feet of duct tape during a "timeout," causing the little girl to suffocate.

Schofield could face up to 40 years in prison for the child's death.

"The child-welfare system failed Logan Marr in every possible way," said Richard Wexler, the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. "They failed her … by … ignoring her cries of abuse and they failed her by letting her die in that foster home."

Six weeks before she was killed, Logan was on a visit to her birth mother when, in the presence of a child-welfare worker hired to supervise the visit, she complained that her foster mother was hurting her. "She did this to me and I cried 'cause it hurts me," the child is heard saying on a videotape, although she isn't seen.

Despite this information, there was no immediate investigation and Logan's child-welfare worker failed to make a required quarterly visit to the foster home.

"In Maine, they don't even try to visit children more than once every three months," Wexler told ABCNEWS. "And they weren't even doing that until the scandal surrounding the Logan Marr case."

Across the country, child-welfare workers tell ABCNEWS they are overwhelmed. Some say they have too many cases, others complain of inadequate training, and they all say they are underpaid. The annual turnover rate of workers is as high as 70 percent in some areas.

Foster Children Often Face Frequent Moves

ABCNEWS' Law & Justice Unit spoke to one foster mother in Mississippi who expressed her frustration with the foster-care system. Two baby boys who had been abused were brought to her home when they were only a few months old. One had 18 broken bones, and the other had 22 broken bones, she said.

The foster mother, who asked not to be identified, told ABCNEWS that for the first 18 months, she had to deal with 22 different child welfare workers and that, in the course of three years, she only saw child-welfare workers five times. She also adopted a boy who is now a teenager. Before he came to live with her, he bounced around in foster care, living in 32 foster homes over a five-year period.

Debbie, now 15, was 5 years old when she was removed from her parents' home because of her mother's substance-abuse problem. Debbie and her sister and brothers were all taken from their mother's home, but Debbie was separated from her siblings by New Jersey's Department of Youth and Family Services. She recalls being in 11 or 12 foster homes over five years.

"They would take me out and not tell me where I was going. I would get back from school, my bags were packed, I didn't have the time to say goodbye to anyone," said Debbie. "You have to build up a wall so you don't get close."

In one of the foster home, she was sexually abused. "I felt like nothing," she recalled. "I wanted to be with my real brothers and sister again."

For seven years, the government agency was unable to reunite the siblings or arrange for regular visits. Debbie's story does have a happy ending, unlike that of so many other foster children. She was adopted in 1997 and is grateful she has parents to love and who love her and a place to call home.

Lawsuits Aim to Get Foster Care Supervision

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