BOSTON (CBS) — A review of the Department of Children and Families’ involvement in the death of an Auburn toddler in August found that the agency “failed to appropriately assess the abilities” of the foster mother.
Avalena Conway-Coxon, 2, died, and another 22-month-old girl was found near-death at an Auburn foster home on August 15. The report released Thursday said the girls suffered from heat stroke, “which would indicate that they had prolonged exposure to a high temperature environment.”
Four other children were living in the home with foster mother Kimberly Malpass at the time.
“Today’s report unveils a series of failures within the department leading up to the devastating loss of a little girl and the near death of another little girl,” Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press conference Thursday.
Baker says Malpass’ residence would never have been a foster home if DCF policy was properly followed, citing a “blatant lack of oversight by DCF staff.”
“There was just a policy breakdown there,” Baker said.
DCF said there was deficient supervision of the foster home, and the agency did not assess Malpass’ parenting capability or the safety of the home. DCF also said it failed to act on “concerning information” that said her boyfriend, an alleged drug user who faced unarmed robbery charges, was staying in the home.
Two DCF workers have been reassigned as a result of the review, officials said. The agency said it will be taking corrective action.
The report described Malpass as an “enthusiastic” foster parent who provided care for nine different children over the 18-month period since she was licensed in March 2014.
However, DCF employees overlooked a number of details about Malpass’ background during the foster parent screening process, including several medical conditions.
DCF workers failed to interview Malpass’ three older biological children. In 2012, school officials filed a 51A report because of the chronic absence of one of her kids.
DCF employees also failed to adequately vet the foster home for space. On several occasions, the house was overcapacity and had too many foster children under the age of two.
In the future, social workers will review law enforcement history prior to approval. As WBZ previously reported, police had responded to dozens of 911 calls at the Auburn home, a possible sign of an unstable environment.
There will also be a review of a potential foster parent’s social media activity. Malpass allegedly lied to social workers about her boyfriend’s presence in the home.
But her Facebook page told a different story. In an interview with investigators, the boyfriend admitted he had lived at the home for more than a year.
One other revelation in the report: the night before Avalena was found unresponsive, it was the boyfriend left to care for all six kids while Malpass went out with friends.
She then apparently returned later that night, “drunk and throwing up.” The boyfriend said he eventually took two Xanax tablets and went to bed. He awoke the next day to her screams.
As Thursday’s press briefing wrapped up, Baker said he wants to do better than his predecessors.
“This is going to take grunt work and grit. We want to be the folks who actually stick with this and get it right,” he said.
A spokesman for the Worcester County District Attorney said Thursday its investigation is ongoing. No criminal charges have been filed.
WBZ-TV’s Ryan Kath contributed to this report.