Foster-Care System Stretched Too Far

ByABC News
July 2, 2002, 3:59 PM

July 2 -- 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.