DES MOINES, Iowa -- Those with a passion for adoption and foster care services are disgusted. "Obviously something needs to be done because kids are dying." Bill Pearce, adoption investigator and board member of Iowans for Adoption, says the majority of foster and adoptive parents are excellent, but more kids need homes and excellent isn't always available. "What you are faced with in a lot of these situations is that all of the choices are bad, so you end up making the least bad of all the bad choices that you had."
In October, West Des Moines 16-year-old Natalie Finn died of a heart attack due to starvation in her adopted home. Just last week, 16-year-old Sabrina Ray was found dead in Perry. She weighed just 56 pounds. Pearce said, "Those of us in the adoption world need to get together and ask each other 'how can we solve this?'"
The Department of Human Services has said they are launching a full review of their process after reports that case workers investigated complaint reports at both homes of Finn and Ray before their deaths. "When there's a suspicion of child abuse we have to follow the law for what does child abuse mean and go through our regular processes," said DHS Spokesperson Amy McCoy.
They are willing to start from square one. "There are greater conversations we can have about recruiting quality families to foster and adopt," said McCoy.
The Ray home was being monitored by DHS for complaints, but those were in regards to the day care they ran and not Misty and Marc Ray's own children. McCoy said the two are separate departments, "Do a comprehensive look at our systems seeing if there are gaps in the way we communicate between child care and child welfare."
Another glaring issue, the numbers. McCoy said, "We are always looking at our resources that our workers have and their jobs are extremely difficult."
An April senate oversight committee investigation found resources have been hard to come by as full-time DHS employees have declined by 689 employees from July of 2011 to July of 2016. Pearce said, "You can mess with the law make it more strict or lenient but if you don`t have people to apply it, doesn't make a difference what it says."
Pearce also says re-homing is an issue. That's when a child is adopted, the parents realize there is a problem with the child they can't deal with and hand off the child to someone they know who has never been vetted by an adoption agency.