Parents Deny Neglect in Baby Son's Death

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 11, 2008

Morgan Herrera-El and Jesus Garcia want to tell their story, have their say.

It was their youngest son, 6-month-old Isiah, who died June 25, a death that has prompted the Child and Family Services Agency to remove the couple's three other young children from their Trinidad home in Northeast.

The death has also sparked inquiries into what the agency did not do: A CFSA social worker never visited Isiah, despite a March 27 call to a child abuse hotline that the baby was being neglected. She has since been fired.

But his parents, sitting for an exclusive interview yesterday with The Washington Post, said it was not true that their son was neglected.

Yes, he was born to young, struggling parents, they said. Yes, they lived in a rundown apartment that they desperately wanted to escape. And yes, they fought, caught in a cycle of violence that landed them in court and family counseling, and, eventually, Morgan and the children in a shelter for 30 days.

But Isiah, despite his parents' troubles, was a child who was loved, they said. They do not abuse or neglect their children, the couple said.

"We love our children," Garcia, 28, said. "We did everything to give the best to our kids."

"We don't care what people say," said Herrera-El, 25, as she and Garcia sat at Uno Pizzeria in Union Station, not far from the neighborhood where they've lived for about a year.

They pulled out photographs of three of their children, ages 3, 2 and 1, smiling and splashing in the fountain in downtown Silver Spring. They said they are allowed to visit the toddlers twice a week for two hours in foster care in Maryland.

They did not display photographs of Isiah. That's private and painful, they said.

"Maybe another time," Herrera-El said.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not determined the cause of the baby's death.

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