Former nanny of adopted children at center of abuse case: What took so long?
By BEN BOTKIN
A former nanny for three adopted children Las Vegas police say were subjected to years of abuse and neglect can’t understand what took so long for authorities to intervene.
“They did nothing for a year,” Jan Finnegan said Monday of the Clark County Department of Family Services. “…They did nothing. The system is a disgrace.”
The adoptive parents of the three girls, Dwight Solander, 50, and Janet Solander, 53, face child abuse and neglect charges in a 23-count indictment that also charges Danielle Hinton, 21, Janet Solander’s biological daughter. The Solanders were initially the girls’ foster parents. Police arrested the three adults on March 20 after the children told authorities they were beaten with paint sticks, forced to take cold showers and regularly prevented from using the bathroom.
However, Finnegan reported her concerns about the way the children were being treated to Family Services early last year. She was hired to care for the girls, who ranged in age from about 9 to 12 at the time of the alleged abuse, for several weeks in January and February 2013.
Family Services spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment on the case. It’s not known why the children weren’t removed from the Solander household sooner or the extent to which the agency investigated the nanny’s concerns.
In May 2013, the Solanders unsuccessfully attempted to sue Finnegan for slander, claiming the Family Services investigation didn’t find any merit in the allegations. The Solanders filed the lawsuit in Clark County District Court, but a judge tossed it out after they were unable to serve the paperwork to the former nanny.
Finnegan, who replaced a previous nanny, said she at one point even confronted Dwight Solander about the plight of his adopted daughters.
“I tried to talk to him and ask him why they adopted these children,” she said. “…He just got very defensive and said he never had any children and his wife wanted him to have kids.”
The Solanders, who are being held at the Clark County Detention Center, declined to be interviewed.
In late February, Child Protective Services, a division of Family Services, removed the girls from the Solanders’ custody. At the time, the Solanders had four foster children and had sent their three adopted daughters to a private boarding school in Florida, police reports show.
The three girls told investigators about a variety of abuses, police reports show. They were beaten with paint sticks if they answered homework problems wrong or had an accident, police reports said. Janet Solander forced the girls to wait to use the bathroom until a timer she set went off, police reports said.
The mother also punished them with cold showers, pouring a pitcher of ice water of them and forcing them to dry off with a large fan, police said.
The home had surveillance cameras throughout that Janet Solander monitored.
“They had cameras all over the house,” Finnegan confirmed.
The children were also given a liquid diet, she said.
Police reports confirm that detail, noting that the girls had stomach problems because of the way they were treated.
Police reports also show that in September 2013 — five months before removing the children — CPS staff snapped a photo of a bucket with a toilet seat on top of it and a photo of a board on the loft floor. The three adopted children were forced to sit on the bucket for hours, and sleep on the board, the police report said.
Family Services has not commented on the five-month gap between when the photos were taken and when the children were removed from custody in late February.
In the 23-count indictment, Dwight Solander is charged with three counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm; both parents are charged with 12 counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment; and Danielle Hinton is charged with three counts of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment with substantial bodily harm. Janet Solander is charged with four counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm and one count of sexual assault of a minor. Bail is set at $250,000 for Dwight Solander. No bail was listed for Janet Solander. Hinton also remained in jail Monday, with bail set at $50,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 8.
The former nanny plans to be in the courtroom.
“I plan to be there on the 8th,” she said. “I want to look them in the face.”
Finnegan was reluctant to say more because of the ongoing criminal case and expressed sadness for the children.
“If you adopt a child, you should love a child like it’s your own,” she said.
Contact Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
2010: Dwight and Janet Solander of Las Vegas become licensed foster parents and start caring for three girls.
January 2011: They adopt the three girls. Prosecutors allege the abuse began the same month.
January-February 2013: A nanny cares for their adopted children and two foster children for several weeks. She subsequently reports concerns to the county Department of Family Services.
May 2013: The Solanders sue the former nanny for reporting them to Family Services, contending they were cleared of her false allegations after an investigation.
Sept. 13, 2013: County Child Protective Services staff take photos of a bucket with a toilet seat on it and a board in the home’s loft. A March police investigation finds the adopted children were forced to sit on the bucket for hours at a time and sleep on boards.
Feb. 27, 2014: A county caseworker asks Janet Solander where her three adopted daughters are. Solander says it’s none of her business and they are in Nebraska. CPS takes custody of the four foster children.
Feb. 28, 2014: After being contacted by CPS, Las Vegas police trace the three adopted children to a private boarding school in Florida.
March 1, 2014: The three girls detail their treatment to Florida caseworkers.
March 20, 2014: Police arrest Dwight and Janet Solander and Danielle Hinton, Janet’s biological daughter, on multiple charges of child abuse and neglect.