The notion of a foster home should conjure up thoughts of safety, stability, a secure environment and many other more positive attributes. Unfortunately, a family of an 11-month-old girl who was taken out of a “safe foster home” and placed in a home where a woman with a “child abuse” background killed the little girl has filed a lawsuit against Mesa County. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of the estate of Angel Place, claims Mesa County social workers ignored what some are calling “danger signs” and that their faulty decision making ultimately led to the child’s fatality.

“Our sympathies go out to this family and all families who have lost a child due to abuse and neglect. We take all incidents of child abuse and neglect very seriously,” said Mesa County Human Services Executive Director Tracey Garchar in a written statement.1

Foster Care Child’s Death Case Details and Allegations

Law book and wooden judges gavel on table in a courtroom or law enforcement office. Lawyer Hands holding business card with text Foster Care.

Law book and wooden judges gavel on table in a courtroom or law enforcement office. Lawyer Hands holding business card with text Foster Care.

The following case details and allegations surround the death of Angel Place in a questionable foster home were gathered from court documents and news reports:

  • The lawsuit filed by Shane Place is seeking unspecified compensatory, consequential and punitive damages against the social workers in the Sept. 17, 2014 death of Angel Place.
  • Defendant social workers named include: Joyce Anderson, Jacque Berry, Joni Bedell and Crystal Stewart.
  • Anderson, Berry, Bedell and Stewart were all involved in Angel Place’s foster care case at the time of her death.
  • Anderson, Berry, Bedell and Stewart all worked in various capacities, such as serving as case managers and supervisors for Mesa County Department of Human Services.
  • Plaintiffs claim the child was placed with unfit relatives.
  • The social workers are also alleged to have turned a blind eye to accusations several signs and reports of abuse and neglect before Angel’s death.
  • Angel was originally taken from her original birth parents and then placed in the home of foster parent Misty Blackwell. Blackwell claims the child was happy and well-adjusted in the Blackwell home.
  • Instead of granting Blackwell the adoption, the social workers placed Angel with her uncle and his common-law wife.
  • The lawsuit claims that social services should have found from the background investigation that by “placing Angel in (the Uncle’s) house Angel was in an obvious and substantial risk of serious and immediate physical and psychological harm.”
  • The Uncle’s common-law wife had a long background of abuse at the hands of her own parents. From the age of 9, she was spit on by her father and her mother emotionally and physically abused her. She was sexually abused by the age of 11. She was pregnant by the age of 16.
  • Case workers also ignored a state warning to place children with foster parents under the age of 21. The Uncle and common-law wife got a waiver from the case workers.
  • Blackwell claims several reports of suspected child abuse, including scratches and a lethargic appearance upon returning from foster-care visits, went with investigation.
  • The autopsy on Angel revealed she died from blunt force trauma to the head. The cause of death is listed as a homicide.
  • The woman was charged with first degree murder and sentenced to 30 years of prison.

Evaluation Study Results of Mesa County Foster Care System

A recent study also conducted by the Public Consulting Group found that the Mesa County foster-care system had several problems and initiated several recommendations. Complaints following the death of Angel prompted the study of Mesa County’s foster care system. Here are some of the study’s findings and recommendations:2

  • Current foster care parents said there was a lack of communication with Mesa County’s social services dept., and that they are given very little input on decision making concerning child placement.
  • Respondents say the system is mired in red tape and that they are frustrated that children are taken from stable foster-care homes and placed with remote family members that may be unfit.
  • The study recommends an oversight or advisory committee help give feedback on communication with foster families and other stakeholders.
  • Mesa County needs to have a quarterly transparent forum for all foster-care stakeholders.
  • Mesa County needs to perform a review and revision process of child placement policies, and be sure it involves feedback from foster parents and kinship caregivers.
  • Mesa Count needs to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities with regard to its foster care system, as some case workers weren’t even sure of some roles or responsibilities.
  • Mesa County should give more support to foster families to care for children with high-trauma needs, including those with mental health or behavioral issues.
  • The foster-care program should consider outsourcing its searches for kin, and look for family members who are a good fit for the children.

Contact a Denver Child Custody Attorney at Katherine Grier, P.C.

Do you have a foster-child or child custody issue that you need legal assistance with? If so, contact the Denver Child Custody Attorney at Katherine Grier, P.C. Since 1999, our Denver child custody attorney and her dedicated staff have been fighting for foster families and parents’ rights while guiding them through the difficult legal complexities of the legal process.

Let’s set up a meeting to discuss how our Denver child custody attorney can help your child custody case reach a beneficial outcome. Call today at (303) 539-5435 or by sending us an email via the contact form on this page.

Our offices are located in beautiful Denver, but our child custody attorneys also service the entire Front Range as well as clients throughout the state of Colorado.

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1“Family sues Mesa County social services for leaving child in abusive home where she was killed” published in the Denver Post, September 2016.

2“Study: County needs to repair relations with foster families” published in the Grand Junction Sentinel, September 2016.