Imagine being a child, without the ability to care for yourself, and find yourself constantly abused, malnourished, locked in a closet and forced to live every day in a room full of urine and feces. Imagine even further, that you are a special-needs child living under those conditions.
Seems like a horrible script from a movie, but that script became the nightmarish reality seven special-needs children had to endure and saw play out before their very eyes, while under the foster care of an extremely negligent adoptive parent in their Fort Bend County home.
This past Saturday, Paula Sinclair, 54, and Allen Richardson, 78, were arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping and injury to a child, according to Fort Bend County jail records.
The arrests came after Fort Bend County sheriff’s deputies launched an investigation into the case, following a decision last month by Child Protective Services to remove those seven special-needs children from their home in the Long Meadow Farms subdivision of Richmond. CPS launched an inquiry into Sinclair and her group home in November, following allegations of abuse at the home. CPS was granted temporary custody of the children by Judge Cindy Aguirre, after an affidavit to support the removal of the children was filed on Nov. 23, in Fort Bend County’s 505th State District Court.
This past Tuesday, a custody hearing was held and Judge David Perwin awarded the state custody of the seven special-needs children after Sinclair agreed to temporarily release them back to the state. Sinclair failed to appear in court, but her attorneys laid out a detailed plan to allow the children to remain in the state’s custody for several more weeks. Another custody hearing is scheduled for January 18, 2017, but the details of this case are horrific.
Sinclair, known as “Mom” and Richardson, who is known as “Coach,” are not married; however, Sinclair is married, but her husband does not live at the home where the children were removed. Her husband has not been charged, according to officials.
According to Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls in a statement, the detectives went to the home on Nov. 23, and found that Sinclair had locked the children in a 5-by-8-foot closet when she went out. According to investigators, the children, two – age 14, four – age 15, and one – age 16, were reportedly malnourished; locked in that cramped single room that was used to store boxes and clothes; and physically injured when they were hit with a wooden paddle, causing bodily injuries. Investigators said the children were locked in the closet any time Sinclair had to take Richardson to a doctor’s appointment, and while locked up, the children would often urinate and defecate on themselves because they were left so long without adult supervision. At least one of the children has Down’s syndrome and was found wearing a dirty diaper when deputies finally removed them from the home. The children were transferred to the Fort Bend County Children’s Advocacy Center in Rosenberg to be interviewed by case workers before being taken to a Houston hospital for treatment. According to investigators, the children had learning disabilities and none of them had ever attended school, and were allegedly only fed beans and rice twice a day since they were babies.
“I cannot think of a more deplorable situation than what we have learned in this case,” said Sheriff Nehls. “These people are taking advantage of a lousy situation at the expense of children who cannot fend for themselves. It is absolutely heartbreaking.”
At the time of her arrest, Sinclair had been operating a group home for adults, and according to deputies, three disabled adults lived there at the home at the time of the children being removed.
Although CPS officials say they do regular checks on foster families, they say that once children are adopted, they only are able to take action to discover abuses like this one, after they are given a tip or a complaint is made. This incident could not have come at a more inconvenient time for this new administration in the state of Texas, and with the upcoming legislative session looming, especially when there has been so much scrutiny given to CPS as to their inadequate handling of the widespread allegations of reported abuses across the state of Texas.
Back in 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack of Corpus Christi wrote in a decision that Texas had violated the constitutional rights of foster children by exposing them to an unreasonable risk of harm in a system where children “often age out of care more damaged than when they entered.” Judge Jack went on to say that “Years of abuse, neglect and shuttling between inappropriate placements across the state has created a population that cannot contribute to society, and proves a continued strain on the government through welfare, incarceration or otherwise.”
Ironically, this past Thursday, a little over a week after these special-needs children were found to have been grossly abused, the state of Texas decided to miraculously approve more than $100 million in emergency funding to hire more than 800 workers and give pay raises to 7,000 employees. Although changes are being made, there is still much work to do in Texas.
Many people have had the great fortune of being raised in a household, with a loving parent or guardian who cared for them. Others have not been so fortunate as to have a loving parent or guardian to raise them, so they have found themselves in foster care.
On any given day, there are approximately 415,000 children in foster care in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau.
In 2014, over 650,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care, and more than half of those children entering U.S. foster care were young people of color.
Child Abuse is the 3rd cause of death of American children under the age of 4, and on average, five children die every day in the U.S. as a result of child abuse or neglect.
Sinclair and Richardson remain in Fort Bend County Jail on $100,000 bail each, and will have to go before another judge to face the criminal charges that have been levied against them.
Those seven adopted special-needs children, who were all adopted at the same time by Sinclair, will need a lot more than prayers to overcome the abuse they suffered. Once they are out of the hospital, the state will place them with a foster family, and state workers say they plan to do additional checks once they are placed with a foster family. Prayerfully, these kids won’t slip through the cracks again, and suffer yet another horrific and nightmarish experience, as the one they just escaped from.