Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Missing baby feared dead; Sacramento County deputies criticize CPS

By Hudson Sangree

Law enforcement authorities are worried that a baby boy last seen 11 months ago may be dead, and they say Sacramento County Child Protective Services failed for all that time to alert them the boy was missing.

"We can't ignore the possibility that the baby is no longer alive," said Sacramento sheriff's spokesman Deputy Jason Ramos. "The disconcerting thing is that no family members or friends of (the mother) can say they've seen the baby since April 2011."
Dwight Stallings would be 22 months old today.

His mother, Tanisha Edwards, was arrested last week by Elk Grove police on suspicion of violating probation and being under the influence of a narcotic. She was also arrested on a warrant sought by Sacramento County Social Services against a parent or guardian who fails to appear for a hearing.

Edwards is being held at the Sacramento County Main Jail without bail.
Her son was nowhere to be found, and the mother was unable to provide investigators with an explanation for his disappearance, Ramos said.

Edwards is a drug user with a transient lifestyle and may have given her child to someone who is raising him under a different name, Ramos said.

Sheriff's deputies accompanied a CPS caseworker on four different occasions over six days in April 2011, when the caseworker could not locate either Edwards or the boy, the sheriff's spokesman said. In August, deputies once again went with a caseworker who was unable to find the mother and child.

Friends and family questioned after Edwards' arrest said they hadn't seen Dwight Stallings since last April.

Ramos said CPS may have been investigating Edwards for neglect or abuse but until last week did not file a missing persons report, which would have prompted the Sheriff's Department to began an investigation.

"It does sound like an inordinate amount of time without taking it to the next level (by filing) a missing persons report with us," he said.

CPS spokeswoman Laura McCasland said privacy rules prohibited her from discussing the case or even saying if Edwards or her son was involved with the agency.

"Everybody is very concerned about this child," she said but declined to discuss the case further.

She said that generally in such situations, caseworkers will look in many places for missing children, including at home and at preschool or day care. They will also check with other social services agencies and law enforcement to see if they've had contacts with parents, she said.

Ultimately a warrant will be issued for the parent's arrest, which brings the case to the attention of law enforcement, she said.

Ed Howard, a senior counsel with the Children's Advocacy Institute in San Diego, called it unusual and disturbing that CPS "would simply drop the ball by not telling the Sheriff's Department or anybody they can't find the baby or the baby's mom."

"That's unbelievably troubling but consistent with what we hear about Sacramento County CPS," he said, "that they seem unable or unwilling to get their act together keeping track of abused or neglected kids."

The Sheriff's Department is working with Elk Grove police to find Dwight Stallings. Anyone with information should call sheriff's investigators at (916) 874-5115.


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