- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

HENDERSON, Ky. (AP) — It was a routine assignment for a veteran social worker: reunite an infant with his mother for what could be a final visit before the child is put up for adoption.

But the task proved fatal for Boni Frederick, 67, whose slaying this week has drawn questions from advocates nationwide about why she was sent alone into a situation that easily could turn violent.

Miss Frederick was attacked and killed Monday as she was about to return 9-month-old Saige Terrell to his foster parents, authorities said. Her body was found inside the mother’s home.

The FBI issued warrants yesterday for the boy’s mother, Renee Terrell, 33, and her boyfriend, Wayne Luttrell, 23, who authorities think took the child and fled.

The warrants were for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on state kidnapping charges, said Tracy Reinhold, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky.

“These are desperate people,” Mr. Reinhold said. He would not say whether investigators knew where they were.

Kentucky officials would not comment on whether Miss Frederick had been threatened before the visit, citing state confidentiality laws regarding foster care.

Terrell has a history of child abuse, including charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a minor, police said. Saige was taken from her 13 days after his birth because of neglect, they said. A judge was poised to strip Terrell of parental rights, police said.

Some social workers argue that the violent end to Miss Frederick’s 15 years with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services could have been prevented.

“The fact that the visits are supervised acknowledges that there’s a safety risk to the child. I think we don’t realize it presents a safety risk to the workers,” said Laura Johnson, a Kentucky social worker who spent 10 years doing family welfare investigations.

Nationwide, social workers are being placed in dangerous situations because of a lack of resources, according to the National Association of Social Workers in Washington.

The association does not compile data on the number of social workers killed. But 44 percent of nearly 100,000 social workers questioned for a report had been the target of some form of violence, spokeswoman Allison Nadelhaft said.

Kentucky officials would not comment on whether Miss Frederick had asked for assistance before going to the Terrell house, which she had visited several times in the past nine months.

“If they feel threatened or vulnerable, they are empowered to request additional reinforcements,” said Mark D. Birdwhistell, secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Many social workers don’t call for police escorts because they know officers aren’t available, said Sgt. John Nevels, a spokesman for the Henderson Police Department.

By bringing the Terrell baby to his mother’s home, Miss Frederick deviated from the typical visitation arrangement, said Sky Tanghe, a social worker in Louisville. Generally, visits are conducted at a social worker’s office or a third-party site, she said.

“We really don’t have safety measures in place for us,” she said. “There’s not any area that’s completely safe when you’re removing a child.”

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