3-year-old Car Ran Over

Child Fatality Review #05-34
Region 3
Bellingham DCFS Office
This three-year-old Native American male was killed in October 8, 2005, when a car accidentally
rolled over him in a private driveway at the home of a third party.
Case Overview
The child’s family was homeless and the parents went to look at a fifth wheel trailer that was for
sale. When they arrived at the home, the parents turned off the motor, exited the car and left their
three sons (ages 8, 5, and 3) sleeping inside the car. The parents met with the owner of the fifth
wheel and were looking at it but were within sight of their children in the parked car
approximately 75 feet away. The parents heard the sound of crunching and responded
immediately. They attempted to lift the car tire off the child, called 911, moved the car and then
administered CPR. The child apparently got out of his car seat, out of the car and was run over in
the driveway after one of his siblings knocked the car out of gear. The investigating law
enforcement agency reported to CPS that they viewed this as an accident.
The family had prior history with Children’s Administration. The child’s mother was possibly a
victim of child abuse in her family when she was about sixteen. There is no prior CPS history on
the father.
The first referral concerning the family was received in 1997. An emergency room (ER)
physician made a CPS referral about the parents’ first born son who was then six months old.
The mother brought him to the ER with bruises and contusions on his face and head. The mother,
supported by her sister and her sister’s child, stated that the injuries occurred when the mother’s
three-year old niece climbed into the child’s crib and beat him with his bottle. This occurred
when the mother and her sister stepped out onto the porch for a few minutes. The child’s injuries
healed with no permanent effects. The case was closed after investigation with a finding of
Unfounded and with referrals for services for the three-year old niece.
The next time CPS became aware of this family was in 2000. The mother was pregnant with
their second son. While at the doctor’s office with her oldest child, the mother had been
admonished by the doctor for being impatient with him and “yanking” on his arm. There was no
injury. The mother was working with a public health nurse, who had never seen anything of
concern. The referral was taken as Information Only.
Two months later, the mother was in the hospital delivering her second son. Hospital staff called
CPS to report that the father had physically abused the oldest child as they were leaving the
hospital. They observed the child crying for his mother and the father yanked him, screamed at
him and threw him to the ground while going to the car. The referent also reported the mother
claimed she had been physically assaulted by the father six months earlier. The father was
attending anger management classes because she reported the incident to police. The mother also
told the referent hat she used marijuana weekly during her recent pregnancy.
The newborn did not test positive for drugs and he was allowed to go home with his parents. The
investigator learned that the father had been assessed and diagnosed with severe alcohol and
marijuana dependence, and methamphetamine dependence in remission. He was required to
attend chemical dependency treatment as a part of his domestic violence case and a Driving
under the Influence charge. He did not comply with treatment and was ordered to 15 days of inhome detention. The treatment facility report indicated that his prognosis for recovery was poor.
During the CPS investigation, a new CPS referral was made about the family. An anonymous
caller stated that the father was heard yelling, slamming doors, and “screaming obscenities,”
particularly at the oldest child. The investigator asked the mother to submit to a urinalysis for
drug use, but she refused. The parents refused to attend parenting classes, but the father did
complete 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling. After four months of working with the
family and offering services, the case was closed. Although the family’s engagement in services
was minimal, the department believed there was not sufficient basis to file a dependency petition.
The findings of the investigation were Unfounded.
The department heard nothing about the family until the spring of 2005. By that time the family
had three sons. The youngest son was born in 2001. The daycare provider expressed concern to
CPS about the oldest boy. He was reported to have been seen “slapping himself” and stated that
his parents “slapped him all the time.” He told the teacher that his parents “hate me and they hit
me.” The center had never seen evidence of physical abuse. The referral was screened as
Information Only.
The next referral was in October of 2005, when the department learned of the fatality.
Issues and Recommendations
Exceptional Social Work Practice
Most of the work on this case prior to the fatality was performed by the Bremerton DCFS
office in 2000. In a very comprehensive investigation that included many collateral
contacts, the social worker identified the risk factors the family presented and began the
process of establishing the children’s tribal identity once their Native American ancestry
was revealed. It turned out to be a lengthy process, not reaching completion until well
after the case was closed. Despite extensive efforts to engage the family, the social
worker was only partially successful in connecting the reluctant parents with services,
and the case was closed per policy. The active efforts made on this case, however, were