A Washington woman, charged with murder in the beating death last week of her 9-month-old adopted son, had two other adopted infants taken from her during the summer by a private adoption agency, according to informed D.C. government sources.
The murder case against the woman, Lillie Mae Caldwell Gasaway, 32, of 5917 Fourth St. NW, has raised questions from officials about city regulations governing adoptions as well as the operation of the city's understaffed child abuse office. The office had been counseling Gasaway as a "potential neglect" case since October of last year.
One of the two children removed from the home, a 1 1/2-year-old boy, was treated in June at Children's Hospital for a fractured skull, which Gasaway told police he suffered when he hit his head against a table, according to the sources. The second child taken from the home, aged 2 1/2, had no reported injuries, the sources said.
A fourth adopted child, a 6-year-old girl and the only child remaining in the household, was placed by D.C. police in a private orphanage after the death of the 9-month-old boy.
According to several city government sources, Gasaway told childabuse caseworkers "deceptive" stories about her marital status and claimed to have given birth herself to two of the children. She also concealed from case workers the whereabouts of the two children taken back by the private adoption service, the Lutheran Social Service Agency.
The case has prompted an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office here, and a second probe by Mayor Marion Barry's office and City Administrator Elijah Rogers.
Yesterday, Rogers ordered the immediate filling of 32 long-vacant positions within the Child Protection Service Division of the Department of Human Resources.
Thirty-one case workers handle workloads totaling more than 40 families each, more than twice the number recommended by nationally accepted standards.
Officials of the Lutheran agency, which the sources said placed three of the children, and the private Family and Child Service Agency, which placed the 9-month-old in the home, declined to comment, citing confidentiality laws involving adoptions. City officials declined comment on the same ground.
But the sources said the Luthern agency took back the two children. Nathan and Oquessa, after its staff "became suspicious" and decided that Nathan, who had suffered the fractured skull, "was not developing properly."
It was not clear yesterday why the private agencies involved were not aware that Gasaway was "an active case" undergoing counseling by staff members of DHR, the sources said.
Gasaway was arrested Monday night after a week-long investigation by police into the death Sept. 17 of the 9-month-old, Hildred Thomas Gasaway. She initially had told police that the boy had fallen down a flight of stairs' in the home. However, police said her account was inconsistent on its details and that she later admitted striking the child.
Gasaway's husband, according to police, was not in the home at the time of the death. Police officials said he had fallen down back porch steps at the home, had suffered a broken leg and was admitted to Veterans Hospital.
The government sources said the Child Protection Service began working with Gasaway after it was reported anonymously that she was neglecting the 6-year-old girl.
Caseworkers said that they were told last October by Gasaway that the 6-year-old was her natural child, that she was pregnant and that another child, Oquessa, was living with another family because Gasaway felt she could not take care of her, according to the government sources."
In February, Gasaway had the fourth adopted child in her home and told her caseworker that he had been born to her in December. According to the sources, it was not clear what happened to the Gasaway case during December and January, but that Gasaway periodically would avoid meeting with caseworkers.
In June, the 1 1/2-year-old child, Nathan, was taken by Gasaway to Children's Hospital and stayed for five days for treatment of the skull fracture, sources said. It was also reported that a uniformed police officer questioned Gasaway about the incident but no further action was reported.
The precise time during the summer that the Lutheran Agency removed the two children could not be learned, however, sources said Gasaway told child-abuse caseworkers that Nathan had gone to live with relatives in Louisiana and that Oquessa was continuing to live with friends here.