State punishes foster agency in death of baby

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Associated Press

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 5:32 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The state has ordered a foster care agency that oversaw a home in which an 11-month-old was killed to stop taking children into its Austin-area program indefinitely.

State officials said Thursday that Lutheran Social Services of the South knew that a man with a history of drug, alcohol and domestic abuse regularly visited the Cedar Park home where the child was living, but failed to keep him away, the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/JHPTM3) reported.

Police say that in October, Jacob Salas crushed the head of Orion Hamilton between his knee and the floor at the home. Salas is in the Williamson County jail on felony child abuse charges.

When the child was killed, she was living with her step-aunt, Heather Hamilton, who was serving as her foster mother. Salas has three biological children with Heather Hamilton.

According to a letter from the Department of Family and Protective Services, the foster agency endangered Hamilton when it failed to do a background check on Salas. The letter further states the foster agency failed to follow up on insurance documentation indicating Salas lived in the home and allowed the foster mother to work on the weekends without providing an approved child care plan.

The letter said that, at the time of her death, Orion Hamilton had rib fractures in various stages of healing.

Lutheran currently monitors 57 such homes in the Austin area and the agency's operations will be under additional scrutiny for the next six months.

Kurt Senske, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South, said in a statement that they "remain confident of the quality of all of our programs" and added that they'll cooperate fully with the state. He said they're set to meet with state officials to discuss their concerns and will have no additional comment prior to that meeting.

Orion Hamilton had been living with Heather Hamilton since December 2012. The child was under the supervision of Child Protective Services until early October, when Lutheran approved Hamilton as an official foster mother. Until then, CPS had been in charge of the case. State officials are currently conducting an investigation into their own role in the case.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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