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State investigating 1-year-old's death in foster care; foster parents charged with murder

2 years 7 months 3 weeks ago Tuesday, September 21 2021 Sep 21, 2021 September 21, 2021 5:33 PM September 21, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Two foster parents were arrested Monday after a 1-year-old died in their care.

Police say Royalty Sonnier, who was only 17 months old, died after she was repeatedly shaken and struck by Teresita and Ruben Morgan. Both are now in custody on second-degree murder charges.

The Morgans claim that Royalty went limp after falling and hitting her head in the bath tub. The couple later admitted they repeatedly shook, slapped and struck the child in an attempt to "revive her." 

Teresita Morgan also told investigators she shook the baby on the entire drive to the hospital. The coroner's office said she died of swelling to the brain, caused by "shaking or rotational injury with impact."

The girl spent a week in intensive care before she was ultimately deemed brain dead and taken off life support.

The Department of Children and Family Services released the following statement Tuesday.

We are heartbroken to hear of the allegations of abuse of one of our foster children.
We work with hundreds of foster parents every day who do an amazing job to keep children safe and protected.

It's rare to receive allegations of abuse against foster parents.

We are working closely with law enforcement in conducting an investigation into this death.
As part of the process, we are reviewing all records regarding the care of the child victim.

"It breaks my heart for the children and for the families that are going through this," said Janay Jones-Clark, the founder of Foster Village Baton Rouge.

It's an organization that advocates for change in the system. As a foster and adoptive parent who experienced the system herself, she says there is much room for improvement.

"Our case was easy relative to other foster cases, but at the same time the process was very hard. We didn't get a lot of support from DCFS," Jones-Clark said.

According to DCFS, there are requirements any potential foster parent must meet in order to raise a foster child. That includes an extensive criminal background check, child abuse and neglect background clearances.

There's also the completion of a home study, which Jones-Clark says has the most blind spots.

"There are too many cases per case worker to really understand what's going on in a home. In my own experience, the visit was always scheduled. So, I can see how you can work the system and get around those visits," she said.

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