The head of the State of Alaska Office of Children’s Services says it’s too early to tell if the system failed six children whose adoptive mom is now charged with their abuse.
Anya James was a foster mom for more then ten years and state officials say she passed every check and balance required to keep children in her care.
After James finalized the adoption of her sixth child, the state says they had no legal reason to keep tabs on the family.
“At that point it’s as if the children are biologically theirs,” says OCS Director Christy Lawton, “and we have no more right to intervene in their family then we would have in the average person's family.”
But Lawton’s agency is charged with protecting children and also to respond to reports of suspected abuse, and they got them.
Lawton says in the last two years they received several complaints from neighbors, which she says they didn’t hesitate to check out.
“We did receive calls and we did go out and do a number of assessments and I can tell you in general terms that if we had allegations of malnutrition or that a child had suffered sexual abuse or physical abuse then it would be a routine part of our evaluations to get some medical evaluations,” says Lawton. “ And we would also look for some medical recommendations as to whether it really was abuse causing what we were seeing or not.”
Lawton says she’s not at liberty to talk about specifics in the case but that the details will come out in court. Until then she says it’s clear that the children suffered harm but whether the system was at fault is still to be decided.