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State told grandmother she was too old to raise grandson; child was later raped in foster care

1 year 3 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, August 10 2022 Aug 10, 2022 August 10, 2022 5:44 PM August 10, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE- A grandmother told the WBRZ Investigative Unit the state told her she was too old to care for her grandson when she tried to get custody of him. Instead, the state placed the child in foster care. The foster parent was arrested last week for raping the 14-year-old.

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Sylvia Smith, the child's grandmother, says on four separate occasions she filed complaints with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) about her grandson's living conditions. He does not share her last name. Smith told WBRZ her grandson shared specific details of what Michael Hadden did to him.

"He says, 'Mimi, sometimes I wake up at night, and I just scream,'" Smith said.

Smith said her grandson told her he was raped multiple times a week starting at the age of seven. He was also forced to perform sex acts with other foster children in the house so Hadden could watch, according to Smith.

The child was signed away to foster care about seven years ago, when Smith's son no longer wanted to care for him. That's about the time, she said, she began spending $30,000 of her money trying to get custody of her grandson.

"They would just say you're too old," Smith recalled. "I'm not too old. I can climb those trees over there."

Smith, who is 80 years old, still wants custody of her grandson. She said a cascade of failures by DCFS allowed this to happen.

She wants Hadden to stay in jail forever.

"I wanted to hurt a lot of people at first," Smith said. "When I grew up, you fought. Someone did something to you, you knocked the devil out of them...can't do that anymore. But, if I had a choice I would beat him up. I can beat him up."

At the capitol this week, DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters said the house where the boys were allegedly raped was seen by caseworkers as a part of a site visit. The dilapidated house was in a messy condition and had missing roof tiles and more.

"Being able to provide adequate shelter is one of the things we look at," Walters said. "The house had to pass a home study. At some point, that home passed that home study."

Smith does not believe Walters. She also does not believe routine site visits were happening with any sort of frequency.

"Are ya'll crazy," Smith asked. "Are you stupid? Because let me tell you something, where they lived over there with him, it was roach-infested, [had] mice, and three boys would sleep together in the same bed."

With so many problems at DCFS, Smith said it's time for the organization to be dismantled.

"We need John Bel Edwards, that Broome person, to get together and tear this all apart and start over from scratch and hire people who know what they are doing."

DCFS said the matter remains under investigation and there was nothing the agency could say when asked today.

Hadden remains jailed on a $325,000 bond.

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