Three members of Congress are calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the foster care experience of Ma’Khia Bryant, the 16-year-old Ohio girl whom police fatally shot outside her residence in April.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon joined fellow Democrats Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio in penning a letter to the agency on behalf of the teen’s parents last week in which they asserted that the foster care system had let her down.
“When a child dies in foster care, the system has failed,” the lawmakers wrote. “It failed Ma’Khia Bryant, who lived in her foster family home for about two months before a police officer shot and killed her in front of that home.”
Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon, who is white, shot Bryant, who was Black, four times. The shooting occurred as Bryant swung a knife at a second young woman only moments after she shoved a third to the ground.
Police were responding to a 911 call made from Bryant’s foster home about a group of girls threatening to stab members of the household. According to her parents, it was Bryant and her sister, who was also living at the foster home, who called them.
The Democrats’ letter urged the human services agency’s Administration for Children and Families to help Franklin County Children Services, where Bryant was in foster care, during their own review of the case. The lawmakers also want the federal agency’s Office of Civil Rights to determine independently whether the state and county were in compliance with anti-discrimination requirements.
The home where the shooting took place was well known to the Columbus police because there had been more than a dozen 911 calls about it since 2017. Most of them were from foster mom Angela Moore reporting that foster children had left without permission or didn’t come home on time, according to the Associated Press.
Bryant had lived at the home for a couple of months before she was killed and had been placed in five different homes in the previous two years.
In the face of criticism from Bryant’s family, their attorney and others who complained that the state should have had a better handle on circumstances in the foster home, officials in Ohio have said they are committed to making changes.
But the lawmakers’ letter said the foster care system is broken in the United States when it comes to serving Black children and families, particularly in Ohio.