Favorite

The forgotten ones 

My vacation was a busy news week, but I'd be remiss if I didn't devote this small space to a story that all but the Arkansas Times seemed inclined to ignore.

The Times' John Williams broke the news July 31 that there had been four deaths of children in state foster care in the preceding three months. It's a toll that should have caused hearts to stop and voices to rise in outrage. It did not, in part because the Department of Human Services and Gov. Mike Beebe, who appoints the leadership of DHS, have worked strenuously to keep the scandal under wraps.

DHS and Beebe cite the confidentiality afforded ongoing criminal investigations in refusing to discuss the deaths. This is a lame excuse. No investigation was underway when the children died. The state knows who died, the children's ages and the general circumstances. The state well knows the people within the agency, from caseworkers to supervisors, responsible for handling of these cases.

The state — and the governor — can and should talk about these things without compromising the investigation. It is the only way the public can get any assurance that the state agency in charge of protecting the vulnerable has been doing its job. There may be valid explanations and extenuating circumstances in all four deaths. The official silence suggests otherwise. It suggests that alibis are being prepared and butts are being covered.

Some critical commentary last week on the Arkansas Blog about the governor's dereliction finally prompted an official response of sorts from Beebe. It included the revelation, through a gubernatorial spokesman, that a review and reorganization of DHS is underway. New supervisors have been hired. This news suggests 1) that there were serious problems in DHS and 2) the governor has been covering it up.

And so much for that reform. Times reporter Patrick Michel learned further last week that the four deaths occurred AFTER Beebe's vaunted study and reform initiative was underway.

The lack of public accountability was dramatized further by reporters' discovery that a felony battery charge had been filed against a foster parent in one of the four deaths —  22-month-old Keyunandra Smith. Then came the chilling news of 26-month-old Freddy Bradford, whose grievous injuries were reported to police by a grocery store worker in Little Rock. It turned out that relatives had brought the child to DHS caseworkers days before with bruises on his buttocks and back, but DHS sent the child back to his mother, who, along with a  boyfriend, allegedly beat the child nearly to death with  a belt and extension cord. The mother and her boyfriend, it so happens, were living with a DHS employee.

Still, in the face of all this, silence from the governor. It is no comfort — cause only for more alarm — that his only response is a spokesman's talk of reviews and reforms and other simmering bureaucratic gruel.

Whoever sent Freddy Bradford back on a path to life support at Children's Hospital should have been fired long ago and the governor should have announced that fact to the public. Instead, he partied last week with lobbyists at the Democratic National Convention while a spokesman was dispatched to assure the public that secret correctives of secret problems in the public's agency were underway.

With four state wards dead and blood on the state's hands in another gruesome case, the public is owed a great deal more by the state's chief executive.

 

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • The end of democracy in LR

    The state Board of Education was scheduled to talk this week about the Little Rock School District, under state control for two years because six of its 48 schools failed to meet an arbitrary pass rate on a standardized test.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Internet looting continues

    The 2017 legislative session concluded without passage of a bill to encourage internet merchants to collect and remit taxes on sales in Arkansas, though internet giant Amazon has begun doing so voluntarily.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.
  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."
  • Forget the hairdo

    As the 2018 races begin to heat up, we see more and more women running for office. And as more women run, we will see more of the seemingly endless critiques of their appearances.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Art bull

    • Well, when the Bull was first put up there, it meant one thing, and that…

    • on April 24, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation