Bedwell says caseworkers should have done more

August 27th, 2009 by

TAMPA – Jasmine Bedwell was a 17-year-old single mom in foster care who often refused to follow the rules of a state program that allowed her to live on her own.

Now, nearly four months after her infant son was kidnapped and thrown from a car along Interstate 275, the teen says child welfare workers should have done more to make her cooperate. It may have saved her son’s life.

“I shouldn’t have to tell them, ‘Put me in foster care,’” Bedwell said Wednesday in her first public interview since she turned 18 two weeks ago and legally became an adult. “If you feel like I’m in danger, put me back in foster care with my baby.

“If you have to take my baby from me – for me and my baby’s safety – then you have to do that,” she said during the interview at her attorney’s office in St. Petersburg.

Bedwell was responding to the release of about 400 pages of state records requested by The Tampa Tribune. The documents outline a turbulent year for the teen, who was participating in the state’s Independent Living Program.

The subsidized program is designed for responsible foster teens who hold down part-time jobs and attend school. The goal: prepare them for a life beyond state supervision. If they follow the rules, the state will pay their living expenses.

But the records show Bedwell struggled with the rules even before she was accepted into the program. She was a habitual runaway who had been kicked out of a similar program, according to Hillsborough Kids Inc., the local agency that oversees state foster care.

When she finally started participating in the state program, she didn’t work or attend school regularly. She hung out with known criminals and got into fights that left her serving probation.

Her case manager, Jennifer Liner, tried repeatedly to get Bedwell to attend anger management counseling. The teen made excuses and missed sessions, the records show.

Her boyfriend, Richard McTear Jr., had a criminal record and allegedly beat her and threatened to kill her 3-month-old son, Emanuel Wesley Murray, whose father is incarcerated. McTear stayed in Bedwell’s apartment, in violation of the Independent Living rules.

Bedwell also never followed through on getting an injunction against McTear.

Five days before Emanuel’s death, caseworkers recommended Bedwell be placed on a month-long probation in the Independent Living Program to address behavioral concerns. Without changes, she faced a return to foster care.

Bedwell said caseworkers told her they could take Emanuel. They never did.

Now she says they probably should have.

“You telling me you’re going to take my baby from me, I’m going to tell you no,” she said. “I don’t want that. But if you feel like that’s my best interest, then you should do it.

“People say a lot of things about me, like it’s my fault,” Bedwell said. “I should have done this. I should have done that.

“I did feel like it was my fault because I could have told [Hillsborough Kids], ‘OK, put me back in foster care.’ But I didn’t. I could have went back in foster care. I could have still had my baby.”

Hillsborough Kids chief operating officer Jeff Rainey said he had not seen the documents and could not comment.

Nick Cox, Tampa regional director for the Department of Children & Families, said he believes caseworkers did everything they could to help Bedwell, even though an internal review found she probably never should have been in the Independent Living program.

“It was real clear to me early on they were busting their hump trying to help her,” Cox said. “The reality is that child is going to be out of foster care in three to four months. We’ve got to do something to get her ready, especially with the baby.”

The DCF review released in May also faulted workers for not focusing enough on Emanuel’s well-being and at one point even suggesting McTear help with the boy’s care.

On May 5, authorities say, McTear forced his way into Bedwell’s apartment, beat her, threw Emanuel on a concrete floor and drove off with the boy before throwing him onto the shoulder of I-275.

McTear, 21, is being held without bail on charges including first-degree murder, kidnapping and burglary. He has pleaded not guilty; prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

In June, Bedwell’s attorneys gave notice that they intend to sue DCF, Hillsborough Kids and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, saying those agencies could have prevented Emanuel’s death.

“Sometimes,” Bedwell said, “I wish, I’m not gonna lie, that he would have killed me and not my baby.”

2 Responses

  1. cindy

    dcf should have taken the baby and put this b**ch to the she should go to jail on murder charges also.just more trash that our tax dollars are supporting.

  2. The Masked Blogger

    I heard that the e-bay bid for ripping this stupid souless animal’s uterus right out of her bloated carcass is at $450.
    Put me down for five Benji’s.

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