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‘They Said My Child Would Be Safer in Foster Care Than with Me: 7-Year-Old Foster Child’s Death Ruled Homicide; Two Workers Responsible for His Care Fired

A 7-year-old Lexington, Kentucky, native, who died while in the custody of a state-run children’s residential center, is now the subject of a homicide investigation. Two workers at the Louisville facility have been fired, as law enforcement works to bring justice in the death of the young boy.

On Monday, Sept. 19, the Jefferson County’s Coroner’s Office ruled the July 17 death of Ja’Ceon Terry was from “positional asphyxia,” a condition that suggests his body was left in one position impeding his ability to breathe, while under the care of workers at Brooklawn Child and Family Services, a children’s treatment center in the Derby City. 

The examiner did not provide additional details regarding his death, other than the officials at Norton Children’s Hospital pronounced the child’s death, according to USA Today.

Authorities have identified two employees, who have been terminated by Seven Counties Services, which operates the facility, because of their involvement in Terry’s premature death.

Terry and his two brothers have been in foster care, wards of the state since their biological mother, Dominique Terry, lost custody of them due to her drug addiction.

The mother said she wants to see justice served, according to WKYT, “I just think that something should happen to the two people that they found that caused my son not to be here anymore.”

She also that she is disappointed in the system that was supposed to take care of her child.

“They said my child would be safer in foster care than with me but see the outcome of what happened,” Dominque said. 

Terry’s grandfather said when Dominique Terry was unable to take care of her children, he could not afford to become their guardian, thus the state placed them in foster care. He was disconnected from the children and said he only heard about his grandson’s cause of death ruling through an online media outlet.

He said, “To read about it without knowing. We’ve been waiting for information since July, and to find out about it this way, it’s been hurtful.”

Like her father, she also heard about the child’s death from the media, saying, “No phone call, no nothing. I haven’t even gotten the autopsy like I was supposed to get.”

Louisville Metro Police spokesman Aaron Ellis said the case is being classified as an ongoing investigation and no charges have been filed in relation to the crime.

In an email, the police representative, wrote, “Once we have gathered all of the facts related to this death, we will present them to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to determine how we will proceed.” 

The lawsuit claims Terry died because of negligence, saying the facility and the city were negligent in who they hired and how they trained, alleging the facility’s lack of supervision and retention led to the death of the small child.

The state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Service, the agency that placed 93 foster kids at Brooklawn this year, said in a statement, the department “mourns the passing of any child or any person of any age in its care.”

Susan Dunlap, the spokesperson for CHFS, said, “This sadness was deepened more upon learning the results of the autopsy, identifying asphyxiation as cause of death.” She also shared they are doing their own investigation but declined to reveal any discovery on their part.

CHFS did share that the organization has suspended placing youth at the facility, pending the investigation.

“We are still searching for answers to the many questions about what happened on that Sunday afternoon [referring to Terry’s death],” the statement said. “The leadership of Brooklawn will continue cooperating with state and local officials investigating this tragedy.”

A statement from Brooklawn said, “We are completely devastated by the unspeakable loss of a child in our care, Ja’Ceon Terry.” 

It continued, “He should not have died on our watch. As protectors of Kentucky’s most vulnerable children, we are dedicated to making sure it never happens again. The health and safety of the Brooklawn family is always our top priority. We work every day to save young lives and help families in crisis. When we accept responsibility for caring for children, we commit to doing everything possible to keep them from harm.”

The statement concluded with, “The coroner’s report was released today. We are still searching for answers to the many questions about what happened on that Sunday afternoon. The leadership of Brooklawn will continue cooperating with state and local officials investigating this tragedy.”

The couple who raised the child after he was placed in foster care, is filing a wrongful death lawsuit, saying, like the biological family, they are devastated.

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