Friday, August 10, 2001
By JENNIFER V. HUGHES
A Paterson woman has sued the state Division of Youth and Family Services, charging a foster parent with burning her 2-year-old daughter after the agency took away her five children for several months last year.
Wykeema Beal, 24, lost custody of her children, then ages 1 to 6, in February 2000 because of shoddy living conditions, Matthew Sumner, Beal's lawyer, has said.
When Beal's daughter Mishauna returned home from foster care, she had marks on her chest, thigh, and buttocks, Sumner has said. Mishauna and two of her brothers are deaf.
Sumner said a DYFS caseworker told Beal the burns were an accident, caused when a curling iron fell onto the child while she was on the toilet.
But Sumner said some of the marks appeared old and others newer. Furthermore, he said DYFS workers did not tell Beal about the injuries until she pressed for details.
Beal's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state Superior Court in Paterson, seeks unspecified damages. DYFS does not comment on pending litigation, a spokesman said.
In May, Beal's first DYFS caseworker filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the agency, charging that he was fired after he refused to tailor his reports toward removing the Beal children. Michael Spincola of Cliffside Park is scheduled to have an administrative hearing to contest his dismissal in October.
Spincola has said the family was living in a squalid apartment when he was assigned the case -- his first -- after an anonymous tip in December 1999. He said he found the family another apartment, but his supervisors refused to go along with the plan.
Spincola said his supervisor told him that "children should be taken away from poor parents if they can be better off elsewhere," Spincola's lawsuit states.
Beyond that, Spincola charges that DYFS wanted to remove the children, especially the deaf brothers, because a rich, suburban couple who are audiologists wanted to adopt them.
Spincola was fired in May 2000, at the end of his probationary term.
Although DYFS has declined to comment on specifics of the case, a spokesman has said Spincola's allegations run contrary to all DYFS protocol.
"[Beal] is doing very good," said Spincola, who has kept in contact with the family since the beginning of the case. "Money is always tight, but she is wonderful with the children."
Staff Writer Jennifer V. Hughes' e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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