A former foster parent now faces charges after a 2009 incident during which an infant sustained severe injuries while under her care. The charges include two counts of child abuse and two counts of second-degree assault against the infant, all of which are considered felonies. The penalties for those offenses could range from five to 15 years behind bars, according to official reports.

The infant was transported by helicopter to the St. Louis Children's Hospital after sustaining multiple fractures and a series of severe head trauma. Medical records show that the baby sustained a depressed skull fracture, brain swelling, subdural hemorrhages, retinal hemorrhages, seizures and a collarbone fracture. The boy had to be placed on a ventilator because of the injuries.

The woman insists that she slipped and fell at the top of the stairs while carrying the baby. As she fell, the child apparently slipped out of her arms, landing on his head on the tile floor, which caused the numerous injuries.

Records indicate that a private management agency failed to follow protocols that would have kept the infant safe while he was in the care of the St. Charles County family. The boy reportedly suffered a broken arm about six weeks before he suffered the severe trauma from which he nearly died. The agency failed to follow up on the case with hospital physicians, according to an external investigation.

A closed citizen's review panel had overturned child abuse allegations against the woman during an earlier hearing. Furthermore, the St. Charles County Prosecutor refused to press charges in the case until a reporter's inquiry prompted a reopening of the case.

The young boy, now 3 years old, was adopted by his great-aunt, who assumed guardianship.

This is clearly a very difficult case. No matter how serious the charges leveled against the St. Charles County woman are, she is still considered innocent until proven otherwise. Because she could spend years in prison, conducting an independent investigation may prove to be valuable. A pre-trial investigation led by the defense could corroborate the woman's story about falling down the stairs, which could force the charges to be reduced or dropped altogether.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "St. Charles County foster parent charged with child abuse," Nancy Cambria, April 11, 2012