NBC10Philadelphia.com - Lu Ann Cahn
One week after the death of a 6-year-old boy, questions are being raised regarding why the child was returned to parents with a long history of neglect and abuse. NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn provides the details and also speaks with grieving relatives who say they were forced to give the boy up to his birth parents.
One week after the death of Khalil Wimes, the foster parents who cared for him the first three years of his life are searching for answers.
Floyd and Tina Wimes are both charged with the murder of their 6-year-old son. Police say the boy died after he was starved and beaten by his parents. Now there are questions regarding why Khalil was returned to his parents in the first place, considering their alleged history of child neglect and abuse.
Khalil lived with the Nixon family for the first three years of his life. The Nixons are relatives of the Wimes and were asked by the couple’s family to help care for Khalil when he was born.
Police say DHS already moved five other children from Floyd and Tina because of drug abuse, neglect and child abuse from the couple. When Khalil was nearly a year old however, a court judge ordered the Nixon family to return Khalil to his birth parents. Four days later the Nixons say Khalil was hospitalized, dehydrated and dirty. They claim DHS then returned Khalil to them, urging them to become the permanent caregivers for the child.
“DHS said, ‘Miss Nixon, in order to prevent this from happening again, we need you to become a foster parent so that we can move forward the process of adoption,” said Alicia Nixon.
When Khalil turned 3 however, the Nixons claim a family court judge forced them to return Khalil to the Wimes.
“We cared for him, we nurtured him, we loved him” said La Reine Nixon. “And these strangers get to make decisions.”
After Khalil’s death, the Nixons, who were not allowed to see Khalil for three years, were given the right to bury the boy.
Frank Cervone of the Support Center for Child Advocates, reviewed Khalil’s case.
“What we know about addicts is they hide and lie,” said Cervone. “We have to know that these two people with a history of addiction were probably going to hide and lie again.”
When asked why Khalil was given back to his birth parents, Cervone shrugged and said, “That’s always the hard question.”
The Nixon family says Khalil’s DHS case worker, Jessica Campbell, sent them an email after the boy returned to the Wimes.
“I told him in no uncertain terms that we don’t believe it is in Khalil’s best interest to be reunified with his birth parents for many reasons,” wrote Campbell.
The Nixon family says Campbell also encouraged them to write letters to the mayor or anyone else who could help.
“Irreparable damage is done to our families and our children,” wrote Campbell. “It’s really unfair.”
“People need to stop hiding behind the letter of the law and start owning up to the immoral decisions they are making,” said Alicia.
While Cervone has questions about the court that returned Khalil to his birth parents when he was a year old, he also says Floyd and Tina appeared to meet their goals of drug rehab, employment and new housing upon Khalil’s second return at 3-years-old.
“I’m not seeing anywhere that the system really blew it,” said Cervone.
Cervone says their rights come before the child’s if they are deemed fit to be parents.
“It doesn’t look like the case worker spoke against the parents,” said Cervone. “The case worker appears to have spoken in favor of the bond with the new family.”
Cervone says the biggest failure was that the system found no way to keep the child connected to blood relatives who could have kept an eye on him. Neighbors of the Wimes told police they never saw Khalil while he was in the care of his birth parents.
“I think the neglect caused the death, that’s clear,” said Cervone. “But the isolation allowed him to die.”
The Nixon family says they’ll fight for changes to make sure what happened to Khalil will never happen to another child.
“I was hoping when he was old enough he would find us,” said a tearful Alicia. “I didn’t want the last time I saw him to be when I buried him.”
Cervone says DHS has recently adopted a program that helps prevent the isolation of children reunited with birth parents. DHS claims they will review the case in a report which Mayor Nutter will then make public.