Kristen Wall put her baby Braxton in foster care because she wasn’t fit to care for him. While she worked to sober up and straighten out, Braxton needed a safe home. But a violent foster mother named Kathleen Ganiere was abusing the child, right under the nose of Braxton’s social worker.
“I told her I was very concerned. I asked her if there was any way I could meet with the foster parents and talk to them. I was concerned because there were too many bruises,” she says.
NewsChannel 3 showed you troubling pictures of Braxton last night. That’s Kristen, holding her son. He looks terrible. His head is battered. His lips are cut. His eyes are confused and distant.
Just a few months earlier, in the care of another foster family, Braxton looked happy and content, growing and learning just like he should. But not long after he was transfered to Garnier, he was in trouble, and during this vist, Kristen knew it. She pleaded with the case worker, the woman who took these pictures to investigate. Kristen says the social worker brushed her off.
“Do you think she took you seriously?” we asked.
“She, uh, no. I think she should have. I don’t see why she didn’t, because it was plain to see. Anybody who has seen those pictures would have seen the state he was in at that time,” she says.
Two weeks later, Braxton was dead. It turns out that Braxton’s social worker, a woman named Tamara Scurry, was wrong, and Kristen was right. Braxton was abused, but Scurry and her bosses accepted Ganiere’s story, that Braxton was clumsy and fell down a lot.
“We have to take what the foster parent is telling us, especially if we don’t have any other kind of reason to disbelieve,” says Robert Morin, Jr., with Virginia Beach Human Services.
“I really felt like my opinion didn’t matter. Because it wasn’t once I told her, it was several times during that meeting that i was very concerned about the bruising on him,” she says.
Braxton’s grandparents, from North Carolina, said they would have taken custody of Braxton, but they didn’t know about him until after he died. They can’t understand how the social workers escaped accountability. There has been no punishment, and no internal investigation. Ganiere went to prison, but no one else was faulted.
“It’s just a sin. For this to have happened to an innocent child. And the people that were there to protect him let it happen,” they say. NewsChannel 3 wants to know how it could happen. We asked to see all city documents Braxton’s death. The city has refused. We will take the city to court. And Kristen is planning the same. Her lawsuit declares the social service workers were “irresponsible and grossly negligent.” The city responded that it bears no responsibility, and it’s immune from this lawsuit.
“I don’t feel it’s justice. That he hasn’t had justice yet,” she says.
And the grandparents are racked with guilt that they couldn’t save Braxton.
“It makes us feel like we failed. We didn’t get him. We didn’t bring him home.”