Crime

Foster mother arrested in alleged beating. Grandmother says 1-year-old has brain injury

One-year-old David Broderick is seen at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County in a photo shared by his mother, Jennifer Mestas. David is being treated for multiple injuries including a broken leg, broken arm and severe brain trauma.
One-year-old David Broderick is seen at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County in a photo shared by his mother, Jennifer Mestas. David is being treated for multiple injuries including a broken leg, broken arm and severe brain trauma. Special to The Bee

Visalia police arrested a foster mother Friday in connection with injuries suffered by a 1-year-old boy that his grandmother says include severe brain trauma and broken bones.

Darlene Valdovino-Aguilera, 29, was arrested on child abuse-related charges on Friday morning, said Visalia police public information officer Gary Williams. A joint investigation by the Visalia Police Department and the Valley Children’s child abuse team concluded the boy’s “life-threatening injuries were the result of child abuse inflicted by Darlene Valdovinos-Aguilera,” he said.

Valdovino-Aguilera was booked at the Tulare County Pre-trial Facility.

On Aug. 12, officers responded to a call of an unresponsive child as a result of a fall at a home in the 1400 block of East Sunnyview Avenue, Williams said.

“The injuries observed on the child did not appear consistent with what was described by the foster mother,” he said, which prompted the investigation.

The child’s six siblings were removed from the foster home by Tulare County child welfare services, Williams said.

The boy’s grandmother Tammy Aguilera said the children were taken from their mother, Jennifer Mesta, in May 2017, not because of abuse or neglect on her part, but because she was homeless.

The boy has bleeding in the brain, a fractured leg, a fractured arm and a neck brace, according to Aguilera. The boy wasn’t able to breathe on his own, but he improved, only for his health to deteriorate again, she said.

He’s now back in the Intensive Care Unit at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County. “It has just been a terrible nightmare,” Aguilera said.

Aguilera said she was relieved to hear that an arrest was made, but said more people still need to be held accountable, such as the foster father and Tulare County child welfare services, which she said had been informed of allegations of prior abuse at the hands of the foster parents.

“CPS needs to listen to parents ... instead of waiting for a disaster like this to happen,” Aguilera said.

Tammie Weyker-Adkins, spokeswoman for the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency, earlier this week declined to comment on the case saying the agency was bound by confidentiality, despite state regulations that require disclosure of information in cases involving child fatalities and child near-fatalities.

Mesta, the child’s mother, said she believed both foster parents should have been arrested for abusing her children. She said one of her other sons had a black eye.

Williams said everyone was interviewed and it was determined the other children had not been victimized.

Mesta said doctors were performing a brain scan on her 1-year-old on Friday afternoon, and there are concerns that he can have long-term needs as the injuries might affect his motor skills.

Her son was transferred back to the ICU on Friday morning.

“It’s been very heartbreaking and stressful,” she said.

Mesta met with child welfare officials on Friday to start the process to get her children back, she said. She said she was told her children would be returned after a few successful overnights.

She said child welfare officials took “no responsibility” for what happened to her son, but hopes this incident will prompt them to make changes.

Yesenia Amaro; 559-441-6144, @YeseniaAmaro
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