The biological mother of two foster children killed in Sunday's crash in Plano grew up in foster care herself and knows how difficult it is for a child to be separated from family.
That's why she was fighting to be reunited with her children – Kevinnesha Palmer, 6, and Raven Lucas, 5 – when she got word Sunday that they had died. The crash also killed the girls' foster parents, Geoff and Christy Hart, and their 12-year-old daughter, Rebekah, as all five left their Plano church.
But while Child Protective Services officials acknowledge that Pamela Palmer had shown signs of improvement in her ability to be a good parent, they say she had not done enough.
"She has not been able to demonstrate stability for the children," CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said Wednesday. "The plan was to request termination of her parental rights."
Ms. Gonzales said CPS still plans to try and terminate Ms. Palmer's parental rights for her third child, an infant son who remains in the care of another foster family.That placement took place before Sunday's crash, which remains under investigation.
Police said David Calhoun Jones of Louisiana was speeding when he ran a red light and slammed into the Harts' minivan, killing everyone inside. No charges have been filed.
Praying for kids
Ms. Palmer, 28, said she was at her McKinney church praying for her children on Sunday morning when her daughters were killed.
"I feel like it's a nightmare I'm going to wake up from," she said this week as she made plans to bury her children Friday.
Ms. Palmer agreed with family members who said that they believe Kevinnesha and Raven would still be alive if they had been placed with them instead of in foster care. But she said she believes the Harts treated her children well – "I felt they were getting good care" – and she admitted that it was her own failings that caused her children to be taken in the first place.
Her own mother was a drug user, she said, and she was placed in foster care at age 12.
"It was the worst experience I ever had as a child," she said.
At age 18, when she aged out of foster care, she returned to McKinney. She worked at a fast-food restaurant and as a housekeeper at a nursing home.
But her life wasn't easy. She said she has suffered from depression and was prescribed medication for bipolar disorder. She said she stopped taking the medicine when she became pregnant with Kevinnesha and never resumed taking the pills that made her feel "like a zombie."
She said Kevinnesha's father was never around much. Raven's father was murdered in Fort Worth in 2003.
"She was 3 weeks old when he passed," the soft-spoken Ms. Palmer said.
CPS began investigating allegations of abuse and neglect after Kevinnesha was born, and the agency removed the children in February 2007. The girls were placed with two other foster families before landing with the Harts about three months ago.
Kevinnesha had several unexplained injuries and reported that her mother had caused them, Ms. Gonzales said. Ms. Palmer doesn't deny the injuries.
"I had spanked Kevinnesha for spitting in her sister's face," she said. The child ended up with a bruise on her lower back.
She also said the child had pinch marks on her hands and a scar on her leg. "I was pinching her, but I wasn't trying to hurt her," Ms. Palmer said. "I was trying to help her with her school work and trying to get her attention." She said her daughter's leg was hurt by a carpet burn.
Nadia Stephens, a business analyst who has known Ms. Palmer since middle school, said her friend did the best she could to raise her children but didn't have the advantages that others take for granted.
"Pam's a good mother," Ms. Stephens said. "Some people need more help than others."
Ms. Palmer displayed certificates showing completion of parenting and anger management courses that were part of her attempts to regain custody of her kids.
"They were never hungry, never dirty, and they always had a roof over their heads," she said.
For now, though, Ms. Palmer lives with the faint hope that she can one day be reunited with her only surviving child, while holding on to the memories of the daughters she'll never see alive again.
"They were worth fighting for," she said. "I worked hard to gain their trust back. And I gained it."
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My Two Cents -
Worst case scenario, this woman could have benefited from parenting classes.
I don't believe the life sentence she has received is appropriate in any way shape or form!
How many of us grew up running from the shoe flying across the room or the wooden spoon or even the belt?
When are THEY gonna stop destroying families?
Sadly for this family it's to late, two of her babies are in a better place, but what about her thrid child?
How do these people sleep at nite?