The aunt of a 4-year-old boy hospitalized after allegedly being tortured and beaten by his foster mother said Monday the boy’s extended family is struggling to get more information on what happened and have been barred from visiting the boy.
The boy’s aunt, Maria Jacinto, spoke out during a news conference Monday morning, standing alongside lawyer Michael Adler.
“They don’t deserve this at all. No kid deserves this, in any care, under anybody’s care,” Jacinto said. “We’re just asking for justice … and information.”
Jacinto appeared to be referencing both the hospitalized boy — identified as Andres F. in a criminal complaint filed against his foster mother — and his 2-year-old brother, who is also reportedly in foster care.
Adler said the boy was in the care of his foster family when he was severely beaten.
“We have no evidence that … he was with anyone other than this foster family, and there’s clear evidence that he was tortured and beaten into a coma,” Adler told reporters.
“Like every parent, you’re just horrified beyond belief. You don’t understand, one, how it happened, two, why someone would do this.”
The sheriff’s department confirmed that the boy’s foster mother, Gabriela Casarez, was arrested on Oct. 29 on suspicion of child abuse, one day after the Special Victims Bureau was called out to a location in the 14700 block of Pioneer Boulevard in Norwalk.
The boy sustained “grave injuries” and was admitted to an intensive care unit, where his condition remains critical, according to an LASD statement.
Casarez pleaded not guilty last Friday in Norwalk to three felony counts — two counts of child abuse likely to cause great bodily injury or death and one count of assault on a child becoming comatose, according to court records.
The criminal complaint names Emiliano F. as a second victim of abuse likely to cause great bodily injury or death. In the case of both Andres and Emiliano, the complaint cites the date of abuse as occurring on or between June 4 and Oct. 28. The family told KTLA that the boys were placed in foster care in April.
Casarez is being held in lieu of $1.2 million bail and is due back in court Dec. 6, according to court records and the LASD.
The boy’s extended family, identified by KTLA as the Francisco family, told the station they were notified by someone other than the Department of Children and Family Services that the boy was hospitalized on Oct. 28.
The Department of Children and Family Services responded to a request for basic details by saying that confidentiality protects children and families and prohibits the release of information. The department also defended the process of choosing foster families.
“Licensure of resource families involves rigorously examining the suitability of potential families to identify safe, nurturing and supportive homes for children in foster care,” the DCFS statement read.
“DCFS thoroughly investigates allegations of caretaker abuse and neglect and, when appropriate, works closely with law enforcement to ensure children remain safe and that substantiated allegations are swiftly addressed in a court of law.
“State law protects the confidentiality of records for all children and families who may have come to the attention of child protective services, and prohibits confirming or commenting on whether a child or family has been involved with the department. These laws are in place to protect the confidentiality of children, siblings and their families,” the statement concluded.
The Sheriff’s Department urged anyone with information about the incident to call the Special Victims Bureau toll- free tip line at 877-710-5273 or email email@example.com.