Bureau Of Milwaukee Child Welfare May Be Implicated In Death Of Children Killed In Fire

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The Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (“BMCW”) has a long history of failing children in Milwaukee who need protective services. Indeed, the BMCW had such a bad record that the State of Wisconsin had to take it over. Tragically, state involvement has apparently not improved the BMCW, evidenced by the most recent deaths of three children.

On Thursday, April 11, 2013, three children died in a fire at their West Allis home, a five-year-old girl and 4-year-old twin boys. According to the criminal complaint filed against the mother, she had locked the children in a bedroom the night of the fire, and a defective light fixture located in the kitchen started the fire inside a wall just below the bedroom where the children were locked. It is alleged that the mother was aware of prior electrical problems in the home.

This tragedy might have been prevented. On February 26, 2013, a BMCW worker discovered that the mother had left the 4-year-old twins and her 1-year-old son home alone. The BMCW took no action after this discovery, except to order the mother not to leave her children alone. Then, on March 13, 2013, the mother left the same three boys alone in a store parking lot while she went shopping. The twins were found running around in the parking lot, where one was almost struck by a car. The 1-year-old was found crying inside the car. Despite a finding that the children were ”Children in Need of Protective Services,” six charges of misdemeanor neglect, and despite the mother’s failure to obey an earlier order not to leave her children alone, the mother was apparently allowed to keep custody of the children, although reports reflect that she was again ordered not to leave them alone. The mother obviously disobeyed the order again, this time with the consequence of the three children dying in a fire. Read more about this tragedy in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

The Milwaukee civil rights lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran express our sympathy and outrage at this potentially preventable, but heartbreaking incident. We have prior experience dealing with the tragic decisions of the BMCW and its agents when we represented the estate of Will R. Johnson, involving a case of a 5-month old baby who died after the BMCW and its agents permitted unsupervised visits between Will and her mother, despite the mother’s long history of violence, threats of violence and mental health problems. During one of these unsupervised visits, the mother drowned Will in a bathtub. After our team of civil rights attorneys filed a lawsuit, we were able to settle the case without a trial. Read more about the Will R. Johnson case here. We hope that there are substantial changes and better accountability for the actions of the BMCW and its agents, so that future deaths of Milwaukee’s children can be prevented.

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