Report Details Investigation Into Abuse Allegations Against Adoptive Mother
Posted March 6, 2006 8:53 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — Warnings of possible child abuse against a 4-year-old boy who died last week didn't go unnoticed, according to a report released Monday by Wake County Child Welfare Services.
But the warnings also didn't save the life of Sean Paddock who, according to an autopsy report, was bound by a blanket and suffocated at the home of his adoptive family Feb. 26.
His adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, is charged with murder, as well as child abuse. Authorities said that Paddock also allegedly disciplined Sean and his siblings with a PVC pipe kept in the home.
Born Sean Ford, he and his two siblings were removed from their biological parents' home because of sexual abuse, authorities said, and because their mother was not in a position to care for them, according to family members.
For about seven months, the children stayed with their biological aunt and uncle, Lee Anne and Ron Ford, until financial problems prompted Wake County social workers to place the children into foster care.
According to the report, the adoption agency, Children's Home Society, highly recommended Lynn Paddock and her husband, Johnny Paddock, who lived in Johnston County with three other adopted children, as well as Johnny Paddock's biological daughter.
But during a pre-adoption period in early 2005, Child Protective Services investigated allegations that Lynn Paddock had spanked Sean when he stayed at their Johnston County farm, leaving a serious bruise.
Social workers documented claims from the boy and his siblings, but got conflicting stories. They also suspected a foster parent might have coached Sean to try and keep them out of the Paddock home. Ultimately, investigators found no evidence of abuse and placed the children with the Paddocks for adoption.
"We believed it to be more likely that the bruise was a result of the fall," said Dr. Warren Ludwig, director of Wake County Child Welfare Services.
But Sean's biological aunt, Ford, believes Wake County made a mistake and now wants to cover it up.
"They should have listened to David, Hannah and Sean, but they didn't want to," a tearful Ford said. "They took the word of the woman that's now sitting behind bars."
Ludwig said, however, that his staff made difficult judgment calls to the best of their ability based on the availability of all the information at the time.
"It's always easier to second-guess than to make a decision with the information you have at the time," he said.
Ludwig said internal and state investigations will help the county determine whether the adoption evaluation process needs to be changed.
The Fords, as well as other family members, are now wanting to regain custody of Sean's other two siblings, who were removed from the Paddock home last week. Two other children also were removed from the home.
Johnny Paddock, has not been charged in connection with the investigation. Johnston County investigators are still trying to determine what, if anything, he knew about the alleged abuse.