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Toddler drowns while in state custody

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DENHAM SPRINGS - The family of a toddler who drowned last week in Mandeville is demanding answers from the state over how that happened.

The toddler, 22-month-old Michael Bananno, drowned while in foster care in St. Tammany Parish. He had been removed from the custody of his parent's home in Denham Springs earlier this year after paramedics were called to the house when two people reportedly overdosed on drugs.

Noel Bananno holds on to the happy memories she has of her precocious and precious toddler.

"Never gave me any problems at all, the best baby in the world," Bananno said.

The child's grandmother, Cheryl Bananno, said she also misses Michael's smile and can't believe he's dead.

"We will never hear that laugh again," Cheryl Bananno said. "I'll never hear him call me 'maw maw.'"

Authorities said on June 9 Bananno's foster mother found the child in the swimming pool. She attempted CPR, but Bananno didn't make it. 

The Department of Children and Family Services declined to comment on this particular case, but said it is customary to launch an investigation whenever a child drowns.

The Banannos believe the child should not have been removed from their home in the first place. They claim that after Michael was taken, the state came and checked things out. At that point, they believe Michael should have been returned to their home.

"Michael's blood is on their hands," Cheryl Bananno said.

"I don't want this to happen to another child," said Noel Bananno.

DCFS says when investigations are opened into abuse or neglect, placements of children into foster care are suspended.

No charges have been filed in the drowning so far.


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