April 17, 2009
Police are investigating the death of a 7-year-old child in foster care who reportedly hanged himself Thursday in the bathroom of a Florida home. Police spokesman Officer Vonley Williams said that when officers arrived, they found the boy unresponsive and were told the boy had hanged himself inside a bathroom. An autopsy is to be performed to determine exactly how the boy died.
Florida’s Department of Children and Families is reviewing the child's case history and the history of the foster family, DCF spokeswoman Leslie Mann said. ''Right now, due to the seriousness of this, we've got a number of reviews kicking in and meetings scheduled,'' she said.
Mann said that the boy had been upset over his lunch when he rushed into the room where he was later found. His foster dad is an assistant principal at a school for special needs students, and his foster mom is a nurse. He was initially placed into foster care after his aunt and uncle felt they didn't have the ability to handle his behavioral problems. A first set of foster parents concluded they couldn't provide the care he needed and he was moved to the last foster home about three weeks ago, where the foster dad is an assistant principal at a school for special needs students, and his foster mom is a nurse.
It might be hard to believe that a 7-year-old can have severe enough emotional issues that he would hang himself, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Many children in foster care have suffered severe neglect, while others have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused. The abuse suffered in their young lives frequently causes serious emotional and behavioral problems. Children who have never been in foster care or suffered abuse can also experience serious mental health issues. It’s heartbreaking that this young boy is dead, and undoubtedly his biological and foster families are devastated by this tragedy.
In Colorado, children and adolescents make up only one quarter of the state's population, but experience more than one-third of the severe mental health needs (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999, and Colorado Mental Health Funders Collaborative, 2003). In 2005, more than 21 percent of parents of children age 6 and under reported that they were concerned about their child's emotions, concentration, behavior, or ability to get along with others. Over half of the licensed early care and education providers surveyed in 2005 reported that challenging behaviors in young children are not getting better. And, at least 20 percent feel challenging behaviors are increasing in occurrence and severity. (Children with Challenging Behaviors: A Survey of Licensed Early Care and Education Settings in Colorado, 2006).
The Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health – Colorado Chapter can help if a child you know is experiencing mental health problems.