A Child's Story

Monday, September 10, 2001

In addition to NickiColma Spriggs, The Washington Post documented the cases of three other severely disabled children who died from 1993 through 2000 after their families came to the attention of the District's child protection system. These accounts are based on interviews and records from the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, the D.C. Child Fatality Review Committee, D.C. Superior Court, the medical examiner's office and the police department:

Latisha Bias

Nov. 1, 1974 - April 17, 1993

Seizure and microcephaly

Profoundly retarded with Down syndrome, Latisha Bias came under the District's care at age 2 after her mother died in a car accident.

Afterward, Latisha lived in D.C. shelters and hospitals. She eventually became deaf and blind. In 1985, the agency found her a foster family in Maryland. The next year, the family moved to Kentucky on the "pretense of a vacation," a fatality committee document says.

In August 1986, the family returned to Maryland. This move came after child protection authorities in Kentucky began to investigate a report of child abuse and neglect. Among the concerns cited: children were sleeping in a van, missing school, going without breakfast, living in a dirty home and being emotionally abused. The home consisted of a foster parent, an assistant, one biological child, seven adopted children and two foster children, including Latisha. All the children were disabled. The investigation found that "neglect was substantiated on all 10 children in the home," a fatality committee report states.

The results of the investigation were forwarded to a D.C. child protection agency social worker, but nothing happened. Two years later, the agency was notified by Maryland officials of another investigation into neglect allegations in the same foster home -- but again nothing happened and the family moved to another part of the state.

Latisha died in Maryland on April 17, 1993. A family physician determined that the child died of natural causes, a fatality committee report states. But an autopsy was never performed, because Latisha was cremated the same day. A D.C. child protection official wrote in a confidential letter: "It is highly unusual and inappropriate for a ward of the District of Columbia to die and then be cremated the same day without prior notice or approval from her legal guardians."

Another D.C. government worker wrote in a memo in her file: "I don't like the way the foster parent handled the death of this child. We were not notified by the foster mother of the death, nor did we give permission for the cremation. Police were not contacted. These are very suspicious circumstances."

© 2001 The Washington Post Company