Khalil's Tragic Story ~

   How city agencies failed to save 6-year-old Khalil April 24, 2012|By Mike Newall, Inquirer Staff Writer
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Alicia Nixon (right) and her mother, La Reine Nixon, hold a drawing made by Khalil Wimes… (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff…)  

When police arrested the parents of Khalil Wimes and accused them of starving and torturing their 6-year-old son to death, Mayor Nutter decried the boy's demise as tragic, but said the city could not have prevented it.

Philadelphia's Department of Human Services had no official oversight - no "open case" - for Khalil Wimes, the mayor stressed. "None," Nutter told reporters in March. "Next question."

In fact, Khalil had spent the final months of his life beaten, bone thin, desperately ill, and out of school - and DHS had failed to see what was right in front of it.

An Inquirer review of Khalil's death - including interviews with his siblings, foster parents, and other family members, and a review of police reports, court documents, and DHS files - found the city missed many chances to save himThe child welfare system plucked Khalil from a safe home and put him in jeopardy in the first place, then failed to rescue him when he was hurt, The Inquirer review showed.

Intent on reunifying him with his family, in 2008 the agency endorsed returning Khalil to the care of his birth parents - even though DHS had previously pulled seven of his older brothers and sisters from their custody for neglect.

Khalil was returned over the fierce objections of his court-appointed child advocate and the foster parents in whose care he had thrived.

In the last eight months of Khalil's life, city social workers saw him eight times during visits to his home and at a DHS facility, but didn't recognize that he was a child in great danger.

As Nutter said, DHS had no open case on Khalil. But its social workers were engaged in official oversight over two of his siblings. This assignment put them inside Khalil's South Philadelphia apartment and at the DHS center where agency staff supervised gatherings that Khalil and his parents had with other siblings.

Four times DHS visited the apartment where the boy spent his last days in a latched, empty bedroom on a soiled, plastic mattress. He was never enrolled in school. His parents claimed they were home-schooling him. There is no indication DHS ever verified that with school officials.

During these months, Khalil's parents beat him regularly, with books, shoes, extension cords, and a belt, according to interviews with two adult sisters. Three large welts on his forehead are visible in an October 2011 family photograph.



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