CPS: Open Investigation at Time of Infant’s Death, House Visit Made Before Death 2/27/14
CBS 7 News
February 27, 2014
ODESSA-CBS 7 just learned that Child Protective Services had an open investigation into an incident just days before the baby's death.
20-year-old Caleb Givens was arrested today in Odessa, charged with manslaughter and injury to a child.
CBS 7 found many other instances of child deaths during pending CPS investigations.
Just 12 days before the baby was found dead, a CPS investigation was opened and never closed, arrest affidavits reveal Givens admitted to shoving a baby bottle into its mouth, cutting the infant's mouth so bad he needed stitches. It begs the question, why didn't CPS take this baby out of that home before?
20-year-old Caleb Givens was arrested for second-degree manslaughter after baby Jeremiah died on November 27 2013. The arrest affidavits say it appears he suffocated after an object was pressed against his face. Givens admitted to wrapping the baby up so tight, he could not move.
"The elements of manslaughter are basically recklessness," said Odessa Police Department Public Information Officer Corporal Steven LeSueur.
12 days before, the same baby was in the hospital with injuries to his mouth so bad they needed stitches. Givens told investigators he forcefully shoved a baby bottle into his mouth because he was crying and would not stop.
"I love my brother to death, but wrong is wrong and right is right. If he goes to jail for that he needs to face the light and face the music,” said Csable Johnson, the sister of the accused.
According to the arrest affidavit, the room where the baby was sleeping was found to be infested with cockroaches.
The children were living in “deplorable” conditions. An open investigation was launched by CPS on November 16, and despite a CPS home visit, the baby was not taken out of their household. We asked CPS why they left the child there.
“We have to make judgment calls,” said the Department of Family and Protective Services Spokesperson Marleigh Meisner. “We believed the child was not in immediate danger. The decision to take a child from his or her parents is not taken lightly and often times a household that seemed safe at one time can later become unsafe.”
We also asked CPS if the baby had been taken out after the first incident, whether he would still have died. They say it’s something they always think about but that they did not have grounds for removal of the child at the time.
"When CPS works with a family, we often have to make very tough decisions. Sometimes we are considering several plausible explanations as to how the injury occurred. When a parent appears to be cooperative and truthful, we want to believe them but sometimes they lie and sometimes that can have tragic results. Based on the information we received during the onset of this investigation, we believed we did not have grounds for removal of this child,” Meisner’s statement reads.
In a recent Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting, it was noted that out of the 156 child deaths for abuse or neglect in 2013, 23 of those children died while there was an open CPS investigation.
It is instances like this one, which have some experts calling for reform.
“CPS case workers really do have a high number of caseloads and they don’t always have what I would consider adequate training in order to handle the serious nature of those cases,” said Dr. Katherine Barillas, director of child welfare policy at One Voice Texas. Barillas is a former CPS investigator.
CPS says there is no simple answer to what happened.
Now there is another child who was in the home, who was voluntarily placed outside of the home.
We asked OPD why they did not make an arrest sooner after the baby's first visit to the hospital with injuries, they told us the investigator handling this case would not be back in until tomorrow.
According to data for Fiscal Year 2013, the average case load for a CPS worker was 20 plus 30 to 40 conservatorships, which require monthly check-ins.
Dr. Barillas says with two to three children in most investigations, it is difficult for caseworkers to thoroughly investigate each case given that volume.