Director of Social Services apologizes for Baby Braxton oversight

Posted at 1:53 PM, Feb 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-21 13:56:17-04

Virginia Beach's director of social services admits social workers did not protect baby Braxton like they should have.

Braxton was abused to death by his foster mother. Hearing Social Services say they did nothing wrong, even when they took a picture of Braxton clearly suffering was even more infuriating to many viewers.

NewsChannel 3 kept pressing the man in charge to answer questions about baby Braxton.

NewsChannel 3 finally got results.

“I want to take the time to apologize to the people in our community, and especially to the biological family, the foster parents from before, also for not being able to see the warning signs that we should have seen of the abuse Braxton had suffered,” says Robert Morin of the Virginia Beach Human Services.

Morin admitted his staff missed signs of abuse clearly visible on Braxton Taylor.

Pictures, first obtained by NewsChannel 3, were taken in the social services building barely two weeks before Braxton died. They show a baby that was cut, bruised and battered. They were snapped by a social worker who kept Braxton with the foster mother who then killed him.

“The problem I have is that we should have protected Braxton a lot better than we did,” says Morin.

The concessions come a week after a NewsChannel 3 investigation showed social workers had at least two opportunities to save Braxton, but did not. On Thursday, Morin said he is asking regional, state and federal officials to review everything about Braxton's case, from the policies to the people.

“The intent is no holds barred. You tell us if there are some issues that we have failed to recognize, and we haven't made the appropriate changes at this point,” says Morin.

This is in addition to new policies now in place because of Braxton's death, requiring more staff training, and a more vigorous investigation of bruises on all foster children.

“It's a shift in culture. It's a turning point for us. And we keep saying that we are appalled at what happened to Braxton, and we are saddened and sorry for that,” says Morin.

“We are both so hopeful that the ball has started rolling,” said Ben FitzPatrick, one of baby Braxton’s foster parents.

This is the reason the FitzPatrick’s went public with their story, pouring out their anguish over the baby they cared for from birth to seven months.

When one of their young children needed difficult surgery, they asked social services to locate a foster parent who was ready for a sweet and healthy baby like Braxton.

Social workers picked Kathleen Ganiere, who later pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The plea meant no trial, and no scrutiny for the lapses at social services.

“It's been a very hard two years. We think about Braxton every day. We feel guilty that we asked for him to be moved. We know we can't go back, but we have that, if only,” says Sarah.

“I am sure everyone who has lost a child knows the grief, but they didn't hand that child over to the person who killed him. That's the toughest thing,” says Ben.

“We had to do something to make a change. There was nothing else we could do, other than contact you,” says Sarah.

Baby Braxton's story generated a torrent of outrage and convinced Morin that an outside agency should examine the case.

“Will that be public?” asked NewsChannel 3’s Mike Mather.

“Yes it will, Mike—completely public. And I made mention to the commissioner's office the same thing—that I want to make sure we understand that this entire review of this case would be public record.

That also is a major change. The city is still fighting NewsChannel 3 to block us from seeing records from Braxton's case. And, Morin said, if the state review shows social workers failed at their jobs, they will be fired.

“I am absolutely hopeful that changes are coming. There needs to be more than words. That's all I can say,” says Ben.

The state review should begin in the next two weeks, but there is no deadline to finish it.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Ganiere is appealing her 10-year sentence, the city is facing a lawsuit, and NewsChannel 3 is taking the city to court because the city attorney refuses to release any records in this case.