Siblings drown in Lake Georgetown; foster home investigated

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Two siblings drowned in Lake Georgetown Sunday evening as they tried to see who could hold their breath the longest.

Life jackets were hung Monday at Russell Park, where two children drowned Sunday.  (KXAN Photo\Chris Sadeghi)
Life jackets were hung Monday at Russell Park, where two children drowned Sunday. (KXAN Photo\Chris Sadeghi)

First responders were called to Russell Park shortly before 5:15 p.m. Sunday. When they got there, bystanders were giving the children CPR.

The children, a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, were with a 12-year-old member of their household and their foster parents at the lake. Police say the children were about 10- to 15 feet from shore as they played a game.

Georgetown Police Department Capt. Roland Waits the says the children were trying to see who could hold their breath the longest.

When the younger children did not come up for air, the older sibling began looking for them. The girl was found about five minutes later, and the boy was underwater for about 15 minutes. Both children were found in approximately 2- to 3 feet of water, police said.

Medics took the siblings by helicopter to Dell Children’s Medical Center, with CPR still in progress. Doctors pronounced them dead at the hospital around 6:30 p.m. An autopsy Monday confirmed the children died from an accidental drowning.

Police say they do not anticipate filing any charges related to the incident.

Foster home under investigation

Both children were in foster care placement with Child Protective Services. Officials declined to identify them for that purpose, only saying that they are originally from Waco, Texas and were currently with a family in Cedar Park. They were placed into the Cedar Park foster home in August 2013 due to neglect/abuse in their previous home according to CPS.

The victims’ 1-year-old sister and 22-month-old brother were placed into the same home earlier this year but have been moved as a result of the drowning. The foster home has been closed, pending an investigation.

“This is an unspeakable tragedy,” said Judge John Specia, DFPS Commissioner. “We will find out exactly what happened, and whether or not it could have been prevented. Foster children must be kept safe.”

The Department of Family Protective Services announced Monday it has halted placements through the Austin-based Providence Kids child-placing agency as a result of the drowning. This particular agency currently has 29 children in eight foster homes in Williamson, Travis, Bell, Lee and Hays counties.

Additionally, CPS will visit each of the children individually.

Providence Kids spokesperson Bob Hartman responded via e-mail statement on Monday afternoon.

Providence staff members are heartbroken by the loss of these little children over the weekend.  We are following our serious incident protocol, and are cooperating with the ongoing Child Protective Services’ investigation. 

Quality services and child safety are extremely important to Providence, as indicated by a recent contract audit with DFPS that showed compliance with standards in policies and procedures and home monitoring in our Austin service center for foster care and adoption.  Just last week, Providence sent to our area families a water safety bulletin which the DFPS Commissioner made available to all child placing agencies.  In light of this terrible tragedy, we plan to follow up with additional water safety requirements for our families providing care to children.  We are very saddened for the impact that this has had on everyone involved, especially the families and children involved.

Deaths in foster care

The Department of Family Protective services revamped many of its policies and rules for foster homes after an increase in deaths blamed on neglect and abuse in fiscal year 2013, the Texas Tribune reports.

In 2013, the deaths of eight foster children were related to child abuse or neglect.

Some of the changes include requirements that existing foster homes be inspected more frequently.

Still, the advocacy group Texans Care for Children is calling for more changes.

The organization believes the legislature needs to invest more money to reduce the case loads for foster care workers.

 

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