- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A Blackfeet Reservation woman who pleaded guilty to assault and child abuse after her 8-month-old foster daughter was beaten so badly that the girl suffered permanent injuries has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris also ordered Samantha Headcarrier of Seville to complete a substance abuse program, the Great Falls Tribune (http://gftrib.com/1lZYHz2) reported.

Public defender David Ness argued during Thursday’s sentencing that Child and Family Services caseworkers were irresponsible in placing the baby and her two older siblings with Headcarrier, who was pregnant and addicted to prescription drugs.

The mother of the children lost custody and suggested Headcarrier, a relative, take them in.

“She was in no way equipped to take these kids,” Ness said. “She tried to tell them that.”

Headcarrier pleaded guilty in June to assault resulting in serious bodily injury and felony child abuse. She said she was unable to stop the baby from crying in September 2013, tossed her on a bed, spanked her and struck her in the head several times with a baby bottle.

Soon, the baby was struggling to breathe and began having a seizure. The girl was flown from a hospital in nearby Cut Bank to Great Falls. The baby was unconscious, on a respirator and had two tubes in her head to draw away blood that caused swelling in her brain, said Evalyna Little Young Man-Baker. Little Young Man-Baker has since adopted the baby, who is her niece.

Judge Morris said he could not understand the logic of the state Child and Family Services agency in placing the children with Headcarrier.

“It’s unthinkable and unforgivable,” he said. “They should suffer consequences for that decision.”

However, he said he could only address Headcarrier’s role in the tragedy.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services spokesman Jon Ebelt confirmed that state social workers were involved in the case but said authority over child placements on reservations rests with tribal social services.

Officials with the Blackfeet Social Care Systems & Service in Browning declined comment on Friday to The Associated Press.

Ebelt declined to respond directly to a Tribune question about whether the girl’s injuries prompted an internal investigation at the state agency.

___

Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

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