Daily Oklahoman, September 2, 1998

3 Accused of Failing to Report Abuse of Foster Child,
By Penny Owen, Staff Writer

Three child welfare workers responsible for the care of an 8-year-old boy in foster care were charged Tuesday with failing to report child abuse.

The misdemeanor charges were filed after police learned the boy was left for three weeks in a northeast Oklahoma City foster home when workers knew of claims he had been repeatedly raped by two older boys in the home.

The Oklahoma County district attorney's office charged Rosita Graves, 33, of Oklahoma City, an office of juvenile affairs worker; Judson Meyer, 52, of Midwest City, a state Department of Human Services child welfare specialist; and Wade Shoemaker, 35, a Red Rock Behavioral Health Services therapist, with failing to report child abuse.

The boy was placed in the foster home June 22. An 11-year-old boy and his 15-year-old brother also lived there.

On July 6, the foster mother called Graves, a case worker for the 11-year- old, and said her husband had caught the 11-year-old boy having sex with the 8-year-old boy in a bedroom. The foster mother also said the younger boy revealed that several sexual acts had already occurred, including one where he was held down and raped.

According to a court affidavit, Graves told the foster mother it was the foster mother's responsibility to report the acts. Graves also said she would "get back to her" after speaking to a supervisor but didn't speak to a supervisor until July 20.

"The defendant left the child in a dangerous environment and never reported this or tried to protect the child," Oklahoma City police Sgt. Willie Edwards wrote in his affidavit.

Shoemaker, the boy's therapist, learned of the alleged rape during a home visit July 7. Edwards alleges Shoemaker waited a week before telling DHS worker Meyer what had happened.

Shoemaker also told the foster mother that putting the boys in separate rooms and watching them closely was sufficient, the affidavit said.

Meyer learned of the boy's alleged rape July 14 but left him in the foster home for another week, the affidavit said. Meyer also failed to report the abuse and only took action when police removed the boy from the home.

Meyer, a four-year employee, was on annual leave Tuesday and is the subject of an internal investigation, DHS spokesman George Johnson said.

"It's always a shock when you learn an employee was charged with something like this,"Johnson said. "He's been considered a good employee."

The two older boys have been removed from the foster home and face sexual assault charges in Oklahoma County Juvenile Court, Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell said. The

8-year-old boy remains in the foster home.

None of the workers had been arrested Tuesday; however, warrants were expected to be issued today.

Nancy Isbell, founder of the Oklahoma Foster Care Association, applauded the district attorney's actions and said foster parents must rely on these professionals for guidance when problems occur.

But Isbell said foster parents shouldn't stop with one phone call when action isn't taken.

"Foster parents hesitate. They don't want to get in trouble by going over people's heads, but we have to," Isbell said. "Pursue it to the next supervisor. Go through the chain of command."

Foster parents can also call the toll- free Foster Parent Hotline at (800) 376- 9729, or locally at 522-1722, for help.

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