12th June 19:50
Social Worker Caseworker Hersh Charged for smothering kid (apnea heart job diarrhea)
Posted on Fri, Sep. 29, 2006
CHILD ABUSE CASE
Hospitalized infant was nearly smothered, doctors suspect
Ex-foster mother charged
A previous foster child had died in the care of the former area social
By JOHN SHULTZ and TONY RIZZO The Kansas City Star
A former area social worker and foster parent has been charged with
attempting to smother her 6-week-old foster child while he was
hospitalized at Children's Mercy Hospital.
Beth Ann Hersh, formerly of Blue Springs, also was the subject of an
investigation in 2004 after a 4-month-old child died while in her care,
according to court do***ents filed this week in support of the new
charges. Criminal charges were not pursued in the 2004 case, and after
an initial finding of "neglect," her status as a special-needs
foster parent was reinstated, according to the do***ents
Hersh, 28, who worked for the Missouri Division of Family Services in
Clay County from 2000 until 2004, was arrested Wednesday in Arizona,
where she was undergoing training for a job as a child protective
services caseworker. It could not be determined whether she has a
Hersh is charged in Jackson County Circuit Court with first-degree
assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
According to the affidavit filed to support the charges, the child,
identified in court do***ents as B.J., was born Feb. 22 and was
admitted to Children's Mercy on April 3 with vomiting, fever and
Medication improved his condition, but several days later he began
experiencing "unexplained" seizures.
Hospital staffers told investigators that Hersh stayed at B.J.'s
bedside during his hospital stay, and that she was present at every
report of a seizure. Doctors provided medication to control the
seizures, but they continued, and a video camera was set up to observe
When doctors later reviewed the video, they noted that the camera had
been "pushed away" on two occasions. The second time the camera was
pushed away, the child's arm and leg were partly visible. He appeared
to be sleeping quietly when his breathing became "very labored" and
his heart rate slowed.
"B.J.'s relaxed body became stiff and vigorously jerking as well as
muffled cries could be heard on the video," according to the
The next day doctors reviewed the video and data from monitors and
determined that the kind of brain activity that would occur during a
seizure was not present. They attributed the "event" to an
"Doctors concluded probably a hand was placed over B.J.'s mouth and
nose which caused him to struggle for air and his body to jerk
violently," the affidavit states. When confronted about the
doctors' suspicions, Hersh appeared calm, doctors said, and she
answered, "Why would I do something like that?"
The affidavit noted that since B.J. was removed from Hersh's care
after the April hospital incident, he has suffered no more seizures.
Hersh made an initial appearance before a judge Thursday in Yavapai
County, Ariz. She did not agree to be extradited to Jackson County,
authorities said. Hersh is being held there without bond.
A spokesman for Arizona Child Protective Services said Hersh was sent a
letter of dismissal as a result of her arrest Wednesday. He said she
had been hired in July after passing a criminal background check.
A Jackson County judge set her bond at $150,000 and ordered that she
have no contact with anyone under 17.
Hersh became a Jackson County foster parent in January 2004, after she
left the employ of the state's Division of Family Services. Division
employees who work with foster children, as Hersh did, are not
permitted to be foster parents, said division spokeswoman Deb Scott.
Scott said Hersh passed all the necessary licensing requirements,
including background checks, physical and mental exams and a home
Juan, a foster child assigned to Hersh, died that year. Juan was born
with drug-related conditions and was in need of 24-hour monitoring,
Scott said. He was on an apnea monitor for breathing problems.
Court do***ents show the division found neglect had occurred, but that
finding later was overturned. Scott said such findings can be
overturned by appeals to either an outside review board or to the
"Social services worked extensively with law enforcement to conduct
an investigation," Scott said.
She declined to say whether Juan's death would be re-examined in
light of this week's charges, but added: "Our goal is to have safe,
loving foster homes for children. If there was cause to suspect
further, we certainly would relook."
Hersh left the area in early July, according to her former landlord.
According to the state Department of Social Services, Hersh's foster
parent license was revoked the same month. While she was a foster
parent, Hersh cared for 13 children, a department spokeswoman said.