Child Abuse Death Raises Questions

January 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
For a second night, neighbors, mostly children, brought flowers and candles to the apartment where Seth Ireland lived with his family.Chang Thao has organized the vigils and is among those with questions.

"The signs and the evidence was there already, they should have acted upon them, and obviously they didn't and now it's too late. Who's to blame?" Thao asks.

The live in boyfriend of Seth's mother, LeBarron Vaughn is charged with the boys murder. Rena Ireland, the child's mother faces charges of injury to a child. Family members had suspected the boy was being abused by Vaughn.

Rena Irelands brother in law, Chris Fields says, "We just heard that he was abusing the child. We did hear that. But we had no significant evidence to say that it was."

Seth's mother first tried to alert authorities to the abuse. Back in August, she took the boy to Fresno police, saying Vaughn had hit the boy, leaving marks. But she then changed the story, and blamed herself. Police say they notified Child Protective Services. Neighbors say they also complained about the boys treatment to CPS. But that apparently wasn't enough.

Fresno County's Director of Child Protective Services can't comment on this case specifically, but says before a child can be removed from their parents there must be real proof of danger before a child can be taken from away from parents, "We have to have evidence that child is at risk." She said.

Even it seems, if the parents want to give the child away. On the day after Christmas, both Rena and Vaughn took ten year old Seth, and a 7 year old brother to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, and said they could no longer care for the boys.

But according to the Sheriff's Department, the couple changed their minds and left. The Sheriff's Office says a report was filed with CPS but no immediate action appears to have been taken. Three days later, Seth received the beating that killed him. So why didn't the authorities act?

Esther Franco is the director of the Fresno County Council on Child Abuse Prevention. Esther Franco heads the Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention. She says local agencies are overwhelmed with more than 18 thousand suspected or reported child abuse cases in Fresno County alone. But Seth's uncle, Chris Fields, wants him remembered as more than a tragic statistic.

"He's a hero and that's the way I want him to be remembered as a hero. And his brothers don't have to go through what he went through."

Seth's two younger brothers have been placed in temporary foster care. Another child who was in the home is now with relatives. The chairperson of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors , Susan B. Anderson, says the county will conduct a full investigation into the procedures taken by county agencies in this case.

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