- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The body of a 7-year-old boy found in a box in a Newark basement nearly a year ago prompted a shake-up at New Jersey’s child welfare agency. The agency reviewed all open cases, hired 366 more employees and received $30 million in emergency aid.

Despite those changes, four adopted boys — one of them 19 — were found malnourished and weighing less than 50 pounds each earlier this month. Their adoptive parents were charged last week with starving them.

The case has prompted another angry round of calls to reform the Division of Youth and Family Services.

Social workers had visited the boys’ house in Collingswood as many as 38 times in two years, state officials said. Some of those visits had been ordered of all children in state care after the Newark death in January.

Gov. James E. McGreevey, a Democrat, said yesterday that the state was investigating whether criminal charges should be filed against the caseworker.

“It’s inconceivable how a caseworker could go there and not detect these atrocious conditions,” Mr. McGreevey said.

The division came under intense pressure for reform when the body of 7-year-old Faheem Williams was found decomposed in a storage box in a Newark basement. His twin brother and their 4-year-old half brother were discovered alive but emaciated in an adjoining room.

Critics contend the latest reforms and the safety inspections are not enough.

State inspectors said they are reviewing all reports filed by Division of Youth and Family Services caseworkers and managers who have visited the Collingswood house.

“People who made bad decisions will be held accountable,” Mr. McGreevey said yesterday.

The 19-year-old remained hospitalized yesterday in a cardiac unit, while the other boys, ages 14, 10 and 9, were doing well in foster homes, Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Authorities said the boys were locked out of the kitchen and fed a diet of uncooked pancake batter, peanut butter and jelly, and cereal. The boys told investigators they also gnawed on wallboard and insulation. They were found after a neighbor discovered the oldest boy rummaging through trash for food.

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