A Sacramento baby fell through the cracks of every part of the system and is now dead as a result of inaction.
Eight-month-old Ryder Salmen died after drinking his mother’s breast milk, which was laced with a lethal mix of Xanax, methadone, and the painkiller Opana. Tragically, Court documents show Ryder’s mother had been warned five months before this to cease breastfeeding due to the high levels of methadone that had been found in the baby’s bloodstream. The test was done when Ryder, who was four months old at the time, was brought in to the hospital for being extremely lethargic.
The Sacramento Bee reports that documents obtained under the California Public Records Act show that, after that hospital visit, social workers came to the conclusion that Ryder was at risk. A safety plan was required for him to be able to remain in his mother’s custody.
What happened next will likely make you nauseous, especially if you’re a parent. A CPS manager took three months to approve the safety assessment for Ryder’s case which, in turn, left Ryder in the care of his drug-addicted mother.
"Is it their policy to wait three months to approve safety assessments for the children of drug-addicted mothers?" Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, said when asked to review the case. "This undermines the confidence about whether Sacramento County CPS is doing its job."
The deputy director of CPS said the safety assessment should be approved by a supervisor when it’s completed by the social worker, so this is obviously the first place Ryder fell through the cracks of a broken system.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only instance where the system failed this helpless infant. Shortly after the second assessment, CPS also received a report from police in which Ryder’s safety was, once again, questioned. A Citrus Heights police officer had cited Ryder’s mother for child endangerment after the car she was driving (with Ryder in the back seat) went off the road.
Sadly, the little boy was dead less than a month after this police report.
The 32-year-old mother, Sarah Ann Stephens of Citrus Heights, was charged with murder and two counts of child endangerment.
If only someone had removed this boy from his home right after that first report. It’s such a senseless, tragic death. Have you heard of other stories of children falling through the cracks of the system? Let us know in the comments below.