Two former foster parents have pleaded guilty in a child neglect case that took the Clark County Department of Family Services 19 days to resolve after receiving the first allegation of neglect, according to Las Vegas police and court records.
Andrea Hernandez, 38, and her husband, Waldo Hernandez, 40, both entered guilty pleas on Monday to one felony count each of child neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm. The sentence carries a term of two to 20 years in prison. Under the plea agreement, the prosecutor agreed not to seek more than 12 years.
The county received reports alleging neglect of one of the children on Sept. 4 and Sept. 17, according to the arrest report. A Family Services staffer who went to the Las Vegas foster home on Sept. 19 was unable to make contact and left a business card in the door, records show.
The calls to the county’s child abuse reporting hotline were made by the children’s biological mother, said county spokesman Erik Pappa on Tuesday. However, Family Services spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan wrote last week in an email that “no reports related to suspected abuse or neglect were made to the hotline on September 4 or September 17.”
The hotline handles calls alleging child abuse and neglect. The reports are assigned response times of three hours, 24 hours or 72 hours, depending on the severity of the allegations.
In this case, the calls didn’t rise to the level of neglect, and the matter was classified as a foster licensing issue, not an abuse or neglect report, Pappa said.
A county employee said that the issue in question was a report of a diaper rash.
Family Services finally made contact with the children on Sept. 23, after Andrea Hernandez sent an email saying the family was staying for four days in Sandy Valley, about 50 miles southwest of Las Vegas. That location, which turned out to be a travel trailer on a dirt lot, was never approved by the department for foster care. County workers obtained the new address from records of the Clark County School District, where the couple’s son is a student, and reclaimed the foster children.
The 17-month-old boy had a three-inch burn scar on his arm, and another large scar on his buttocks, police records show. The 2-month-old baby had a severe skin infection that covered every fold, according to the arrest report.
According to statements made to police, the older foster child was burned when the foster parents’ 13-year-old son tried to change him outside on a hot June day, using a plastic bag as a diaper and the top of a black mini-fridge as the changing table.
The Department of Family Services has disagreed with the police report’s characterization that the county received an “allegation of neglect” on Sept. 4 and Sept. 17. That statement was based on a police officer’s interview with the Family Services staffer who went to the foster parents’ Las Vegas home.
Police spokesman Lawrence Hadfield said Family Services has requested “clarification” on several unspecified points, which the department is providing.
County policy requires foster care permanency case managers to immediately report allegations of neglect concerning foster children to its hotline, with the Department of Family Services and Child Protective Services coordinating a response within 24 hours.
The two had been licensed foster parents since 2008.
Both are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 13, 2014.
Andrea Hernandez was released on house arrest on Monday. Waldo Hernandez remains in the Clark County Detention Center. Both have declined to comment.
Reporter Ben Botkin can be reached at 702-387-2904, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.