New report on foster care company after death of girl, 2


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist JP HARRINGTON

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Posted on September 16, 2013 at 10:24 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 16 at 10:40 PM

AUSTIN -- “It’s been a wake-up call,” said Julie Moody, a spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

One month and two weeks after Rockdale police say 2-year old Alex Hill was murdered by her foster mother, Sherill Small, DFPS is revealing the results of its investigation into Texas Mentor: the company that placed Alex in Small's home.

“It's everything from what did Texas Mentor do to vet this family, and then also going forward, what Texas Mentor did while the child was placed in the home,” Moody said.

The report reveals a slew of deficiencies against Small and Texas Mentor, beginning with evidence the Small used physical punishment.

“We're talking about children who are abused or neglected, so any physical discipline is not allowed, period." Moody told KVUE.

CPS investigators also found that another adult male was living in the home unbeknownst to Texas Mentor, as well as Small's two grandkids.

“I don't think she had capacity to have that many children in her home, so that would have limited the amount of foster children placed in her home,” Moody said.

The report reveals Small did not call 9-1-1 immediately when she realized Alex had stopped breathing after admittedly slamming her to the ground.

As a result of this latest investigation, Texas Mentor removed two more children from other foster homes.

“Moving forward, we may have to do that again,” said Moody.

Ultimately, Moody says the state cannot predict human behavior. But it can do everything possible to prevent another child from dying in foster care.

“We really need to pay closer attention, and we will," she said.

Sherill Small is still in the Milam County Jail on a capital murder charge. Her bail is set at $100,000.

The Milam County District Attorney’s office tells KVUE that Small’s trial likely won’t start until 2014.