Why did an infant starve to death on Christmas?
D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency should undertake a review to see how this tragedy could happen.
WHEN TRINITY JABORE died on Christmas Day, she weighed 10.5 ounces less than when she was born nearly two months earlier at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. The D.C. Medical Examiner found she died from malnutrition and hyponatremia from consuming large amounts of water mixed with concentrated milk. That an infant starved to death in the nation’s capital on a day celebrated with unrestrained feasting reveals fissures in a system that is supposed to serve as a safety net for troubled and dysfunctional families.
Trinity’s parents, Trishelle Jabore, 26, and Jay Crowder, 33, have been charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death. According to an arrest affidavit, the baby had suffered multiple rib fractures from three traumatic events that occurred prior to her death. The document detailed how the parents allegedly failed to follow the hospital’s advice in taking the child to a pediatrician and after the hospital-supplied formula ran out eventually ended up feeding her condensed and powdered milk mixed with water. The refrigerator was stocked with food, police noted, but nothing “suitable for a seven-week-old to consume.”
Legal proceedings will determine the outcome of the charges against the parents, set to appear in court May 22. That, though, won’t address the issues that surround the family’s encounter with hospital and social workers and the question of whether this tragedy could have been prevented with more aggressive interventions. Hospital officials apparently met their legal requirement in reporting to the city’s Child and Family Services Agency that the baby tested positive for the main chemical in marijuana. But did they miss other warning signs?
Records obtained by Post reporters Keith L. Alexander and Paul Duggan depict a mother and father, each with a history of serious psychiatric problems, in financial distress and ill-equipped to care for a newborn. So should a 4-pound, 11-ounce newborn have been discharged without a better home evaluation or a follow-up visit to see how mother and baby were doing? Child protective services had received multiple calls about the parents over the reported neglect and endangerment of other children in the family; should more attention have been focused on Trinity?
We know it’s easy with the benefit of hindsight to second-guess how agencies respond to terrible events, and we appreciate the difficult — often thankless — work of under-resourced social workers. Successes rarely make headlines. But if there are to be lessons learned from what a child protective services worker called this “horrible, horrible tragedy,” it is critical that officials not go into a defensive crouch or hide behind confidentiality. Instead, they should undertake an unsparing and dispassionate review.