Death of 2-year-old foster child under investigation - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Death of 2-year-old foster child under investigation

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A state and local investigation are underway into the death of a Round Rock child. The foster mom is charged with murder and the agency that hired her is facing tough questions.

When emergency teams arrived at a home in Rockdale, 2-year-old Alex Hill wasn't breathing.

The child with an infectious smile and sparkling blue eyes, according to her foster care mom, had fallen Monday evening.

"Her story was the child was running backwards and fell and hit her head and caused this injury," Rockdale Police Chief Thomas Harris said.

Chief Harris says the story didn't add up. Her story later changed to explain the severe head trauma that put Alex into a coma.

"In her statement what she said was she actually slammed the child on the ground and she claims it was an accident that she was swinging the child in a downward motion and dropped the child. So it went from the child was running backwards to, I was horse'n around," Chief Harris said.

Shortly after Alex' father held his child for the last time, she passed away.

Thursday, the foster mom, Sherill Small was charged with murder.

Small got into the state foster care program thru an agency called Texas Mentor. Managers with the organization, according to CPS spokesperson Julie Moody, are now being asked how Small got into the program and if anything was missed during the background check process.

"Is this child placing agency capable of licensing adults who are capable of caring for our children, that's the bottom line this is a horrible devastating case," said Moody.

Texas Mentor- over the past two years - has gone through 72 state inspections. The agency has self-reported 13 incidents ... and responded to 47 other compliance reports. In all the cases, The agency has been talked to by CPS and the problems have been addressed, according to Moody.

The questions are not limited just to Sherill Small but also about her husband's criminal past.

"Thank you very much there will be no statement, not until after I talk to our lawyer," said a voice from the other side of the door after I stopped by to talk.

While Clemons Small refused to open his door - FOX7 got a look into his criminal record which dates back to 1987. The serious charges against him that we found include delivery of marijuana, forgery, and possession of cocaine. The last incident happened in 2001. In a recent court hearing, Small said he was clean - and the crimes according to state officials do not disqualify him or his wife from being in the foster care program.

Wendy Bagwell, with Texas Mentor, also addressed the issue of background checks in the following statement released late Friday:

"The on-going law enforcement investigation and privacy laws, as well as the fact that our own internal review is not complete, limit our ability to provide some of the specific information requested. However, we can inform you that Sherill Small and her husband met the requirements to foster children, including background checks in accordance with state regulation (Texas Department of Public Safety criminal history database check, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Central Registry abuse/neglect database, Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) criminal history and federal Office of Inspector General exclusion check). During each month since the Smalls began fostering Alexandria, our staff has met or exceeded the state requirement to visit their home monthly, including the most recent visit in mid-July."

According to court documents, up until a few weeks before her death, Alex was reportedly "doing well in the placement" and there were notations that she was "healthy" and "playful."

For Alex's family that assessment rings hallow - as well as information that CPS officials were in the process of trying to move her out of foster care and place the child with relatives who currently live in Florida.

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