Outraged relatives of a baby girl allegedly shaken to death by her Peabody mom lashed out at social workers yesterday, blaming the state for allowing the “miracle” child to be sent home after being born with drugs in her system.
A neglect complaint months later, they added, should have been enough warning for the state Department of Social Services to take custody of 9-month-old Jocelyn Mae Ward-Anderson.
“We’re speaking for the baby. She wants justice and she wants peace,” cousin Tasha Anderson, 21, told the Herald yesterday.
“It’s all DSS’ fault,” added another cousin, Amanda Anderson, 19. “(The mother) was doing drugs. She should have never left the hospital with the baby.”
The baby died Nov. 21 at Children’s Hospital in Boston after being treated for head trauma, authorities said.
The accused mother, Jennifer Ward, 37, of Peabody, pleaded not guilty yesterday to murder in Salem Superior Court and was ordered held without bail. Her arraignment was continued to Wednesday, on the request of her attorney, when more details of the alleged shaken-baby slaying are expected to be released.
DSS refused to accept blame yesterday, sending the Herald a statement listing steps that were taken to try and wean the mother off drugs and teach her how to be a better parent.
DSS spokesman Richard Nangle said the case was first reported to the agency in March “following positive drug screenings on both the mother and child at the time of birth” in
Nangle said the mother agreed to undergo “intensive therapy for her drug use” and was allowed to keep her baby at home.
“In late March,” Nangle added, “DSS was contacted with a report of neglect and the decision was made to remove the child from the home and place her in temporary foster care while DSS worked with the mother.”
The baby was again sent back home in mid-July after Ward completed her parenting training and drug treatment programs and Lynn Juvenile Court “dismissed the care and protection order,” Nangle said.
Ward was arrested last week at her parents’ home in Kennebunk, Maine, after a grand jury indicted her for the death of her daughter.
“She was a miracle baby,” added Amanda Anderson outside the Salem court, saying Ward struggled to have children and Jocelyn was born premature, yet she was “a happy baby.”
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