Grandmother calls for change after foster care death settlement

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The grandmother of a little girl who died in a Hennepin County foster home, wants the child's death to lead to changes in the system. The family just settled a $1.5 million dollar federal wrongful death lawsuit with the county.

“Kendrea is more than just a number,” said Mary Broadus, Kendrea’s grandmother. “She’s a voice for all the kids. I would love to see the changes happening.”

The Minneapolis grandmother demanded the county learn from the tragic apparent suicide of her granddaughter Kendrea Johnson. The six-year old girl was found hanging from a jump rope tied to her bunk bed in a foster home in December 2014.

Hennepin County Child Protection Services had removed Kendrea and her brother from her mom and the custody of loved ones because of addiction, trauma and other welfare concerns.

Broadus explained her family still harbors resentment and anger for the loss of the smiling girl they knew as “Ziggy.”

“All we can do is pray and keep being her voice, so she can be heard,” said Broadus.

While Hennepin County officials couldn’t talk specifics of the $1.5 million settlement, they admitted no fault, describing a complex and over-taxed system that requires an entire community-wide effort to protect the next Kendrea.

“It’s easy to blame the system when things don’t go as we like,” said Jennifer DeCubellis, Hennepin County Deputy Administrator. “I think it’s important to realize the numbers are growing. They’re growing nationally. Our caseloads are double the national standard. We are not the ones abusing children or maltreating children. We are the response system that comes into respond that. When the system is overwhelmed, it’s hard to keep the same level of quality we’re all in business to do.”

Hennepin County Child Protection Services handles 20,000 reports of maltreatment annually, which amounts to more than 50 cases a day.

DeCubellis says they would much rather keep a child with their family, but acknowledges sometimes that's not the best option for the child’s safety and well-being.