Did the system fail baby Braxton?

Posted at 8:34 PM, Feb 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-21 14:17:25-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WTKR) Braxton Michael Taylor, an angel to his first foster family, was abused to death by his second foster mother, a woman named Kathleen Ganiere.

Social workers missed at least two chances to save his life and now hundreds of viewers want to know more about why the system failed him and how an abusive woman could become a foster mother.

Ben and Sarah FitzPatrick have fostered 18 children, including Braxton. And when one of their children needed major surgery, they thought it best for Braxton to move him to a new foster family that could give him more attention, and maybe even adopt him. But when that day came, Sarah sensed something strange.

“I was asked to hand him over at the back of the DHS building and not give any contact with the new foster parents. And that was alarming to me because it never happened that way,” says Sarah.

Sarah said she was denied contact with Kathleen Ganiere, even to offer advice or help.

A NewsChannel 3 investigation reveals that social workers saw the bruises and cuts at least twice. Human Services director Robert Morin says Ganiere convinced his staff the baby fell down a lot.

“Obviously, he was beaten by a foster parent who was trained by us, and obviously we do all we can to make sure they have the training they need,” says Morin.

But frankly, it’s not obvious Ganiere had the training she needed. Virginia Beach is keeping all of its records secret. And if you listen to what Ganiere said to police, you might wonder if she had any training at all.

Ganiere “did not want a special needs child.” She thought Braxton was a “vegetable,” and she wasn’t going to be a “dumping ground” for special-needs children.

That stuns the FitzPatricks.

“He was one of the easiest foster children we’ve had to care for in terms of how content he was, how happy he was,” says Sarah.

And somehow, a first-time foster mother fooled the professionals.

“Are you saying essentially that Kathleen Ganiere pulled the wool over your eyes in this case?” asked NewsChannel 3’s Mike Mather.

“I’m not going to say that. I think our staff is trained to be able to work with foster parents. I think she misled us. I think in the training especially, where I heard she had been one of the top students, and yeah, I guess you could say that. She did cover herself up. She covered up her issues that we were never able to find out about,” says Morin.

Despite being duped both in training and about the baby’s injuries, the director says there was no need for an internal investigation because, simply, no one on his staff bears any blame.

We want to see that for ourselves, so NewsChannel 3 has filed an open-records request to see who knew about Braxton’s troubles, what they knew, and when they knew it.

Virginia Beach is fighting to keep those files secret.