Logan, IA-The mother of slain 5 year old Dominic Elkins says she was afraid about putting her son into a state program that would provide him care. She says she was worried she would never get her son back, but was constantly assured she would, and that he would be safe.
Saturday, Elkins was found dead at the bottom of a 20 foot ravine on the property of his foster family in Logan. 17 year old Cody Metzger-Madsen, another foster child in the home, waits in jail for his preliminary hearing. He faces one charge of first degree murder.
Kunch had voluntarily put Dominic in the foster care system under Iowa's child in needs of assistance program (CHINA). The state diagnosed him with oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, and on the behavioral disorder spectrum between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
"He used to bang his head on doors, walls, beds. He was listening to voices and seeing things. He'd tell you this person made me do it," she said.
Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber is not handling this case, but spoke generally to Action 3 News about Iowa's China Program.
"Sometimes, pretty rarely, but sometimes, parents can voluntarily place a kid in foster care," Wilber said.
He adds that the case has to be proven that the parent can't provide needed care, and that the parent remains the legal guardian, and the Department of Human Services takes custody and care control. He says the goal with children like Dominic is to reunite them with their family after a year.
Kunch says that court officials and social workers told her she would regain custody in 6 months to a year. She says her son was first taken from her custody on September 18, 2012. In about a year, Dominic lived in five different places. From September 18th through October 8th, he was with his first foster family. That family, Kunch says, had Dominic committed after a violent episode and he spent two weeks in October at Cass County hospital in Atlantic. He then stayed at Children's Square, a shelter for kids in Council Bluffs from October 2012 through February 12, 2013. From then until mid July, he lived with a second foster family, who relinquished care. Mid July to August 12th, he was with Stacy Hansen, Barbara's step mother. Dominic went to live with Don and Julie Coolman, the home where he died, on August 12.
Barbara says he was getting better, and had started kindergarten at Heartland Family Services therapeutic school in Council Bluffs.
"He was so excited about being with the other kids, instead of just teachers or aides," she said. "He was put into that new home, and that's where it ended."
The Harrison County Sheriff's Department says Elkins and Metzker-Madsen had been living in the same foster home since early August. Mitch Mortvedt, with Iowa DCI said Metzker-Madsen had lived in the home for three years. The foster parents, Julie and Don Coolman also had two biological children in the household. Iowa Department of Human Services says they've been foster parents for more than 10 years.
According to court documents, Cody had led the family to Dominic, found in the bottom of a ravine. Cody had "blood on his hands and shirt". He told deputies the boys were "playing bricks" and that Dominic was "hitting himself in the head with a brick". It also says Cody "changed his story."
Family members of the foster parents described Metzker-Madsen as "having mental issues and was on the same level as Dominic, a 5, 6 year old."
"By law they are supposed to fully investigate family and whoever is in that home before they let kids in. So I was giving that trust," Kunch said.
Amy McCoy, spokesperson with the Iowa Department of Human Services, says the department has an open abuse assessment under way. It must be completed in 20 business days.
According to Iowa Department of Human Services data, last year 99.86 percent of state foster-care placements were free from abuse. There were more than 10,000 placements in which no abuse took place. There were 15 placements involving maltreatment.
Vern Armstrong, DHS's division of field operations administrator, told us in his 24 years with the department he'd never heard of a situation where one foster child killed another.