WICHITA, Kan. — The death of a 10-month-old foster child is the latest in a string of hot-car child deaths in the United States, triggering the quick arrest of the girl’s foster father and on Friday which prompted state officials to launch home inspections of adoptive and foster families.
The 29-year-old foster father told police he picked up with child from a babysitter about 4 p.m. Thursday, drove home and forgot the child was in the back seat, according to Lt. Todd Ojile of the Wichita Police Department. Investigators say the girl was locked in the car with the windows up for some two-and-a-half hours. Temperatures in the Wichita area reached the low 90s on Thursday.
The foster father was booked on an aggravated endangerment charge but has not been formally charged. Ojile said the district attorney could file charges as early as next week.
The suspect was in the process of adopting the girl with his partner, according to police. “Both were extremely upset,” Ojile said.
The suspect’s mother says her son is now on suicide watch, that he no longer wants to live after the foster child’s death. She says her son loved children, and specifically took in children born in difficult circumstances.
“His sentence is now a lifetime. Whether it’s on paper or not, it’s in his mind and it’s going to be in his heart the rest of his life,” she said.
The couple are the adoptive parents of two children and are foster parents to four others with ages ranging from 3 to 18 years old, Ojile said. He said the couple’s other children have been removed from the home and placed with family members, as the investigation continues.
On Friday, Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore ordered immediate home inspections for all adoptive and foster families associated with the agency that approved the couple for foster care.
So far in 2014, according to statistics compiled by the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, there have been at least 18 heatstroke deaths of children left in vehicles. In one highly publicized case, a Georgia father remains in jail awaiting trial on murder and child cruelty charges in the death of his toddler son, who was left in the father’s SUV for seven hours.