WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty (OH-03) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in requesting an investigation into the events leading up to the tragic death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant on behalf of Paula Bryant and Myron Hammonds, Ma’Khia Bryant’s birth parents.

Before she was tragically shot to death by a police officer responding to a domestic dispute call, Ma’Khia Bryant spent two years moving between at least five different foster care homes. State-level data show that Ohio children are placed in the foster care system at a rate 10 percent higher than the national average. Despite research that shows that kinship care is beneficial to children’s health, well-being, and cultural identity, Ohio provides far less financial support to a child in state custody who is placed with a kinship caregiver than it gives to a child placed in a licensed foster care setting.

“The federal government has an obligation to protect the civil rights of all individuals, and especially those children, young people, and parents involved in federally-funded child welfare systems,” wrote the lawmakers.

“When a child dies in foster care, the system has failed. It failed Ma’Khia Bryant, who lived in her foster family home for about two months before a police officer shot and killed her in front of that home on April 20, 2021,” the lawmakers continued.

In December, Brown and Wyden led a letter to Principal Deputy Inspector General for HHS, Christi Grimm requesting an investigation into child abuse at federally funded treatment centers. 

A copy of the letter is available here and below:

Acting Assistant Secretary JooYeun Chang

Administration for Children & Families

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

330 C Street, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Acting Director Robinsue Frohboese

Office for Civil Rights

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Dear Acting Assistant Secretary Chang & Acting Director Frohboese: 

I write to request an investigation into the events leading up to the tragic death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant on behalf of Paula Bryant and Myron Hammonds, Ma’Khia Bryant’s birth parents. Ma’Khia should be alive today. At the time of her death, Ma’Khia was in the custody of Franklin County Children Services (FCCS), which is currently reviewing the details of Ma’Khia’s case. I urge the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to provide assistance to FCCS during their review of Ma’Khia’s case and request HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launch an independent investigation into events leading up to her death. 

The federal government has an obligation to protect the civil rights of all individuals, and especially those children, young people, and parents involved in federally-funded child welfare systems. Federal law requires states receiving funds under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to comply with State requirements related to the health and safety of children in foster care. When a child dies in foster care, the system has failed. It failed Ma’Khia Bryant, who lived in her foster family home for about two months before a police officer shot and killed her in front of that home on April 20, 2021.

Make no mistake—the foster care system is broken. There is a nationwide shortage of foster parents. Meanwhile, child poverty, a lack of resources for grandparents and kinship care providers, and barriers to affordable housing and quality mental health services all increase the likelihood of child welfare involvement. Data show that young Black Americans are more likely to die from police gunfire than young white Americans.[1] These inequities played out in Ma’Khia’s life and are all too familiar for children and young people in the foster care system, particularly Black and brown children who are overrepresented in the child welfare system. OCR’s investigation should examine whether the State of Ohio and FCCS complied with federal non-discrimination services in the provision of child welfare programs and activities, including but not limited to child removals, foster care placement, development of maintenance of foster family home standards that protect children’s civil rights, and safety risk assessments.

One child’s death is one too many, and we cannot let these children slip through the cracks. I support the request of Paula Bryant and Myron Hammonds to initiate an investigation into the circumstances leading up to Ma’Khia’s death so that they may receive the clarity they deserve on the death of their daughter. Therefore, it is critical that ACF provide any assistance necessary to support the FCCS review, and that OCR launch an independent investigation into events leading up to Ma’Khia’s death and into the local and state entities charged with her care. 

Sincerely,

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[1] https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/146/6/e2020015917